Cubs

Shaw's status for Tuesday up in the air

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Shaw's status for Tuesday up in the air

GLENDALE, Ariz. Andrew Shaw stood in the Blackhawks locker room, fielding the obvious questions after his hit on Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith on Saturday night. Whether hell have to answer for it from the NHL remains to be seen.

Shaw was assessed a five-minute charging and a game misconduct for his hit on Smith, who was down for several moments and then popped up and finished the game in the Blackhawks 4-3 overtime victory over Phoenix. Smith was prone for a few moments, as Shaw was sent to the penalty box and, soon after, to the locker room.

Then Smith got up and told trainers that he could finish the game. Afterward, Smith, through the Coyotes media relations department, said, I feel fine. Im 100 percent.

And then, of course, there was the inevitable he saidhe said on what happened.

I went back to play the puck and I didnt see him coming, Smith said via Coyotes PR. I dont have eyes in the back of my head.

Coach Joel Quenneville said, I think (Shaw) was trying to avoid contact. Its a tough call. He was playing well again, too.

Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said the league will look at that. Obviously thats contact at the head and it doesnt matter if its a goaltender or a player. Thats blind-side contact to the head.

Shaw said he didnt mean to do it.

He went to play the puck and his stick came up toward my face so I tried to get out of the way of it. Unfortunately I made contact. I didnt try to hit him but unfortunately I did, Shaw said. Im just glad hes OK and he could finish the game.

When Smith was down, it looked like he wouldnt be able to keep playing. Backup goaltender Jason LaBarbera came out onto the ice and stretched, seemingly in preparation to relieve Smith. Nevertheless, Shaws night was over.

I dont know if it came down to whether the officials thought Smith was going to stay in the game or not. Obviously they thought he was done and thats probably why he got the 5-minute penalty, Jonathan Toews said. From what I saw, Shaw wasnt going in there trying to take his head off. From what I saw, he was trying to avoid contact and that was unfortunate that it happened.

Whether or not Shaw hears from the league on the hit is unknown right now. The Blackhawks dont play again until Tuesday, so if there is anything it doesnt have to be decidedbe announced until Monday.

I dont know. Well see what happens, Shaw said. Its just unfortunate. Im just glad hes OK.

Joe Maddon on MLB's absurd home run rate: 'The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird'

Joe Maddon on MLB's absurd home run rate: 'The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird'

Cubs manager Joe Maddon usually isn’t one for conspiracy theories, but even he’s wondering what’s going on. MLB teams are hitting home runs at an absurd rate, including the Cubs, who are hitting them at a historic rate for the franchise’s standards.

Entering Saturday, here’s where MLB teams stand in average home run rate and total home runs in 2019 compared to recent seasons:

2017: 1.26/game, 6,105 total
2018: 1.15/game, 5,585 total
2019: 1.33/game, 2,009 total

While the MLB season is just over 30 percent finished, teams are on pace to hit a combined 6,483 long balls in 2019. This would absolutely obliterate the 2017 total, which, like the 1.33 home runs per game figure, would be an MLB record.

The Cubs are no exception to this home run wave. Including Saturday (game No. 50 of the season), the team has hit 80 home runs (and counting) in 2019. Only the 2000 Cubs (83) hit more home runs in their first 50 games in franchise history.

“We’re having home runs hit here into some firm breezes, which has not happened before,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said to reporters before Saturday’s game against the Reds. “That’s the thing that stands out to me. It’s been crazy.

“Even [Kyle] Schwarber’s home run, I know that was hit well, but dang, that wind was blowing pretty firmly across at that point.”

Schwarber absolutely crushed his home run yesterday, a 449-foot blast that needed little help getting into the bleachers. However, Maddon has a valid point regarding home runs being hit despite the wind. Entering Saturday, 54 total home runs have been hit at Wrigley Field this season, 29 of which have come with the wind blowing in.

By the eighth inning of Saturday’s game, the Cubs and Reds had hit a combined six home runs, one of which appeared to be a routine fly ball hit by Jason Heyward that wound up in the left field basket thanks to the wind. At the same time, Yasiel Puig hit one 416 feet onto Waveland Ave. that had a 109 mph exit velocity. The wind blowing out at Wrigley Field helps, but it isn’t everything.

MLB players have questioned time and time again if baseballs are “juiced,” including Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester. And while Maddon didn’t flat out say that he thinks the baseballs are juiced, he notices a difference in how they're flying off the bat.

“I don’t know, I’m normally not into the subplot component of all of this and the conspiracy theorists, but I’m telling you right now, it’s jumping,” he said. “It’s absolutely jumping.

“Nobody is ever going to admit to it. The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird.”

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97 Days to Kickoff: Elmwood Park

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

97 Days to Kickoff: Elmwood Park

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Elmwood Park

Head coach: Dylan Mack

Assistant coaches: Gabe Ostrander, Mario Fiorito, Chad Nardi, Tony Sylvester, Eric Lewis and Dwayne French

How they fared in 2018: 8-3 (4-1 Metro Suburban Red). Elmwood Park made the Class 4A state playoff field and beat Back of the Yards. In the second round, they lost to Evergreen Park.

2019 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 30 vs St. Joseph

Sept. 6 vs Lisle

Sept. 13 @ Ridgewood

Sept. 20 vs St. Edward

Sept. 27 vs Westmont

Oct. 4 @ Christ the King

Oct. 11 vs Guerin Prep

Oct. 18 @ Chicago Christian

Oct. 25 @ Bishop McNamara

Biggest storyline: Last year, the Tigers had their best season on the gridiron since 1985’s 12-1 state semifinal team. What will this team do for an encore? Can they go deeper into the state playoffs?

Names to watch this season: Senior quarterback Mike Stranski and wide receiver Keon Grimes

Biggest holes to fill: The Tigers will need to find some new faces to bolster the defensive line and at the linebacker positions.

EDGY's Early Take: It was a banner year in 2018, as Elmwood Park advanced to the their playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in school history. Coach Dylan Mack’s program has some momentum will have a very good chance to make it three state playoff appearances in a row later this fall.