Blackhawks

Usain Bolt is not running like Usain Bolt

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Usain Bolt is not running like Usain Bolt

From Comcast SportsNet
KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) -- In the 100, it was the start. In the 200, it was the curve. Safe to say Usain Bolt has plenty to work on and not much time to do it -- and that's before he even starts thinking about the man who kept beating him at the Jamaican Olympic trials, Yohan Blake. When Bolt awoke Monday morning, there were 33 days until the start of the 100-meter sprints at the London Olympics, where the British sports books list him at 4-6 to win -- still a favorite to earn the "living legend" status he seeks at the upcoming games but a much less prohibitive one than he was before trials began. "I never train for one person," Bolt said. "Everyone is talking about Yohan Blake and he is proving himself as one of the greatest. But for me, it's going back to training, getting back to work to and getting done what I've got to get done." If Bolt does get things back on track, will that be enough? Great question. In the 200, the smart money would say yes, at least if Sunday's performances are any gauge. Blake won in 19.80 seconds into a slight headwind -- not all that impressive a time for a man who has run 19.26. Bolt, of course, holds the world record at 19.19. He ran 19.83. "They ran 19.8. That's the world-record holder who ran 19.1 and the second fastest man in history who ran 19.2," said Wallace Spearmon, who won U.S. trials Sunday in 19.82. "Honestly, I figured they'd run about 19.5 or 19.6 today. (That) caught me off guard a little. Not a bad thing, but I didn't know." In the 100, however, things appear less certain, even if Bolt does bring his game up a notch. Before Friday, Blake had never run faster than 9.82. On Friday, he finished in 9.75 -- the eighth-fastest time ever. He won by .11 seconds and there was a significant amount of daylight between Blake and Bolt at the finish line. The World's Fastest Man is no stranger to bad starts -- he was in the back of the field coming out of the blocks when he set the world record at the Olympics -- but he has almost always been able to make up the ground. The rare exceptions: a loss to Tyson Gay during a 2010 season in which Bolt was at less than 100 percent, and this latest setback against Blake. "We'll discover what the problem is," coach Glen Mills said. "At 6-5, he's not going to be the fastest starter in the world. He doesn't have to be the first one out of the blocks to win." Yet in an interview he was doing in a different corner of the stadium, Bolt was talking about how he'd actually been working more lately on the 100, which is why his curve in the 200 was so lackluster. "But I can't blame it on that," he said. The reason he became the greatest to ever run the longer race is because of the line he has learned to take on that curve. He negotiates it so well that Blake is known to stop what he's doing when they're practicing together just to take a look. On Sunday, Bolt wobbled around the bend, and by the time he hit the straightaway, he had ground to make up. He chipped away over the last 50 meters, but when he looked to his left as he approached the finish, he grimaced. Blake beat him to the line. Again. "I'm not surprised, because I was working real hard," Blake said of his back-to-back wins. "And I know Usain will work hard as ever. It's up to me to keep working hard and keep my form going into the Olympics." From what little the world knows about Blake, who is just emerging as a star, there's not much doubt that he'll keep his head low and stay with the work. Bolt is a better-known quantity. Since he burst onto the scene with his three world records and three gold medals in Beijing -- 100, 200, 400 relay -- one of the story lines surrounding Bolt is that he can do the hard work when necessary, but doesn't really embrace it. Two losses in three nights have shocked him out of that mode. While trying not to act panicky about the setbacks, he conceded that he now has something altogether new to prove: that he's as good a chaser as he was a front-runner. He'll have a warmup race of sorts at a Diamond League meet in Monaco on July 20, where he's scheduled to run in the 200. Then, it's London calling. "I'm the Olympic champion," Bolt said. "I have to show the world I'm the best. I can come back. It's not like I was blown away or anything. So now, I know what I need to do to get it right."

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday night:

1. Blackhawks squander two leads.

For the 13th time in their past 16 games, the Blackhawks scored the first goal of the game. They had won their previous three instances when doing so, but couldn't seal the deal this time and fell to 5-6-2 in those 13 games.

What strung even more is that the Blackhawks held two one-goal leads and couldn't hang on to either of them. They have the seventh-worst win percentage (.571) when scoring the first goal this season with a 20-10-5 record.

2. Vinnie Hinostroza continues to produce offensively.

If you're trying to look for a rare bright spot on the Blackhawks roster this season, here's one. Hinostroza registered a secondary assist on David Kampf's goal for his fifth point in six games, and was on the ice for 16 shot attempts for and seven against during 5-on-5 play for a team-leading shot attempt differential of plus-9 (also known as Corsi).

For the season, Hinostroza has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 32 games and he's doing so while averaging only 13:27 of ice time. His point-per-game average is up to 0.63, which is tied with Jonathan Toews for third on the team; only Patrick Kane (0.92) and Nick Schmaltz (0.71) are producing at a higher rate.

Hinostroza deserves more minutes, but at the same time his ability to produce on any of the four lines has allowed Joel Quenneville to put him in a bottom six role for balance.

"I like his speed," Quenneville said recently on why Hinostroza has been so effective. "I think with the puck, he's been good with it as well. More strength, on it, managing it, better decisions with it, and good plays off it. He definitely brings you energy and some speed, he can catch people with that quickness."

3. Ryan Hartman's benching.

Hartman was part of the fourth line that contributed to the Blackhawks' first goal of the game, and he was on his way to having a strong one. But that changed quickly after he took an ill-advised penalty in the first period.

Already leading 1-0, the Blackhawks had a 2-on-1 opportunity developing involving Hinostroza and David Kampf but Hartman was whistled for high-sticking at 17:06 behind the play. The Blue Jackets converted on the power play, and that was the end of Hartman's night.

He took only five shifts and finished with a season-low 4:16 of ice time, with Quenneville using it as an opportunity for a teaching moment.

4. Tomas Jurco building confidence back up.

It's been a tough season mentally for Jurco. He started the season with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs after failing to make the team out of camp, and compiled 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 36 games. 

It earned him a call-up on Jan. 8, with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman praising the way he progressed: "He looks like he's totally different, in terms of his composure and ability to make plays. That's why we brought him up here."

The problem? He was a healthy scratch for five straight games and went two weeks without seeing game action with the Blackhawks. Not exactly the best way to keep someone's confidence building. And since then, he's been fighting for a spot in the lineup.

For the last three games, Jurco has been given a shot on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane and he cashed in for his first goal of the season tonight and first since March 27, 2017. It's also the second straight game he's recorded a point.

While he may not be worth much if the Blackhawks were to deal him ahead of Monday's deadline, perhaps a change of scenery to a team that believes in him as a fit will bring out the best of his abilities. The Blackhawks tried and it just hasn't worked out.

5. Blue line observation.

This is more of a big-picture takeaway, but the Blackhawks have gotten only 20 goals from their defensemen this season. The Blue Jackets have gotten a combined 19 from just Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. Last season the Blackhawks had 30 total.

The Blackhawks just haven't gotten the offensive production needed from their back end and it's so important as it helps alleviate some of the pressure off the forwards.

I asked Quenneville about this after Friday's game and here's what he had to say: "Whether you score or not, you need the D to be part of your attack, be it off the rush, in zone. But I think the whole game, the whole league is four-man rush game, five-man attacks, coming at you, night-in, night-out, wave after wave.

"But you need to get your D involved in your support on the attack and you need them on the offensive zone off the point. You need some shooters on the back end that can get them through as well. I think offensive production from the back end in today’s game really enhances your offense and your possession game."

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

MINNEAPOLIS — That feeling of having your knee buckle out of nowhere, Zach LaVine is all-too familiar with it.

That feeling of being on the sidelines and watching Jimmy Butler’s knee give out, Fred Hoiberg has been there, too.

Different perspectives, and different reactions but Butler’s knee injury produced a sick feeling to many who watched it Friday night. Butler turned to pivot in the Timberwolves’ game against the Houston Rockets and immediately collapsed on the floor, having to be carried off.

LaVine tore his ACL in Detroit over a year ago, while it was revealed Butler suffered a right meniscus injury. But it looked all the same and LaVine understood the uncertainty Butler must’ve been feeling before the MRI revealed it wasn’t an ACL injury.

“It’s scary,” LaVine said following morning shootaround at the Target Center Saturday afternoon. “I wish him the best. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody. Especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team.”

When LaVine injured his ACL, he actually played a few more minutes before being removed and going to the locker room. The time between being evaluated by doctors and them coming back feels like a lifetime.

“It’s scary. You know you hurt yourself, you don’t know how bad,” LaVine said. “You think you’re good, you’re a tough minded person trying to get through it.”

“I saw him on the ground trying to get up, (Rockets guard) Chris Paul made him sit down. Jimmy’s a tough dude. Thoughts and prayers going out to him.”

Butler and LaVine were the centerpieces of the draft day trade involving the Bulls and Timberwolves. With Butler suffering the injury the night before playing his former team a second time, the timing produced a bunch of memories.

In Hoiberg’s first year with the Bulls, Butler went down in a somewhat similar manner in Denver, a non-contact injury. It looked just as bad, and Butler was taken off the floor in a wheelchair.

Thankfully it was a right knee strain that cost him several weeks but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Considering the minutes he’s played over the last few years, Hoiberg was asked if Butler pushes himself too hard to be on the floor.

“Jimmy he wants to be out there,” Hoiberg said. “I remember the first year in Denver, he went down with what looked to be a serious injury. Thankfully he was back on the floor after 15-16 games.”

Actually, Butler missed 11 consecutive games before coming back for a nationally-televised game against the Rockets, playing 34 minutes in a Bulls win and missing the next three games for recovery.

“We really worried when he went down but it wasn’t something that ended his season,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy’s a worker. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen. It’s a huge reason for the type of player he is, that work ethic to make him one of the elite players in the league.”