Blackhawks

The Starting Five: Bulls vs. Magic

The Starting Five: Bulls vs. Magic

Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010
2:08 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

1. The Bulls spent their Thanksgiving in Denver, where they ate a holiday dinner together at former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elways restaurant. After the team meal, Joakim Noah had an encounter with the Hall of Famer. Its weird that you mention that because I was in the steam room. We had a little time in the hotel and I was in the steam room by myself, just focusing, enjoying the day off, Thanksgiving and he was there. He just came in. I dont know too many football players, but I know him, said Noah after Tuesdays practice. Its kind of weird. Its a true story, though. Continued Noah: I actually didnt say anythingIt was a kind of weird moment. Kind of awkward. Even though, according to Noah, It was just me and him in there, he ultimately declined to introduce himself to the NFL legend. I was going to say something, but then I was like, Maybe he just wants to spend some time alone.

2. His statistics havent been gaudy, but Bulls reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer has been gradually picking up his play as of late, resembling the dynamic and versatile player he was in Utah after a hamstring injury during training camp got him off to a slow start.Im getting more comfortable, more confident. I think Thibs is getting more comfortable with allowing me to do some of those things. Allowing me to push the ball and make plays, drop it off to different players and attack the basket. Im still trying to find my niche with this team and hopefully I can continue to improve my play, Brewer told CSNChicago.com. Brewer believes his role on the Bulls is an energy guy. Weve got a lot of guys on this team that can score pointsJoakims been doing a great job, D. Rose, Booz comes back, Luoland for me to go out there and contribute, that means knocking down open shots, get to the basket, put pressure on defenders and try to make plays for other people, and be a lockdown defender. Thibodeau acknowledged Brewers improved play. When you think about what Ronnie went through. He was hurt for half a season last season and couldnt do a whole lot over the summer. Hes finally in really good shape again and now I think were seeing the activity hes shown in the past. Im very pleased with the way hes playing.

3. Chicagos starting power forward to this point, Taj Gibson, returned to practice Tuesday after sitting out Mondays practice to rest his sore right ankle. Its day-to-day. I talked to Coach Thibs Tuesday. He was extremely understanding about the injury. I talked to the doctors Monday. Its just day-to-day. They told me to ice it, get a lot of treatment on it and just hope for the best, said Gibson. Its not the plantar fasciitis. It was the injury I got from the Bulls practice in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. It was the right ankle ligamentits been real painful, but Ive just been playing through it and just been pushing. The doctors came in and said Im not in danger of hurting myself any further. To tend to the injurywhich Gibson said throbs sometimes when he pushes off his right foot or runs hardthe second-year player has had a lot of hot and cold treatments, stim electronic stimulation, then they just double wrap it with a little pad around it before playing. Speaking of his lingering plantar fasciitis, he said, The plantar fasciitis is up and downIve been on top of it, keeping my feet in an ice tub, which I hate, but its been helping me. If Gibson is bothered about losing his starting spot to Boozer, he certainly isnt acting like it. I talked to Coach Thibodeau this Tuesday morning. It doesnt affect anything the way I play. He told me about the whole focal point of our team. It was a great talk, having your coach be behind you 110 percent. As far as him Boozer coming back, thats great for our team. Weve shown a lot of people with him down that were a great teamcoming off the bench, its going to be even better for me because coming off the bench last year, I thrived, said Gibson. Sometimes I might be in with CarlosWe play together and we go against each other in practice, we go against each other in drills. He talks to me. Its great having somebody like that being around you. We have great guys on our team. Theres no animosity, everybody cheers for one another.

4. Chicago attempted to woo Orlando shooting guard J.J. Redick in the offseason, but the Magic eventually matched the Bulls offer sheet to the veteran sharpshooter. This season, Redick has slumped, shooting 27.7 percent from 3-point range and 34.8 percent from the field while averaging 7.1 points in 22.4 minutes per game off the bench behind Vince Carter.

5. Dont forget to follow me on Twitter at @CSNBullsInsider.

--Aggrey Sam

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.