Bears

Here is a recap of the NHL awards

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Here is a recap of the NHL awards

From Comcast SportsNet
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Geno and the Swedes were hockey's biggest winners in Vegas. Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin won the Hart Trophy on Wednesday night, becoming the NHL's most valuable player for the first time. Three Swedish players also claimed major trophies at the annual NHL Awards postseason ceremony, but the Penguins' Russian superstar claimed three awards for himself. Malkin won the Hart for the first time at the Wynn Las Vegas casino, beating out Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and Tampa Bay scorer Steven Stamkos. Malkin also collected the Art Ross Trophy as the league scoring champion and the Ted Lindsay Award from his fellow NHLPA members as the NHL's best player. "It's the best day of my life," said Malkin, known to teammates and fans as Geno. "It's very exciting." Malkin gathered the Hart, Ross and Lindsay awards next to him after the ceremony, only occasionally struggling in his ever-improving English to express his excitement. Malkin's 109-point season and steady leadership were even more impressive because he largely did it without teammate Sidney Crosby, who played just 22 games after his comeback from a concussion. "I can't believe I'm sitting here, and around me there are three trophies," Malkin said. "It's an unbelievable day for me." Malkin, who turns 26 next month, edged out Stamkos and Lundqvist, who still won the Vezina Trophy for the first time. Lundqvist's win in his fourth Vezina nomination topped the impressive list of Swedish winners. Ottawa's Erik Karlsson won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman, and Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog won the Calder Trophy as the top rookie. Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson also won the King Clancy Trophy for humanitarian contributions to hockey. "For sure, it's a great year for Sweden," Lundqvist said. St. Louis also had a pretty good day in Vegas: Ken Hitchcock won the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL's top coach for the first time in his lengthy career, while Blues general manager Doug Armstrong was selected he league's top executive. Blues goalies Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott also picked up their Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the regular season. Boston forward Patrice Bergeron won his first Selke Trophy as the NHL's top defensive forward. Florida's Brian Campbell became the first defenseman since 1954 to win the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanlike play, and Montreal forward Max Pacioretty won the Masterton Trophy for his comeback from serious injury. But the spotlight was on Malkin, who won his first MVP award after arguably the most impressive season of his six-year career in Pittsburgh. Malkin had a career-high 50 goals and 59 assists while carrying the Penguins during the extended injury absence of 2007 Hart winner Crosby. Malkin was the NHL's only 100-point scorer this season and the first scoring champion in a decade to win a second title despite being almost every opponent's top defensive target whenever they faced the Penguins. Malkin also grew into a more prominent role outside of Crosby's shadow. "Every year I'm a little bit more comfortable," he said. "I learn English, watch TV, go out with friends and teammates. I love this sport. I like my teammates, and I want to be the best." Malkin scored eight points in the Penguins' six-game loss to Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs. The four-time NHL All-Star then was named the MVP of the IIHF World Championships last month after leading the undefeated Russian team to the title. Malkin was a Hart finalist for the third time. He won the vote over Stamkos, who already had wrapped up the Richard Trophy with an NHL-best 60 goals. Lundqvist didn't seem disappointed about losing out on the Hart after the Rangers' tireless goalie finally claimed the Vezina. He went 39-18-5 with eight shutouts, a 1.97 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage while repeatedly keeping New York on track to the Eastern Conference's best record. Lundqvist beat out Nashville's Pekka Rinne and Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick, who got two better prizes last week when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the NHL's playoff MVP for backstopping the Kings to their first championship. Karlsson appeared overwhelmed by his selection as the NHL's best defenseman. The 22-year-old had a big week, agreeing to a seven-year contract extension worth 45.5 million on Tuesday before beating out Boston's Zdeno Chara and Nashville's Shea Weber for his first Norris. "It's a huge honor," said Karlsson, who led all defensemen with 78 points in his breakout season for the Senators. "I couldn't be more happy than I am right now. I've never been a part of something this big, and it's something that took me by surprise a little bit." Karlsson also recognized the symbolism of winning the Norris in the same offseason as the retirement of Niklas Lidstrom, his fellow Swede and a seven-time Norris winner, including last season. Lidstrom retired from the Detroit Red Wings on May 31 after a 20-year career. "He really took the game to another level and showed people how to play fun hockey," Karlsson said. "It's an honor to be mentioned in the same way." Landeskog, who beat out Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and New Jersey playoff hero Adam Henrique for the Calder, had 22 goals and 30 assists for the Avalanche, who chose him with the second overall pick in last summer. The former Ontario Hockey League forward had little trouble adjusting to the NHL grind, playing in all 82 games for Colorado. "To me, Ryan would have won it if he didn't get hurt, and if you counted the playoffs, Adam would have won it," Landeskog said. "I'm just trying to enjoy it, trying to soak it all in." Bergeron beat out St. Louis captain David Backes and Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, a three-time Selke winner. Boston's defensive stopper had 22 goals and 42 assists for the Bruins while racking up a plus-36 rating as a dominant two-way player. "Ever since I was probably 12 years old, I never wanted to get scored on when I was on the ice," said Bergeron, a Stanley Cup champion in 2011. Pacioretty broke a vertebra in his back and incurred a concussion on a hit from Chara on March 8, 2011, knocking him out for the season. He returned to the Canadiens last fall and had 33 goals and 32 assists for his most productive pro season. The 60-year-old Hitchcock was recognized for his remarkable turnaround job in St. Louis, where he took over for Davis Payne 13 games into the season and turned the Blues into the Western Conference's No. 2 team, winning the Central Division and reaching the second round of the playoffs. Hitchcock has a Stanley Cup ring from Dallas in 1999, but hadn't won the Adams Trophy in three previous nominations. "I'll keep doing this for as long as I feel like I have the energy," Hitchcock said. "This year was just great."

Power Rankings Roundup: The free fall continues, and the NFC North is really good

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USA Today

Power Rankings Roundup: The free fall continues, and the NFC North is really good

The Bears' two-game losing streak is doing them no favors in The Web's power rankings, but even pessimistic reviews haven't totally sold them off yet (thanks defense!). What's a bit more daunting, however, is how quickly the other teams in the NFC North are rising. Some fun road games ahead huh?? Here's what they're saying: 

NFL.com –– #15
Trubisky is clearly pressing as the pressure mounts on his shoulders. He's taken a big step back in his third season ... how long can Matt Nagy stand by the former No. 2 overall pick?

ESPN.com –– #16
The Bears no longer resemble a playoff team -- not with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. Chicago's offense ranks 30th in total yards per game, 30th in yards per play, 28th in passing yards per game and 28th in rushing yards per game.

CBS Sports –– #16
Their offense is woeful at times and just won't allow them to win many games. The defense hasn't been as good the past two games either, which makes Sunday's game against the Chargers a must-win for both teams.

Sports Illustrated –– #17
Maybe Matt Nagy isn’t a cure-all. Maybe the defense is feeling the weight of carrying the offense and starting to crack (36 points to a backup QB with two weeks to prepare at home). Or maybe, just maybe, this team was never that good in the first place.

Bleacher Report –– #13
To say that the Bears are having issues offensively is an understatement. In Mitchell Trubisky's first game back from injury, he had fewer than 100 passing yards into the final quarter. Chicago had seven carries for 17 yards on the ground—for the game.

Chicago Tribune –– #18
Classes in Offense 202 need to be canceled. Nearly all the students are failing miserably. That’s reality when the Bears have yet to total 300 yards of offense in a single game. High-powered offenses will come close to that total in a good half.

Sporting News –– #19
When the Bears don't play good defense and can't run the ball, they're in trouble, because it puts games on the right arm of Mitchell Trubisky. They have a few schedule breaks coming up, but they need their third-year QB to play a lot better for that to matter.

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Five fixes the Bears need to save their season

Five fixes the Bears need to save their season

As large swaths of the Chicagoland area succumb to full-blown panic about the 3-3 Bears, there’s one sanctuary from all that anger/disappointment/frustration felt by a city that, two months ago, expected its football team to compete for a Super Bowl. 

Inside the walls at 1920 Football Drive in Lake Forest, there’s an understanding of why those on the outside are worried. But players who spoke to the media upon returning to Halas Hall Tuesday didn’t project any concern about their ability to fix a season critically close to falling short of expectations. 

“I understand the panic from the outsiders,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “They're not in it. They don't see what's going on. And plus (the media) want answers, you guys have questions, I'm assuming because you guys are thinking like, Why, this is almost the same team as last year, what's going on? 

“From our side, we're on the inside, we know what's going on. Even though we might give you guys the PC answer, we're still hurting inside, (it’s) still frustrating but we know what's going on and the reason why we're not panicking is because we're confident we're going to fix it.”

So those inside Halas Hall are confident in their collective ability to turn this season around. But how can they do it? Here are five critical ways:

1. Quarterback play raises all boats

Nothing can do more for an entire team than good quarterback play. It’s the sort of thing the team talked up while evaluating quarterbacks prior to drafting Mitch Trubisky in 2017, that ability to “raise all boats,” as then-coach John Fox put it. There’s some truth to that. 

Would Mitch Trubisky making better decisions and throws help Eddie Jackson get his first interception of 2019? Not necessarily. But the Bears are averaging 71 defensive snaps per game, fourth-highest in the NFL behind another bad offense (Washington) and two of the most explosive passing offenses in the NFL in the Lions and Chiefs (Detroit is second and Kansas City is sixth in that category, per Sharp Football Stats). 

The Bears’ offense is struggling to stay on the field and give its defense a breather. Only four teams — the woebegone Steelers, Dolphins, Washington and Jets — are averaging fewer first downs per game than the Bears’ 17. 

And it’s notable how the Bears’ defense has faltered late in games (fourth quarters against Denver and Oakland, and the second half against New Orleans) when it’s been subjected to a high volume of snaps. 

Better play from Trubisky would mean more first downs and more touchdowns, and less pressure on a defense missing Akiem Hicks to win games week in and week out. 

This isn’t meant to completely absolve the defense — more on them later — but the lack of any consistency on offense is absolutely not helping Chuck Pagano’s group. Notably, Nagy admitted after Sunday's game that the Bears' offensive struggles are starting to impact the defense. 

2. A better commitment to the run

We touched on this yesterday, but David Montgomery has been at his best when he’s been given consecutive carries. Even if he only picks up one yard on first and 10, Nagy needs to stick with him to give Montgomery and the offensive line a chance at establishing a rhythm in the run game. 

Trubisky has not proven to be good enough to pass to set up the run, as Nagy said he hoped he could accomplish against the Saints. This run game may not prove to be very good, either. But it at least needs a chance on a week-to-week basis to prove it can be a reliable part of this offense, and in turn help Trubisky do the things he needs to do to be that boat-raiser the Bears have wanted for two years. 

"I'm not an idiot," Nagy said Monday. "I know we need to run the ball more."

3. Take the invisibility cloak off the tight ends

Trey Burton is averaging 5.2 yards per reception this year, exactly half his 2018 average. The Bears guaranteed Burton $22 million for him to be an “adjuster” in their offense, the kind of guy who helps Trubisky identify coverages while also being a weapon for which defensive coordinators have to account. 

But because Burton hasn’t shown much of anything this year — his longest reception is 11 yards — opposing defenses don’t need to be deeply concerned with his ability to impact a game. Burton hasn’t looked fully healthy since missing Week 1 with a groin injury (this after he underwent offseason sports hernia surgery), and worryingly did not look any better after resting up during the Bears’ off week. 

Still, the Bears need to get more out of Burton both as a receiver and run blocker. The same goes for Adam Shaheen, though that he only played 32 percent of the Bears snaps against the Saints — after an off week of coaches self-scouting — does not offer much a sign of encouragement. 
At some point, Burton is what he is in 2019, and Shaheen is what he has been since debuting in 2017. 

4. Unlock Tarik Cohen’s explosiveness

Cohen’s average of 2.1 yards per reception was the second-lowest in NFL history for a player with at least nine catches, per Pro Football Reference’s Play Index. The Bears’ most explosive offensive weapon is now averaging 4.0 yards per touch — which, for reference, is over a yard lower than his average in 2017 with Dowell Loggains and John Fox designing the offense. Also for reference: Jordan Howard averaged four yards per touch in 2018. 

This is mostly, but not all, a coaching and quarterback matter. It’s true Nagy has tried to get Cohen the ball downfield, with his quarterback not coming close to connecting on those throws:

But Cohen is averaging 5.4 yards after the catch per reception, per PFF tied for 165th in the NFL. Cohen averaged 7.4 yards after the catch per reception in 2018. A lot of that falls on coaches not unlocking his explosiveness, but some of it falls on the diminutive running back getting the ball and seeking out the sidelines. 

Whatever the reason, the Bears’ offense will not operate near full capacity if Cohen is basically 2018 Jordan Howard when he has the ball in his hand. 

5. More big plays on defense. 

Worse turnover luck does not fully explain why Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson — who were No. 1 and No. 2 in the NFL last year with seven and six interceptions, respectively — only have one interception between the two of them through six games. Those two guys need to harness the route-jumping aggressiveness they had in 2018 and bring it back to a defense in 2019 that sorely needs it. 

Similarly: The Saints in all likelihood offered a preview of how opposing offenses will block up Khalil Mack going forward, by committing two or three players to No. 52 on every passing play. Without Hicks to dominate in the interior, and without Leonard Floyd winning one-on-one matchups with much consistency, Pagano may need to find different ways to scheme pressure on opposing quarterbacks (though Mack remains good enough to beat those double/triple-teams on occasion). 

This Bears defense is still good, but in the absence of major offensive improvements it needs to be great for this team to have a shot at contending for a playoff spot. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.