Blackhawks

Somber Rose sets tone for Bulls

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Somber Rose sets tone for Bulls

If ever there was a time for Derrick Rose to put on his happy face it was Tuesday night at the United Center.

Rose needed to muster the best acting performance of his career when he limped to center court to present the game ball before Game 2. While he tried, Rose's face looked somber as he walked off the court. The impression left on the sell-out crowd -- and his teammates -- seemed to set the tone for the evening.

Then to tug on our heart strings even more, Rose, who is sidelined for the rest of the postseason and beyond with a torn ACL, was seen sitting in his family's suite by himself. Thankfully, his mother, Brenda, and others arrived to take the edge off the melancholy that permeated the building.

At one point, I even spied Rose laughing with his mom as he watched his teammates play competitive ball in the first half. I had a glimmer of hope that things would get better. Sure, the Bulls allowed the Sixers to shoot 53 percent from the field in the opening two quarters, but they had the lead at halftime and all seemed right with the world.

Until the third quarter began.

The Bulls spent a lot of time before Tuesday's Game 2 finding motivation in Rose's absence on the court by wanting to prove the doubters wrong and play hard for their teammate whom they think of as a brother. Kyle Korver wrote a note of encouragement on his Facebook page. Scottie Pippen penned an open letter to the team on the Bulls' website. Both had the message of fighting through adversity and believing in each other.

Even Philadelphia was bracing for a double dose of Bulls energy.

Its going to be a lot of emotion (to start the game), noted Elton Brand before the game. The city has been following this (Rose injury). Ive got a lot of friends here and theyve been telling me. The team is going to want to show, Hey, we love Derrick. We have his back. Were playing for him. We can still win a championship. There will be a lot of emotion in the building.

There was a lot of something in the building Tuesday night, but it's not what we were expecting. The Bulls were supposed to be riding a wave of inspiration, instead they looked emotionally broken. Afterwards, Bulls players said they were shocked by the outcome. Angry, disappointed and emabarrassed were a few of the other words bantered about in the locker room.

The Bulls will have to move beyond sentiment now and get back to playing the type of basketball they managed for 27 games without Rose in the regular season. Inspirational speeches and letters are nice, but they don't make the ball go in the basket. Instead of fighting through adversity, the Bulls buckled under it.

Maybe a smiling Rose a center court wouldn't have changed a thing. Maybe we all need to set our feeling-sorry-for-the-kid emotions aside and focus on the task at hand.

As Luol Deng said emphatically after the game, "Derrick's not here! We're a new team now." Only they need to play like the old team come Game 3 Friday.

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.