Bears

Blackhawks shake up power play in time of need

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Blackhawks shake up power play in time of need

Ah, the Blackhawks power play: its been the source of angst for the teams fans and a source of few goals for the team itself. The advantage has been anemic for most of the season, and different combinations, schemes and coaches havent really found a solution for it.

But now its the postseason, when the spotlight on special teams becomes glaring. The Blackhawks couldve used power-play production in several games. Now, they need it.

The Blackhawks power play enters the postseason scoring just 15.1 percent of the time, 26th in the league. Thats the second-worst percentage of any team in the playoffs; Phoenix is worse at 13.6 percent (29th). So for the past two days the Blackhawks have gone with two new power-play units.

Jonathan Toews, who should be back Thursday after missing 22 games with a concussion, was on the top unit with Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. Duncan Keith, Johnny Oduya, Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw and Andrew Brunette make up the second group.

You have high-end talent on one. And with the other unit we should have traffic around the net, coach Joel Quenneville said. If you look at the collection of the guys, we should be able to make plays and create some offense off it.

If they do, the Blackhawks will happily reverse a trend thats gone on all season. Even when Toews was healthy, the power play struggled. They were mired in that 0-for run with him, finally ending it in their second game without Toews in Anaheim, breaking an 0-for-39 drought.

So theyll try these combos in the hopes of finding an answer. Each unit has someone whos strong at, and able to win, faceoffs Toews on the first and Kruger on the second. The inability to win those on a consistent basis didnt help matters, either. Nor did the Blackhawks shots or lack thereof on goal. There was a stretch where the Blackhawks mustered no shots on several consecutive power plays. The Blackhawks are going to have to create, crash and shoot to dent the Phoenix penalty kill, which is No. 8 in the league.

The regular season is over. The Blackhawks hope their power play woes are, too.

Were going to need it, Quenneville said. Sometimes one goal can be the difference. We hope that our power play can be effective.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who deserves the blame in the Bears loss to Miami?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who deserves the blame in the Bears loss to Miami?

David Haugh, Adam Jahns and Patrick Finley join Kap on the panel. The Bears lose a rough one in Miami as Matt Nagy goes conservative at the end zone. Does the rookie coach deserve all of the blame? Dave Wannstedt joins the guys to discuss.

Plus the guys discuss the Cubs’ newest hitting coach/scapegoat, Brandon Saad’s upcoming healthy scratch and Bobby Portis betting on himself this season. 

Listen here or in the embedded player below!

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

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USA TODAY

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

Is this the offseason that Cubs executive Jason McLeod finally becomes an MLB general manager?

According to Bruce Levine, the Giants are reportedly interested in McLeod, the Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development, for their vacant general manager position.

McLeod joined the Cubs' front office in 2011 alongside Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Before the Cubs, he spent six years in the Red Sox front office and two in the Padres' (with Hoyer, who was San Diego's general manager from 2010-2011). 

Of course, the Giants' reported interest in McLeod doesn't necessarily mean that he will interview for the job. However, it's worth noting that McLeod interviewed for the Twins' general manager job in 2016; he also withdrew his name from consideration for the Padres' general manager job in 2014. 

In addition to the Giants, McLeod's name has been linked to the Mets' general manager vacancy. This is more speculation, but the point is that it seems to be only a matter of time before McLeod is hired as general manager elsewhere.

For what it's worth, though, McLeod is under contract through 2021 and has previously said that he is grateful to be with the Cubs. 

“I’m exceptionally grateful,” McLeod said. “All of us are. Look at where we are at this moment in time with this team," McLeod said in 2016. "I can’t imagine a better environment, a better culture to work at in baseball.

"We’ve been together a long time. We’re friends. We’re good. We embrace the fact that we are good. And we challenge ourselves to be even better.”