White Sox

Blackhawks fail to score in season-ending loss

743284.png

Blackhawks fail to score in season-ending loss

The Chicago Blackhawks were looking for one more chance, one more game to even this series up with the Phoenix Coyotes and send it back to Glendale, where anything could happen in a Game 7.

But in Game 6 there would be no late-regulation heroics for the Blackhawks. No overtime opportunity. And ultimately, no Game 7.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored a power-play goal, and Mike Smith was mesmerizing in a 39-stop shutout as the Coyotes beat the Blackhawks 4-0 to win their Western Conference quarterfinal series on Monday night. The Coyotes won the series 4-2, with three of those victories coming on United Center ice. Its the first time theyve gotten past the first round since the 1980s, when they were the Winnipeg Jets.

For the Blackhawks, it was the second first-round exit in as many seasons. And this one stung more than last season. There was no big team dismantling and no massive changes from last seasons roster. This Blackhawks team thought they had found the right pieces to win now; but against a defensive-minded team with a goaltender unwilling to give up much, the Blackhawks came up short.

We had flurries, chances. It just didnt go in, Duncan Keith said. I dont know if its the goaltender or us not bearing down or getting in front of him. Its easy to look back now. In the end, we just didnt get it done.

No, but the Blackhawks had some of their best scoring chances of this series in Game 6. There were a lot of them, too, as the Blackhawks commanded a 16-2 edge in shots after the first period; they outshot Phoenix 39-20 for the game. But Smith was impenetrable; making every stop from the ho-hum to the how-did-that-not-go-in.

Tonight Mike Smith had a special game, coach Joel Quenneville said. We come out of that first period (scoreless), that was a moral victory of them. It was the first period, the first two periods, with the quality and quantity without scoring that certainly hurt.

A few other things hurt, too. Top scorers, all of them, struggled to get points. Corey Crawford gave up two tough ones in back-to-back games. And the Blackhawks power play, which struggled all season, was a dismal 1 for 19 in this series.

Yeah, special teams are big. We talk about that all the time, Patrick Sharp said. I thought we were playing well the first two periods, they score on the power play and were chasing. It wouldve been nice to score on the power play, for sure.

And then there was Marian Hossa, or the loss of him. Quenneville said, you always look back in a series, and theres a defining situation that you can say was a turning point. That was probably the one. As for the right wings health, Quenneville said, he hasnt felt very well at all. His first day out of the house (today), hes not doing a lot. Hopefully he progresses.

But this was still ultimately about the players on the ice. The desperate Blackhawks threw everything at Smith on Monday night. He stopped it all. And when Ekman-Larsson scored in the second period, the Coyotes finally ultimately had a one-goal lead that the Blackhawks wouldnt overcome.

And as far as why the Blackhawks couldnt claim at least one game on their home ice? Nobody seemed to have an answer.

Yeah, I dont think anyone wouldve predicted that one, said Corey Crawford, who allowed four goals on 20 shots. We were so good at home through the year, I dont know. Its tough luck and some bounces didnt go our way, especially at home. I cant explain it. Its just the way it goes sometimes.

The Blackhawks had high hopes coming into this season. They thought they would contend for the Cup. And they thought they would come back, much like they did against Vancouver last spring, and force a Game 7.

They came up short.

We went through some tough times and we always seemed to come out better and stronger as a team, Jonathan Toews said. We were down 3-1 in the series, and we had no doubt wed find a way to come back and force Game 7. It got cut short a game, I guess.

A deeper look at why Yoan Moncada is off to a hot start this season

moncada-419.jpg
USA TODAY

A deeper look at why Yoan Moncada is off to a hot start this season

Yoan Moncada continued his hot start to the season with a leadoff home run in Detroit on Friday.

He finished with two hits and a bases-loaded walk in a 7-3 White Sox win.

Moncada’s base numbers are all up this season. He is hitting .325 with a 1.002 OPS and a team-leading six home runs. Beyond that, a deeper look at the numbers show why Moncada’s production is up.

Moncada didn’t show much, if any, improvement in 2018 from 2017. Most of his numbers across the board were similar or slightly worse.

Moncada was patient at the plate, but maybe too patient in his first two seasons with the White Sox. He led the majors with 217 strikeouts last season and 85 of those were strikeouts looking. So far this season, Moncada is yet to strikeout looking.

This season, Moncada is swinging at more pitches both in the strike zone and overall, which is leading to a lower strikeout rate. A look at the advanced stats from FanGraphs shows Moncada swung at 63.9 percent of pitches in the zone in both 2017 and 2018 (these numbers are before Friday's game). That number is up to 69.1 percent this season. On top of that, Moncada is making more contact on those swings on pitches in the zone (up to 86.5 percent this season after 77.5 percent in 2017 and 79.8 percent in 2018).

His strikeout rate (32 percent in 2017, 33.4 percent in 2018) is way down at 24.1 percent. Strikeouts were the biggest red flag for Moncada last year. By being more aggressive this season, Moncada has been able to cut way down on that number.

His power has gone way up as well. He already has 12 extra base hits (in 82 plate appearances) and his home run on Friday was an absolute bomb. Moncada took it deep for 458 feet. That’s the longest White Sox home run of the season and is tied for the eighth longest home run in the majors this season.


He later showed that despite being more aggressive, he still has that plate discipline that was such a big part of what made him a coveted prospect in the first place. He drew a five-pitch bases loaded walk in which he did not swing the bat.

No matter how it's happening, Moncada’s turnaround has been one of the most important things in the young White Sox season.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

It's safe to say Kyle Hendricks has figured 'it' out

It's safe to say Kyle Hendricks has figured 'it' out

It was only a matter of time before Kyle Hendricks figured it all out. 

It appears Friday was that day. 

The 29-year-old right-hander was off to a slow start to the season, surrendering 24 hits and 8 earned runs in 13.1 innings across his first three starts, good for a 5.40 ERA and 2.18 WHIP. 

Things looked a little better last time out — only 2 earned runs allowed on 6 hits in 5 innings last Saturday against the Angels — but even after that start, Hendricks admitted he still feels like he's fighting himself and searching for his fastball command.

"You can't rush it," he said after that outing. "You can't rush the process. But it definitely gets frustrating. I need to do a better job and give the team a better chance to win when I'm out there regardless. And set a better tone — be more aggressive with my fastball and set a better tone for the game. You want it to come quick, but at least I'm seeing something, so I just gotta stick with what I'm doing."

Whatever he was seeing with his mechanics came to pass in Friday afternoon's 5-1 Cubs win, as he completely baffled the Diamondbacks in a brilliant performance — 7 shutout innings, permitting only 3 singles while striking out 11. It was his first double-digit strikeout game since he whiffed 12 Cardinals on Aug. 13, 2016 en route to his ERA title that season.

"Yeah, like I said, you kinda always want it to come, but I didn't think it was gonna come this quick," Hendricks admitted after Friday's game. "So to go out and make that many good pitches, yeah it helps the confidence a lot. It solidifies the things we've been working on, so I just told the guys this was just one good day, so tomorrow, gotta get right back at it with another good work day and hopefully get on a roll here."

It was also the Cubs' third straight appearance from a starting pitcher of 7 shutout innings, after Cole Hamels and Jose Quintana turned the trick in the final two games in Miami earlier in the week.

The one pitch Hendricks felt good about last time out — his changeup — was his bread and butter Friday, too. He threw it 30 times out of his 100 pitches and induced 8 swings and misses.

"That was kinda classic Kyle," Joe Maddon said. "Great changeup, again. A lot of called strikes, pitching on the edges. ... That first inning or so, still seeking and then once he found it, he got into a nice groove."

Part of the success of the changeup was due to Hendricks' command with his fastball, which he apparently figured out — for one start, at least. He threw 66 percent of his pitches for strikes throughout the game and 35 of his 56 fastballs went for strikes. 

"From the get-go, I just felt more comfortable in my mechanics, so it just freed everything up," Hendricks said. "From there, I just used my fastball a lot better — kinda like what I was talking about. Fastball command and just establishing it early. Everything else worked off that and it just had good action today. Kept it down, made a lot of good pitches, so it worked out."

Hendricks even saw 17 pitches at the plate despite an 0-for-4 performance, as the Cubs offense put 19 runners on base throughout the course of the afternoon.

However, his day was not without negatives. He took a 110 mph liner off the left leg in the seventh inning, but stayed in the game and finished off the last two hitters he faced.

He also snapped his fascinating personal streak, as he threw his first wild pitch since Sept. 5, 2016 — a span of 6,662 pitches:

"I had no idea; I came in the clubhouse and someone brought that to my attention," Hendricks said, laughing. "Time to start a new streak."

In all, Hendricks picked up his first win of 2019 and lowered his season ERA to 3.54 and WHIP to 1.67 with his performance. He also helped pitch his team back to the .500 level (9-9) for the first time since the opening weekend of the season.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Cubs easily on your device.