White Sox

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.

Why Royals pitcher Brad Keller hit Tim Anderson: Bat flip was 'over the top'

Why Royals pitcher Brad Keller hit Tim Anderson: Bat flip was 'over the top'

Brad Keller seems to be OK with being a villain in Chicago.

“I was on Chicago's villain list,” the Royals pitcher said during an appearance on The Charity Stripe podcast. “NBC Sports tweeted it. The list was LeBron James, Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Braun and me and one hockey player. I'm like, 'This is a pretty good list to be on.'”


Keller entered the collective Chicago sports consciousness when he intentionally hit Tim Anderson with a pitch last April, sparking a benches-clearing incident, a couple of suspensions and a resurgence in baseball’s ceaseless debate over unwritten rules and the culture war between old-school and new-school mentalities.

For White Sox fans long bereft of the meaningful baseball that typically stokes heated rivalries, Keller plunking one of the faces of the franchise — not only a strong presence in the community but a guy who since his best friend was killed has not stopped talking about how much fun he wants to have on the field — did the trick.

“It was like the first week of April. I'm not going to say a meaningless game because every game in the big leagues means something. But the 12th game of the season doesn't really define if you're going to make the playoffs or not,” Keller recounted. “This game, I was grinding. I was sucking this game. I was throwing really well, numbers-wise, but I think I was behind every single hitter. I was getting lucky, honestly. I was all over the place. I think I had five walks that game, too.

“Comes around the fourth inning, or whatever it is. Runner gets on second base. And I think the at-bat, he battled me for like nine pitches. It was like a long-ass AB, I remember. Basically, in my mind, I'm like, 'I'm not walking him.' Because he's fast, he can steal bases if he gets on. If there's a single, he's probably going to score from first. So I'm like, 'I'm not going to walk this guy.' So I throw a sinker in, and he turns on it, hits a home run.

“And how he acted afterwards, to me and my whole team, was just over the top. It's like, 'Bro, you hit a homer. Congrats.' This wasn't a Game 7 homer. This wasn't a playoff homer. This wasn't even a homer to win the game. Ultimately, we won the game, 3-2, in the long run, but that gets kind of lost in the whole transaction of everything. It just seemed like, at the time, it was an April home run. 'Why are you throwing your bat to the dugout or whatever?' We had beefs in the past, as far as our teams, and that was just like fuel on the fire, basically, is what it seemed like.

RELATED: Tim Anderson and the Royals stir up baseball's never-ending debate: 'You want him to not do that? Get him out'

“I was upset because I was grinding that day and I was already pissed off at myself, and then you pull some shit like that? It was like, 'All right, this is bullshit.' ... I come in, and I'm pissed, I'm hot. And I had other guys on the team like, 'Screw this guy,' basically. Like I said, we (the Royals) had beefs (with Anderson) in the past.

“So anyway, comes down to it. We ended up tying the game up. Comes around the sixth inning, and he had to know it was coming. He was leading off the sixth inning, and he was literally a foot from the dirt when I was on my second warm-up pitch. I've never seen anyone get out to the box that fast in my life.”

Being “over the top” in celebrating an accomplishment doesn’t really seem like the type of thing that warrants having a projectile thrown at you. But that’s what the old-school types think. Keller, it should be noted, is younger than Anderson.

Major League Baseball seems to be supportive of bat flips and celebrations and the like, spending a hefty sum on an advertising campaign trumpeting that style of behavior: “Let the kids play.” After all, baseball’s a game, and games are supposed to be fun.

But bad blood between division rivals must be thicker than any sea change in how a new generation of players is acting on the field.

Keller’s explanation of the event isn’t about to win him any fans on the South Side of Chicago, and he’ll likely stay on that list of villains, at least as long as Anderson remains a White Sox hero. After winning the big league batting title last season and being at the center of a young team on the rise, that could last a long while.

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NFL head coaches can reportedly return to team facilities next week

NFL head coaches can reportedly return to team facilities next week

No one steals thunder quite like the NFL. 

On a day when the NHL is planning to publicly announce how their season will return, it's being reported that the NFL may take a significant step towards their own reopening – and soon. 

Yahoo Sports' NFL columnist Charles Robinson is reporting that NFL coaches may return to team facilities as early as next week, and the league has its eyes on OTAs in mid-to-late June:

The sources told Yahoo Sports that if coaches resume their in-house work next week, minicamps including players could be scheduled as early as June 15 or as late as June 27, depending on COVID-19 data and whether a handful of franchises get a “go ahead” signal from state governments to resume full operations. Resuming full operations and getting a minicamp scheduled would represent the league's biggest step to date toward keeping the 2020 NFL season on track for a regularly scheduled fall kickoff.

Robinson's source adds that 'June 15 and June 27 are the dates that have been identified as potential full-squad minicamp windows,' and the 'key hurdle' is the timeline in which California governor Gavin Newsom begins to reopen the state. Newsom has already expressed a willingness to have professional sports team return under strict and specific guidelines. 

The news is a good sign for the return of the NFL on a normal schedule – a reality that's looked increasingly likely over the past couple weeks.