Bears

Crawford conquering mental side of his game

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Crawford conquering mental side of his game

The puck whizzed by Corey Crawford and was in the back of his net barely 30 seconds into the first period on Wednesday night. It wasnt really Crawfords fault, but it was nevertheless a tough one to give up that quickly.

A few weeks ago, when Crawford was struggling, giving up that goal likely wouldve led to giving up a few more. But Crawford buckled down after that early one and never allowed the Vancouver Canucks another one in the Blackhawks 2-1 overtime victory. Its another sign that the goaltender is regaining the game that he had his rookie season.

Its not the way you want to start the game, the first shot in. But I was able to battle back, get myself into the game, Crawford said. Our defense was pretty good for most of the game and didnt give up much.

And Crawford gave up even less. He came up biggest in the third period, when the Canucks went on a late charge and threw 14 shots at him.

I thought he rebounded, I thought he responded, coach Joel Quenneville said.

Crawford said hes never lost confidence this season, but it certainly looked like it was wavering during his slumps. Crawfords ridden the goaltending merry-go-round this season: hes had the net, gotten pulled, lost the net, waited for another chance, got it back again and he repeated that sequence at least once.

But since Crawfords latest second chance when he relieved Ray Emery and claimed the shootout victory against the St. Louis Blues on March 13 hes been stellar. In his last five appearances, Crawfords allowed just five goals on 107 shots.

(My confidence) has been the same as all year, Crawford said Wednesday night. Ive made a couple adjustments to my game that we talked about before and Im seeing the puck well and thats huge.

And last night may have been a huge step, too. Crawford wasnt flustered by the quick goal, wasnt getting away from the adjustments hes made.

When Crawford took over the No. 1 goaltending job in the second half of last season, he was showing this type of confidence. He wasnt giving up much, he was dependable and he wasnt rattled easily. Crawfords starting to show that side again.

Thats one of those things where hes strong mentally, Marian Hossa said. You can tell by (Wednesday), especially against a team like Vancouver. After that (first goal) he played unbelievable. Thats huge for him and for us.

Akiem Hicks makes Pro Football Focus Team of the Week after strong game against Dolphins

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USA TODAY

Akiem Hicks makes Pro Football Focus Team of the Week after strong game against Dolphins

The Bears defense was not its usual self in their overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The pass rush was minimal and tackling looked optional, and Brock Osweiler threw for almost 400 yards.

There was plenty of blame to go around, but a few individual defenders had success while their teammates struggled.

Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks made the Pro Football Focus Team of the Week for Week 6 with a 92.2 overall grade.

He recorded seven tackles that resulted in a defensive “stop,” the most of any defensive lineman according to PFF.

Chicago’s next highest-graded player was cornerback Kyle Fuller (78.2), who intercepted Osweiler twice but also missed two tackles.

Offensively, wide receiver Taylor Gabriel led the way with a 76.9 mark. PFF credited four of his five catches coming against Dolphins cornerback Torry McTyer in coverage.

Meanwhile, outside linebacker Khalil Mack had the lowest-graded game of his career (47.8), while linebacker Danny Trevathan (29.9) and safety Adrian Amos Jr. (47.5) each had their second-worst games.

Some of the Bears’ best players were at their worst in Miami. They’re going to need to get their act together for the New England Patriots on Sunday.

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

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USA TODAY

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.