'Tough little guy' Watson out vs. Pacers


'Tough little guy' Watson out vs. Pacers

Man, hes soft, in my opinion, joked Ronnie Brewer about his teammate and friend, Bulls backup point guard C.J. Watson.

He was being facetious, of course. As concerning as Derrick Roses back and turf-toe injuries were and as much as Luol Dengs decision to not have surgery on torn ligaments on his left wrist is laudable, neither of the Bulls two All-Stars have anything on Watson.

A gruesome elbow injurysuffered diving for a loose ball, no lesshere, a concussion there and Sunday night in Philadelphia, a sprained left ankle. Watson battled through the pain to return to the game and be a significant contributor to the Bulls second-half comeback.

It was tough. I was in a lot of pain and tried to go out there, be aggressive and try to help the team out in any kind of way, and say solid on defense, Watson said afterwards. Its still in a lot of pain. Im just trying to get through it and see how it feels Monday.

I just went to contest a shot and I came down on his ankle, he continued, describing the injury. I was in a lot of pain and tried to tape it up, see if I could push off and put a little weight on it.

For once, however, Watson wont be able to fight through it.

Hes out, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, prior to Mondays home game against Indiana. He had swelling today, so were going to sit him out.

Thibodeau is a big admirer of Watsons fortitude, referring to him as a tough little guy after he dislocated his elbow in the New Years Day home opener.

Come on, you guys see him. Hes as tough as they come. Went in, got taped up, back out there, said Thibodeau. I was expecting him out there.

Added Brewer: This seasons been a grind and guys have bumps and bruises, and something about these players on our team that find a way to get treatment and play hard every game, especially C.J.

He puts it all on the line, night in and night out. If hes hurt60, 70, 80 percenthes still going to come in and give it everything hes got, and you respect a player like that, who continues to play through injuries, to be out there and fight with your teammates.

Luol Deng concurred: C.J.s tough and hes going to take tough, big shots for us, like he did tonight. Hes playing with a lot of injuries and he keeps coming back. Hes not complaining about it, he never mentions it and we know some days hes out there struggling, but he gives us whatever hes got.

As for the modest Watson, his formula for playing through pain is a simple one.

Just staying positive. Theres going to be injuries in basketball, but just try to fight through it, determine whats injury and whats pain, then go from there, he explained. I think we all do in some sort of way, so just try to fight through it and get through the game.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning


Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.

Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period


Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period

Well, things could be going better for the Blackhawks during Sunday's game against the Lightning.

In the second period Sunday, the Blackhawks surrendered 33 shots on goal, tying a franchise record for most in a single period. The previous instance occurred March 4, 1941 against the Boston Bruins, a game that the Blackhawks lost 3-2.

While the Blackhawks tied a franchise record for shots on goal allowed, they actually set an NHL record at the same time. The NHL did not begin recording shots on goal as an "official" statistic until the 1997-98 season.

Consequentially, Sunday's 33 shots on goal allowed in the second period is the "official" record, even though the Blackhawks accomplished the "feat" nearly 80 years ago. Confusing, huh? 

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they also surrendered three goals and scored zero in addition to the plethora of shots on goal allowed. They recorded just six shots on goal in the second period themselves, trailing 4-1 by the time the third period started.