Blackhawks

Te'o's silence only leads to more questions

Te'o's silence only leads to more questions

Manti Te'o's silence on the subject of Lennay Kekua has only led to more digging and speculation -- and that's not a good thing for the ex-Notre Dame linebacker.

Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick explained Wednesday that Te'o found out Kekua didn't die and was a hoax on Dec. 6. But Awful Announcing turned up two instances of Te'o talking about his deceased girlfriend after Dec. 6, and the Associated Press also found another example.

An explanation of those remarks adds another question Te'o will have to answer at some point, less he risk losing more people on his side. Among the others: What was his relationship with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man Deadspin pegged as being behind Kekua? Why did the Te'o family say the couple had met in person when, in fact, that was not true? What, exactly, were the specifics of Te'o's relationship with Kekua, called into question by an anonymous teammate?

Swarbrick was under the impression Te'o would speak on the matter as soon as Thursday, and earlier in the day it was reported ESPN's Jeremy Schapp had been tabbed to talk to the linebacker Thursday night. But those plans were scuttled at some point, and silence continues to persist from the Te'o camp.

But Tuiasosopo may be the key to this story. If he indeed was the mastermind behind Kekua, was he playing Te'o or did the pair execute the hoax together? Tuiasosopo and Te'o appeared to have some sort of relationship, per the initial Deadspin report and a few previous interactions on Twitter and Facebook.

CSNChicago.com's attempts to reach the Tuiasosopo family Thursday were unsuccessful, as has been the case for every other media outlet. Titus Tuiasosopo, Ronaiah's father, posted a message to his Facebook page early Thursday morning, however:

"I know so much has been splattered all over the media about my son & my family," the post read. "I also know that many who were born in a manger in Bethlehem & continue to walk on water will undoubtedly express their opinions. Those of you who know us the best still love us the most. It my hope & prayer that we allow the truth to take its course, wherever that may lead. My heart goes out to Manti & the Te'o Aiga. Please allow this young man to pursue his dream without judgement. He's an amazing role model for our youth and Samoan community."

In the comments, Lia Manu Tuiasosopo -- identified as a daughter of Titus and sister of Ronaiah -- posted: "manti doesn't deserve all the negativity. he deserves to succeed."

For right now, that's all we have from the Tuiasosopo camp. Te'o may ultimately speak -- the Associated Press reported that won't happen Thursday -- and when he does, he may provide answers to those previously-mentioned questions that appear to absolve him of any involvement.

But even if Te'o were involved, he almost certainly wouldn't admit it now -- not after releasing a statement Wednesday detailing how he was the victim of a "cruel hoax." If there's one lesson to be learned from this saga, it's to not blindly take someone at their word.

Still, Te'o could provide some clarity with reasonable answers to a list of pressing questions that's growing by the hour. If the Tuiasosopo family breaks its silence, we'll likely get more clarity.

For now, Te'o can help his case by speaking publicly. Perhaps he and his representatives are taking their time to get an airtight story straight. Even if that's the case, the speculation will continue to persist, and it won't all be favorable to Te'o.

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.