Bulls

Early Conn Smythe Trophy candidates

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Early Conn Smythe Trophy candidates

Despite being less than half way through the playoffs, some players have already stood above the rest, earning a possible candidacy for the Conn Smyth Trophy, the award given to the most valuable player in the postseason.

NBC's ProHockeyTalk has named five superstars who they believe already show early promise as their teams fight for the Cup.

Claude Giroux -- Giroux is leading the postseason in points by a mile, recording 15 in his last seven games. With a plus-5 rating, Giroux has been an absolute key to his team's success and truly showed all he's capable of in the 'bloodbath' series against Pittsburgh.

Mike Smith -- Although he's not exactly the most liked person in Chicago right now, Smith is proving he can keep up with the big boys. He's faced the most shots throughout the playoffs (316 in eight games) and has had to play in six overtimes.

Jonathan Quick -- The Kings have been put on the map thanks to this guy right here. Quick has made some nearly impossible saves, earning a .955 save percentage and leading LA to a spot in the postseason, despite being the worst offensive team in the league a good majority of the season. Quick is also one of three goalies battling for the Vezina Trophy.

Henrik Lundqvist -- Another candidate for the Vezina, Lundqvist has recorded a .945 save percentage in his last eight games of the postseason. Many analysts predict he will win the award for top goaltending, but he would have to remain very strong against the Capitals and throughout the remainder of the season to beat Quick and possibly even Pekka Rinne.

Andy McDonald -- McDonald has been the Blues' superstar, earning four goals and four assists in six games. He is currently the third highest scorer in the league throughout the postseason, just behind Giroux and Danny Briere of the Flyers. Now the real test is seeing how many he can score on Quick throught the remainder of the Western Conference semi-finals.

While I agree that these five are strong candidates so far, I think Briere needs to be added to the list. Philadelphia's center has recorded seven goals and three assists in his 2012 playoff run. A 38.9 shooting percentage sure isn't too shabby, and helped elevate the Flyers to dominate the Penguins in the first series.

Who do you think is the best candidate for the Conn Smythe at the point in the postseason?

Pacers GM Chad Buchanan pulls out of consideration for Bulls' front office job

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USA Today

Pacers GM Chad Buchanan pulls out of consideration for Bulls' front office job

Chad Buchanan has worked closely and successfully with Kevin Pritchard at two NBA franchises, including their current situation with the Indiana Pacers. Pritchard currently serves as the Pacers' president of basketball operations, Buchanan the general manager.

Ultimately, that comfort level and a strong personal situation led Buchanan to wanting to stay put in Indiana. Buchanan, one of Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf’s four initial interview targets to run basketball operations in a new-look front office, conveyed his desire to stay, according to a source. The Athletic’s Shams Charania first reported the news.

The Bulls remain hopeful to receive permission to interview Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas, Raptors general manager Bobby Webster and Heat vice president of basketball operations/assistant general manager Adam Simon. Reinsdorf’s goal is to build a front office with depth, and whomever is hired to head Bulls’ basketball operations could make additional hires and be charged with overhauling the scouting department.

Executive vice president John Paxson, who largely initiated the need to modernize the front office, is expected to remain in an advisory role. However, Paxson has made clear to ownership he’s willing to play as large or as small a role as the new head of basketball operations desires.

The future of general manager Gar Forman, who largely has been moved to a scouting position, could be determined by the new hire.

As previously reported, Reinsdorf remains a fan of coach Jim Boylen. However, whomever the Bulls hire to run basketball operations will have full authority, including ultimately deciding the coaching staff’s future.

One rising force in the Bulls’ front office who is expected to be safe is assistant general manager Steve Weinman, a source said. He has made an impression not only internally but among rival league executives for his salary cap acumen and knowledge of the collective bargaining agreement.

It’s Reinsdorf’s goal to have the hire in place before a possible resumption of the 2019-20 season that has been suspended due to the COVID-19 virus. Most league observers believe any potential resumption is multiple weeks if not months away, and there is some planning for the potential loss of the balance of the season.

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2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 2 win over Sharks

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 2 win over Sharks

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, NBC Sports Chicago is re-airing each of the Blackhawks' 16 postseason wins from the run that ended a 49-year championship drought. You can join the conversation using #HawksRewind on social media.

After stealing Game 1 in San Jose, the Blackhawks took care of business in Game 2 by beating the Sharks 4-2 to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Final. Here are three things we noticed in the win:

1. Building a cushion

You knew the Sharks were going to come out hungry after losing Game 1 in their own building, and the Blackhawks certainly matched that intensity. 

After Andrew Ladd broke the scoreless tie at the 12:48 mark of the first period, Dustin Byfuglien and Jonathan Toews followed suit in the second to put the Blackhawks in front 3-0. It was crucial for the visiting team not to give the Sharks any momentum, and it wasn't until 31:08 into the game before the home team finally got on the board.

2. A make-up game on special teams?

The Blackhawks had zero power plays in Game 1, so they didn't get a chance of testing a Sharks team that had the fifth-ranked penalty kill percentage (85.0) in the regular season. But that changed in Game 2.

The Sharks racked up 22 total penalty minutes and committed six minor penalties, two of which came with 18 seconds left in the game that saw two Blackhawks get sent off as well. The Blackhawks committed only one minor penalty in the previous 59:42.

Both teams converted on the power play once, but the Blackhawks staying out of the box for the majority of the game certainly played a role in preventing the Sharks from getting within striking distance or taking control early.

3. Duncan Keith's strong performance

He didn't garner as much attention as others, but Keith was solid for the Blackhawks in Game 2. He recorded two assists, six shot attempts (three on goal), four blocked shots and led all skaters with 30:21 of ice time. No other skater logged more than 27:56.

Keith was pointless in his first five postseason games, but had nine points (one goal, eight assists) in his next nine.

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