Blackhawks

Sox comeback fall short A.J. gets speeding ticket

Sox comeback fall short A.J. gets speeding ticket

Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Just how important is special teams in the NHL?

Of the 16 teams that qualified for the postseason, 14 clubs had at least one special teams unit that was ranked in the top half of the league and 12 teams had at least one unit ranked in the top 10.

The Blackhawks finished the season with the 15th-ranked power play and 31st-ranked penalty kill. The Blackhawks' 72.7 percent kill rate is the lowest the league has seen in 30 years.

“The penalty kill is something that clearly has to be better," GM Stan Bowman said. "That was a big disappointment this year, no question about that. So we have to devote some resources to that. Some of it might be players, if we get some players that have that kind of experience or have a history. Part of it is tactically can we find ways to be better. We have a lot of time now to study it and put a lot of our focus on that.”

Jeremy Colliton did not rule out getting external help to improve the PK.

“We’re going to look at everything, for sure," he said. "We’re going to look at obviously tactically and we’re going to look at the personnel and how we’re using guys and try to put them in the best situation we can. And maybe that’s new, different guys who weren’t getting the opportunity. Or maybe that’s someone from outside.”

The Blackhawks did manage to fix their power play issues this past season. When Colliton became head coach on Nov. 6, the Blackhawks power play was near the bottom of the league. By December, the man advantage was dead last, cashing in on fewer than 12 percent of their power plays.

Colliton made Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson his top power play unit and from Dec. 20 till the end of February they were the league's best unit, converting on 35.2 percent of their power plays.  

Gustafsson’s addition to the power play was a major factor in the unit's improvement.

"A big part of our power play progression and transformation from being at the bottom to being in the top group," Bowman said of Gustafsson. "I was really pleased with that and we're going to need him next year for sure.”

If the Blackhawks penalty kill can make strides like the power play did, Colliton’s crew will likely be playing at this time next season.

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ICYMI: David Bote with another walk-off; White Sox battle in Detroit

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USA TODAY

ICYMI: David Bote with another walk-off; White Sox battle in Detroit

David Bote had another walk-off hit to give the Cubs a series win against the Diamondbacks while the White Sox lost two out of three in Detroit. Here are some of the Chicago sports stories you may have missed from the weekend.

Cubs

After beating the Diamondbacks in the series opener on Friday, the Cubs were shut out on Saturday. With the game not really being worth talking about, plenty of other news came out that day. For one, Kris Bryant's bat will play a big role on how well the Cubs do in 2019. Is he pointed in the right direction? Similarly, Yu Darvish is still searching for his best, although he says he's still on the cusp.

Brandon Morrow got shut down after suffering a set back as works his way back from injury. The news is better regarding Jon Lester. Lester is part of a number of reinforcements coming back to the Cubs pitching staff.

As for Sunday's game, David Bote did it again. Another walk-off hit for the third baseman. It was also a rare good start from Tyler Chatwood.

White Sox

The baseball world is still reacting to Tim Anderson's bat flip and the ensuing suspensions, but the team went out to Detroit for a series. The White Sox evened the series on Friday, with Yoan Moncada again playing a starring role.

After Saturday's game was rained out, the Tigers took the rubber game on Sunday.

In the minors, prospects Zack Burdi and Luis Alexander Basabe are set to start rehab stints on Monday while the hot-hitting Luis Robert is day-to-day.