Blackhawks

Can Bulls avoid letdown against Timberwolves?

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Can Bulls avoid letdown against Timberwolves?

Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010Posted: 2:31 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Carlos Boozer cautioned against a letdown. "I don't think Minnesota cares" about whether the Bulls beat the Lakers on Friday night, said Joakim Noah.

All of the pomp and circumstance -- including a celebrity-studded crowd more reminiscent of the Staples Center -- will be gone when the Bulls face the Timberwolves on Saturday evening. This won't be a statement game, there's no revenge factor and the only challenge presented will be if Chicago can summon the same focus and energy against Minnesota, one of the league's perennial cellar-dwellers, as it could against the defending champions.

On paper, it isn't much of a matchup. Even with Michael Beasley -- once seriously debated as the No. 1 pick alongside Bulls All-Star Derrick Rose in the 2007 NBA Draft -- now playing with renewed purpose, former No. 2 draft pick (ahead of the likes of Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony in the 2003 draft) and power forward Kevin Love putting up monster numbers, including a 30-point, 30-rebound game earlier in the season, the Timberwolves are clearly inferior competition.

In some respects, that makes the Bulls' job more difficult, as Wednesday's close call against Cleveland showed. But with the momentum gained from the Lakers win and the opportunity to increase their current winning streak to five games, it's unlikely that Tom Thibodeau's squad will succumb to boredom.

You see, Thibodeau consistently preaches a message of treating every game the same way. While his players admit to feeling different about certain contests (such as the Lakers game), such is the power of Thibodeau's influence that they will at least take heed to his gospel.

"At the end of the day, a Cleveland win is just as big as a Lakers win, if you look at it," said Noah after the Lakers win. "I mean, think theres a difference, if you ask me, but at the end of the year -- Thibs was trying to explain this to me because I dont really understand that concept yet -- Thibs was trying to tell me, at the end of the year, it doesnt matter because every game is just as important.

If Noah and his teammates aren't just paying lip service, then the players' concentration won't wane, regardless of the opponent. After all, if the Bulls truly hope to ascend to the NBA's elite, no game can be taken for granted.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

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AP

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.

Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period

Well, things could be going better for the Blackhawks during Sunday's game against the Lightning.

In the second period Sunday, the Blackhawks surrendered 33 shots on goal, tying a franchise record for most in a single period. The previous instance occurred March 4, 1941 against the Boston Bruins, a game that the Blackhawks lost 3-2.

While the Blackhawks tied a franchise record for shots on goal allowed, they actually set an NHL record at the same time. The NHL did not begin recording shots on goal as an "official" statistic until the 1997-98 season.

Consequentially, Sunday's 33 shots on goal allowed in the second period is the "official" record, even though the Blackhawks accomplished the "feat" nearly 80 years ago. Confusing, huh? 

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they also surrendered three goals and scored zero in addition to the plethora of shots on goal allowed. They recorded just six shots on goal in the second period themselves, trailing 4-1 by the time the third period started.