Blackhawks

Why

Why

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Its the one of the Five Ws that Im having a hard time getting past. In this desensitized world we live in, it sometimes takes a lot to get all of our collective attentions but the events of last Friday were over-the-top. I was behind the bar when I saw the first headline on TV. Worst fear is what comes immediately to mind.

Needless to say, I was a little distracted for the rest of my shift. As more detailed information came out, I could not think of anything else. Unfortunately for me, the end of my shift meant that it was time to go on Chicago Tribune Live. Upon walking into the Comcast SportsNet studios, there was a palpable tension. In the wake of the events, talking sports on TV seemed a little insignificant, to say the least. It was agreed that we would acknowledge the tragic events, but then we would respectively move on. As sometimes happens on live television, it didnt exactly go as scripted. In fact, there was no script.

Being someone who is still a TV novice, I often take in everything going on around me like a tourist. One of those is reading the teleprompter that host David Kaplan is reading off of to see how much he adheres to it or how he summarizes what is in front of him. On this occasion there was no script, since the teleprompter went down. No worries, pro that he is, Kap just started talking, expressing his feelings in a thoughtful, heartfelt way without as much as a half-second delay. That was impressive. Especially since as it went around the panel for us to weigh in and it came to my turn, I thought I was going to lose it. Its weird sometimes when emotion will hit you and when Kap turned to me for my chance to speak it was hitting me in a giant wave. As soon as I started thinking about my kids, I couldnt stop thinking about the little ones from Sandy Hook Elementary School and the horrors they had faced and how now, their parents must deal with it.

As the father of a 1st grader, and two others that are not that far removed, I kept thinking about my kids school. Life offers a lot of cool circumstances. One is being around your young children and their friends. There is not an easier environment to get a smile than when you go to visit your child in their 1st grade classroom. It is a very special place. What the hope is that it is as safe as home. I remember the very first time my now teenager went to school. The bus that picked her up was the most intimidating machine ever made. How would they take care of her? What would they do if she was upset? What would she do without her parents? From my subsequent visits, I realized that it was a perfect place for any of my kids to be, or anyone elses for that matter. It is the start of what hopefully is a wonderful journey. And it is full of all of the wonder and innocence that you would expect.

For 26 families of those who inhabited Sandy Hook, either students or those who worked there, that innocence was shattered.

I cant describe how sick that makes me feel.

So, as much as I love and look forward to being on CTL it was a hard place to be. Quite honestly, who cares?

I could not wait to get home and hug my kids. And yell at my teenager to clean her room. I needed something normal to deal with something beyond comprehension.

The sense of loss was profound, bordering on overwhelming.

Judging from the immediate reactions, everyone feels this way. Im sure as we move on things are going to be politicized, arent they always? But if this doesnt wake people up to some of the problems we face as a society, what is going to?

That line of thought can get me going, but this is neither the time nor place.

What this is a time for is an appreciation of what we have and our responsibilities to those around us. At some point isnt this what lifes all about?

One of the interesting benefits of being a parent is that it enables your heart to open up to other children and families in a way you never imagined. When I look at my kids friends, or when families come into the restaurant, it usually brings a smile, mostly one of happiness, or if things go awry, one of commiseration. Been there, done that. The feeling comes from the fact that they remind me of how lucky I am. And that is never more so than now.

As is usually the case when Im down, something will happen to me at work to help change my outlook.

Sunday night was as dreadful as you would expect. Thats always the case after a Bears home loss and the masses come in afterward, especially more so when victorious Packer fans are sprinkled in. Cant they just go home? I know they have a sense of wonderment with our newfangled indoor plumbing, but enough is enough!

Anyway, for some reason, all concerned seemed a little more engaged in the experience than usual.

Whatever. Its the holiday season I guess. I usually dont bother easy, but this was beginning to become a chore. I couldnt wait to get done and go back home to see my sleeping angels.

For most of the night I had three guys in Bears jerseys, two younger, one older, sitting in front of me watching the Sunday night football game. They werent shy about their consumption, but were harmless and having a good time. After a couple of hours in, the guy about my age shared with me that the two others were his sons. Thats pretty cool I thought and said. He had brought his sons up in Chicago but they had all subsequently moved to different parts of the country. They got together once a year for a Bears home game minus any female influence. They were all flying out Monday afternoon, but for now I felt as though we were watching a game in one of their living rooms, and I was now in on it, a willing audience for all the little things that they were goofing on each other for. Thats what guys do, especially when youre related.

I just thought this was the neatest thing.

An important thing.

It reminded me of sports trips I have taken with my father and someday want to take with my kids. Memories that last a lifetime, and now I was part of theirs. In my emotional state I kept telling them how cool what they were doing was. I could tell by dads smile he knew exactly what I meant.

For many families in Connecticut that simple joy is no longer possible.

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

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USA TODAY

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.