Bears

Breaking down Crawford vs. Emery

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Breaking down Crawford vs. Emery

Here we go again. The Chicago Blackhawks are revisiting the dreaded goalie controversy.

We think. Well, were not sure. And after talking to coach Joel Quenneville on Friday, he may not be, either.

Corey Crawford started this series with the Phoenix Coyotes beautifully, helping the Blackhawks to a 1-1 series split in Glendale. But a funny thing happened on the way to playoff retribution: Crawford gave up two really bad, soft goals in the past two games. And that could be overlooked somewhat, if they werent both game winners.

So as the Blackhawks headed to Arizona on Friday, where theyre facing elimination down 3-1 in this Western Conference quarterfinal series, the inevitable question arose: is Crawford your goaltender for Game 5?

Were talking about that, Quenneville said.

And there you have it. The door has been opened and the possibility is there. On the brink of a first-round dismissal for the second consecutive season, the Blackhawks may be thinking about Ray Emery in net.

So is going with Emery the best solution for this conundrum? Lets have a look at each choice.

Go with Emery

The backup goaltender, who the Blackhawks extended through 2012-13 earlier this month, has come in and done well in these instances before. When Crawford was struggling through two significant periods this regular season, Emery was strong. He got the Blackhawks through those times, and looked pretty good doing it.

Any semblance of that serious hip injury that nearly ended his career seem gone. The one thing he showed during Crawfords down time was poise. He didnt stray far from the net, didnt make erratic moves around it. He was square, solid and, especially at home, reliable.

The call for Emery may also be the spark the Blackhawks in front of him need. The Blackhawks know they have to be better, and that especially goes for their top players. They know they have to be better. It wouldnt be the first time that a goalie change is as much for the other starters as it is the one in net.

And Emery has playoff experience, too. The veteran has been through it all. So getting thrown in for a must-win Game 5 would just be par for the course.
Go with Crawford

Its easy to put all the blame on Crawfords shoulders, and theres no doubt that, as a goaltender, thats just part of the gig. Youre the last line of defense; and his defense against Mikkel Boedkers last two winning goals was awful.

But to put heap everything on Crawford is unfair. The Blackhawks power play, once again, has been invisible. Theyve made life easy on Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith, talking traffic non-stop but never putting it on front of him on a regular basis. If the Blackhawks arent waiting for the final two minutes of every game to get traffic, get those ugly goals on Smith to force overtime, then the onus isnt on him a the end.

The Blackhawks continue to back both their netminders.

We have confidence in both our goalies, said defenseman Duncan Keith, who is aware of the pressure on them. Goaltending is a position somewhat like defensemen. Were the last line of defense, and hes the very last line of defense. You can be a hero one day and a goat the next. Coreys been great for us, had his best games in the playoffs last year when we were facing elimination.

Its going to be a tough call for Game 5. And whatever that call is, how much does is say how the Blackhawks feel about each goaltender moving forward?

Why coming to the Bears was the right opportunity for Harry Hiestand to leave Notre Dame

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AP

Why coming to the Bears was the right opportunity for Harry Hiestand to leave Notre Dame

There wasn’t a single game Harry Hiestand coached while at Notre Dame — 77 in total — in which he didn’t have a future top-20 pick starting at left tackle. 

Zack Martin (16th overall, 2014) was followed by Ronnie Stanley (6th overall, 2016), who gave way to Mike McGlinchey (9th overall, 2018). Hiestand also developed Quenton Nelson, who went on to be the highest interior offensive lineman drafted (6th overall, 2018) since 1986. Nelson and McGlinchey became the first pair of college offensive line teammates to be drafted in the first 10 picks since 1991, when Tennessee had tackles Charles McRae and Antone Davis go seventh and eighth. 

“It wasn’t surprising because the kind of guys they are, they absolutely did everything the right way, the way they took care of themselves, the way they trained, the teammates that they are and were,” Hiestand said. “They just did it all the way you wanted them to do it. So it was. It was a good moment.”

Hiestand said he had a sense of pride after seeing his two former players be drafted so high, even if he wasn't able to re-unite with either of them. The Bears, of course, didn’t have a chance to draft Nelson, and had conviction on using the eighth overall pick on linebacker Roquan Smith (as well as having tackles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie in place for the 2018 season). 

Anecdotally, one former Notre Dame player said (maybe half-jokingly) that Nelson and McGlinchey were fighting each other to see who could get drafted by the Bears to play with Hiestand again.

“There’s nobody that I’ve been around in this game that’s more passionate about what he does,” McGlinchey, now with the San Francisco 49ers, said of Hiestand at Notre Dame’s pro day in March. “There’s really only two things that are important to him, and that’s his family and then his offensive linemen. There’s a lot to be said for that. 

“In this game, everybody’s always trying to work an angle to up their own career — he doesn’t want to do anything but coach O-line, and that’s what really sticks out to us as players. He cares for us like we’re his own. Obviously he coaches extremely hard and is very demanding of his players, which I loved — he pushed me to be the player that I am.

“I’m standing in front of all you guys because of Harry Hiestand. But the amount of passion and care that he has not only for his job but his teaching abilities and his players is what sets him apart.”

Hiestand could’ve stayed as long as he wanted at Notre Dame, presumably, given how much success he had recruiting and developing players there. But six years at one spot is a long time for a position coach, especially at the college level, where the grind of recruiting is so vital to the success of a program. It’s also not like every one of the blue-chip prospects Hiestand recruited to South Bend panned out, either. 

So Hiestand knew he wanted to get back to the NFL after coaching with the Bears under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. It’s a new challenge for him now, not only to develop second-round pick James Daniels but to continue the growth of Cody Whitehair and Leno while getting the most out of Kyle Long, Massie and the rest of the group (back during his first stint with the Bears, Hiestand had the luxury of coaching experienced, more ready-made offensive lines). 

As one of the more highly-regarded offensive line coaches in the country, though, Hiestand could’ve jumped back into the NFL whenever, and nearly wherever, he wanted. And for him, coming back to the Bears was the perfect fit. 

“That’s an awesome, awesome place, a great franchise,” Hiestand said. “It was something, I always wanted to go back, I didn’t know where I would get the opportunity. So I’m just very fortunate it just happened to be back at the same place that I was before. There are a lot of things that are different but there’s also a lot that’s the same. 

“But it’s one of the — it is the greatest organization. Historically, this is where it all began, and being part of it — and the other thing, and I told those guys when I got here, when we get it done here, you guys are going to see this city like you’ve never seen it. And I remember that. That’s what we’re after.” 

On a scale of 1-10, Tarik Cohen says his dangerous level is 12

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USA Today

On a scale of 1-10, Tarik Cohen says his dangerous level is 12

Don't be fooled by Tarik Cohen's height. He has towering confidence and he's setting up to have a big role in coach Matt Nagy's offense in 2018.

“On a scale of 1-10, the dangerous level is probably 12,” Cohen said Thursday at Halas Hall about the impact he can have in the Bears' new system. “Because in backyard football, it’s really anything goes, and it’s really whoever gets tired first, that’s who’s going to lose. I’m running around pretty good out here, so I feel like I’m doing a good job.”

Cohen proved last season he can thrive in space. He made an impact as a runner, receiver and return man and will have a chance at an even bigger workload this fall, assuming he can handle it.

With Jordan Howard established as the starting running back, Cohen knows his touches will come in a variety of ways.

“It might not necessarily be rushes,” he said. “But it’s going to be all over the field, and that’s what I like to do. Any way I can get the ball or make a play for my team, that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.”

Cohen averaged 4.3 yards-per-carry as a rookie and led all NFL running backs in the percentage of carries that went for at least 15 yards. He's a big play waiting to happen.

Howard can't get too comfortable in his first-team role. He's a few bad series from Cohen unseating him as the starter and becoming the most valuable weapon in Nagy's offense. The first-year coach is already having trouble hiding his excitement over Cohen, an emotion that will only grow once training camp gets underway.