Blackhawks

Notre Dame notes: Kelly stumps for Te'o, says Golson 'still cooking'

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Notre Dame notes: Kelly stumps for Te'o, says Golson 'still cooking'

In ESPN's latest Heisman Watch, Manti Te'o sits eighth, ahead of Oregon running back Kenjon Barner and USC quarterback Matt Barkley, among others. But in coach Brian Kelly's mind, Notre Dame's star inside linebacker should be closer to the top.

"What is the definition of a Heisman Trophy candidate?" Kelly asked rhetorically on Tuesday. "If you go with he has to be a quarterback or an offensive player, well, I don't think he plays on offense. But if you're looking for one of the best, if not the best college football players that impacts your program look, if you said it was the MVP, does it have to be an offensive player MVP? Sure. He's got to have some offensive numbers or statistics.

"But you're also judged by how you impact your team and what you do on the defensive side of the ball. So Heisman Trophy, MVP, top collegiate player, we think he fits those categories."

Kelly's known as an offense-first guy, a reputation he built while his Cincinnati teams torched Big East defenses. But he's said since coming to Notre Dame that the Irish need a stout defense to win, and Te'o's led that charge this year as the Irish surged to 4-0.

It's still early, and Te'o's chances are slim for the reasons Kelly discussed -- it's mainly an offensive award. Charles Woodson was the last defensive player to win the Heisman, although he played a significant role as a punt returner for Michigan in the late 90s. Before him, defensive ends Leon Hart (1949, Notre Dame) and Larry Kelley (1936, Yale) were the only two other non-offensive players to garner the award.

So Te'o already is an outside shot, and when you consider the three guys leading the Heisman watch -- West Virginia, Florida State and Kansas State quarterbacks Geno Smith, E.J. Manuel and Collin Klein -- there may not be an opening for an inside linebacker.

But perhaps if Te'o continues to lead a defense that remains one of the best in the nation, he'll at least be rewarded with a trip to New York for the ceremony.

Bye week allows Te'o to get closure

With Notre Dame off last weekend, Te'o was able to return home with fellow Hawaii native Robby Toma about two weeks after the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend.

Te'o could've gone to Hawaii and been with his family the week of Notre Dame's game against Michigan State, but opted to stay with his team and play the next two weeks. Te'o totaled 20 tackles and picked off two passes against Michigan State and Michigan, leading a defense that allowed just nine points in those two games.

"Any time you get a chance to be around family at that time, there is probably some closure to it which allows you to continue on in the grieving process," Kelly said. "So I think it's just another step for Manti, and Robby being there, obviously, close to the family. I think they were able to bring some closure and move on to the next challenge."

In the kitchen

Both Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin hinted quarterback Everett Golson had a lot of his plate leading up to his rough performance against Michigan, and the Notre Dame quarterback hasn't been made available to the media during the week in nearly a month.

With that in mind, Kelly said Golson hasn't been walled off because of concerns about prying questions into the team's quarterback dynamic.

"I think he's got a very difficult schedule this year," Kelly said. "We've had a hard time managing him out of practice, getting something to eat, all of those things. He's got a really difficult schedule. The last few weeks have been heavy because we're getting close to midterms. So a lot of those factors."

"We're not trying to hide him. But yet on the other hand, I'm not going to make him available to you every day as well because he's got so much going on being the quarterback and a freshman at Notre Dame."

Kelly's liked to discuss his team's quarterback situation in baseball terms, calling Golson his starter and Tommy Rees his reliever. But with regards to Golson's development, maybe Kelly switched the channel from MLB Network to the Food Channel.

"It's work in progress," Kelly said. "An analogy that I like to use is he's still cooking. We've taken him out of the oven. He's still learning all of the things that are not necessarily visible from game film. He's still learning how to effectively communicate, and how he's able to lead, and all of those things."

That discussion of Golson doesn't sound like one that's going on among many top-10 teams. NBC Sports' Keith Arnold had a good read addressing the Golson-Rees dynamic, wondering how much longer the Irish can actually stick with Golson's development if the Irish keep winning as the season goes on.

It's definitely something to chew on as Notre Dame barrels toward matchups against top defenses in Stanford and BYU, and arguably its most intimidating road environment at Oklahoma.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night:
 
1. One too many penalties.

The Blackhawks flirted with danger in the first period when they handed the Lightning three straight continuous power plays, a four-minute double minor high-sticking penalty from John Hayden and a Jonathan Toews hooking call that resulted in a 5-on-3 opportunity for Tampa Bay for 43 seconds. 

The penalty kill unit that ranked fourth in the league entering the matchup, however, killed off all three of those penalties against the NHL's top-ranked power play, and did so in commanding fashion.

The Blackhawks went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill in regulation, but couldn't stop the sixth one — a questionable slashing call on Nick Schmaltz —  in overtime when Brayden Point buried the winner on a 4-on-3 opportunity.

It was also interesting that Jon Cooper elected to go with four forwards (Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Point and Steven Stamkos) and zero defensemen during that man advantage, putting all of his offensive weapons out on the ice. It's something more teams should do in that situation.

2. Patrick Kane gets going.

After scoring just one goal in his previous 10 games, Kane found the back of the net twice in the opening frame against Tampa Bay and stayed hot against a team he historically plays well against. And he nearly netted a hat trick in overtime but couldn't cash in on a breakaway opportunity.

Kane has 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 14 career regular-season games against the Lightning, and extended his point streak to five games. He has three goals and four assists over that stretch.

We wrote about how important it is for the Blackhawks' superstars to get going again with the offensive contributions mainly coming from role players as of late, and Kane getting into a groove is a perfect step in that direction.

3. How about that goaltending battle?

Corey Crawford and Andrei Vasilevskiy showed us exactly why they belong in the Vezina Trophy discussion, and as of this moment, it's hard not to include both of them as finalists. They put on a goaltending clinic, seemingly topping the other as the game went on.

The two teams combined for 71 scoring chances, and Crawford and Vasilevskiy came up big when their teams need them the most.

Crawford finished with 35 saves on 38 shots (.921 save percentage) in the loss while Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 31 (.935 save percentage), and improved to 15-2-1 on the season. 

4. Missed opportunities.

You couldn't have asked for a better start for the Blackhawks. They scored the first goal 3:49 into the game and the second on the power play at 15:54, killed off three penalties, including a 5-on-3, had 24 shot attempts (13 on goal) compared to the Lightning's 16 attempts (11 on goal) and led in even-strength scoring chances 9-6.

It was a different story the rest of the way.

The Blackhawks took their foot off the gas pedal a bit and let the Lightning back in the game by getting away from what they do best, and that's control the puck. Obviously, you expected the league's best offense to push back and it's certainly not an easy task to keep them off the scoresheet all together. 

But the Blackhawks had their chances to stay in front or retake the lead and just couldn't bury them. Tampa Bay had 50 shot attempts from the second period on while the Blackhawks had only 32, and finished with 44 scoring chances compared to Chicago's 27.

5. Richard Panik in the doghouse?

Joel Quenneville didn't go to his line blender in this one, but he did shorten some leashes. Panik, most notably, had a season-low 12:28 of ice time in the loss and had 15 shifts, which was second-fewest only to Ryan Hartman (13) on the team.

Panik had a prime chance to break a 2-2 tie in the third period but was denied by Vasilevskiy, who made a remarkable left-pad save. Instead, Panik extended his goal drought to 12 games and didn't get a shift in overtime.

He's certainly better and will get his scoring chances when playing on the top line with Toews and Brandon Saad, but the missed opportunities are magnified in tight losses. It doesn't look like a move down in the lineup is coming given the success of Alex DeBrincat, who gives the Blackhawks an offensive weapon on the third line, but perhaps it should be considered.

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

On the second (turkey) leg of a back-to-back, the Bulls didn't bring much energy in a 110-80 loss to the Utah Jazz. 

Instead of diving into the nitty-gritty of the uninspiring effort, though, we decided to just serve you up a Thanksgiving meal of highlights. Here are the top blocks from Wednesday's game: 

5. Derrick Favors is no Rudy Gobert -- that we know -- but imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

4. Are Bobby Portis chase down blocks the new LeBron James chase down blocks? Let's not get carried away... yet. We'll chalk it up to just a real nice hustle play by Bobby. 

3 and 2. Speaking of hustle plays... Jonas Jerebko isn't exactly known as a dominant defender. He sure made it hard for the Bulls on what should of been an easy fast-break bucket in the third quarter, though. First, he silenced Kris Dunn's reverse. Then, he met Lauri Markkanen at the rim and sent the rookie packing. The Baby Bulls 2.0 can blame it on fatigue, but they just handed Jerebko a highlight tape for years to come.   

1. In fairness, Jerian Grant had to get up a shot as the quarter was coming to a close. It is as vicious as it looks, though.