Blackhawks

Blackhawks limiting opponent's shots on goal

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Blackhawks limiting opponent's shots on goal

The first period ticked away while the Washington Capitals shots on goal remained the same: zero. It stayed that way until Mike Greene wristed one Corey Crawfords way with less than four minutes remaining in the first period.

Yes, thats a rarity. But for the Blackhawks recently, holding opponents to low shot totals, isnt. And in keeping opponents opportunities to a minimum, the Blackhawks are helping their own cause.

In their three straight victories the Blackhawks allowed 24 or fewer shots per game. The opponents werent slouches, either: the St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars and Capitals -- who finished with just 18 shots on Sunday -- have their scoring threats. But the Blackhawks have kept chances low, and thats helped them in their latest successful stint.

We know theres enough talent in here to score goals if we focus on defense and try not to give them many chances or shots, Patrick Kane said after the Blackhawks 5-2 victory over Washington. That first period, I dont know if they had a shot the first 15 minutes or so. Its nice to have a start like that, its nice to play defense like that, and have the puck a lot.

So how have the Blackhawks done it? Its been a combination of things:

The Blackhawks are defending well, not allowing opponents much time in their zone to get a good scoring chance. Theyve also blocked 47 shots in their last three games, including 20 against the Stars on Friday.

Their checking line of Bryan Bickell, Dave Bolland and Andrew Shaw has been stellar lately, shutting down top lines. They did that with the Alexander Ovechkin line on Sunday night, and the Washington captains lone goal didnt come against them.

When shots are getting through, Crawford is stopping them. In his past three games, including his relief appearance against St. Louis, Crawford has stopped 55 of the last 58 shots hes seen. Crawfords performance last week (3-0-0 record with a 1.09 goals-against average) earned him the NHLs second star of the week.

The Blackhawks have been successful lately for a lot of reasons. Cutting down the oppositions chances has been a big part of that.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reacting to Round 1 of NHL Draft

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reacting to Round 1 of NHL Draft

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Round 1 of the 2018 NHL Draft.

They discuss the pair of puck-carrying defensemen that the Blackhawks selected on Friday, Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin. When can we expect to see these first-round picks play in the NHL?

Boyle also goes 1-on-1 with Boqvist and Beaudin. The guys spoke with Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville on Friday.

The guys also share their biggest takeaways from those interviews, which includes your daily Corey Crawford update and Quenneville appeared excited that the team has plenty of cap space to spend in free agency.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.