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Windy City Sports Report – 3/4/13

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“The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion when no one is watching” -Anson Dorrance

 

Hello sports fans, Carlos here with the latest Windy City Sports Report. In this edition, the Blackhawks’ historic run continues; the Bulls continue to plod through mediocrity.

The Chicago Blackhawks made history last week by scoring a point in 17 consecutive games to start a season. They did not let up after that, however, and that streak is STILL going strong at 22. Going back to last season, they are now at 28 consecutive games, tied for second longest in NHL history. Their eyes are set on the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers, who scored a point in 35 consecutive games.

The week started Monday against the Edmonton Oilers. It was the last of the seven game homestand the Hawks had after a long six game road trip. The Hawks battled through another overtime, but they pulled out the win 3-2.

Marian Hossa scored the game-winning goal 1:44 into the overtime for the win. It was his ninth goal of the season. Patrick Kane (10 goals) opened the scoring in the first and Viktor Stalberg (5) tied the game in the third.

One way or another, the Hawks continue to find ways to win, whether it be overwhelming their opponents early, or getting late goals in close situations. “We keep finding ways to win,” said Patrick Sharp, who picked up his 400th career point on the assist in overtime. “That’s important at any time of the year. Those one-goal games, we’re on the right side of them. We were thankful to pull it out today.”

Blackhawks

On Thursday the Blackhawks traveled to St Louis to face the Blues. Jonathan Toews had two goals and Corey Crawford and Ray Emery combined for a shutout in a 3-0 win.

After making six saves in the first period, Crawford was pulled because of an upper-body injury. He had previously missed games because of an upper-body injury, but head coach Joel Quenneville stated after the game that is was a different injury, and that Crawford was day-to-day (aren’t we all). Emery came in and had 15 saves to record the shutout for the Hawks.

Toews scored his first goal TWELVE SECONDS into the game. It set the tone as the Hawks never looked back. “It was a good passing play, all five guys touched the puck,” Toews said of the goal. “I rushed to the net and it went in off my stick or my shin pad. It doesn’t matter to me. But it was a great way to start the game.”

On Friday the Hawks faced a trap game. They had a game against rivals Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, but before that they had to face the last place Columbus Blue Jackets. They struggled throughout the game, but came out with a 4-3 overtime victory.

The Hawks knew they were going to be in a dogfight when Columbus scored 31 seconds into the game. Stalberg tied it up late in the first period. The Blue Jackets again took the lead in the second, but the Hawks scored two goals in 59 seconds by Sharp and Bryan Bickell to finally take the lead.

The Blue Jackets just would not go away. With 7:37 remaining in the game, they get a game tying goal. The game went into overtime, where Brent Seabrook scored the game-winning goal on a beautiful pass from Toews. “It was a great pass by Tazer,” Seabrook said. “I just tried to get up in the play. Tazer had some speed going up, and I tried to help out.”

After struggling against the Blue Jacket, the Hawks faced their heated rivals, the Red Wings. This series is much like the Bears-Packers rivalry with no love by either team for the other. In a tough, close game, the Blackhawks pulled out a 2-1 victory in a shootout.

The two teams went toe-to-toe for the first two periods with no goals scored. The Hawks dominated in shots, getting 18 shots on goal to Detroit’s 3 through early in the second period, but by the end of the game, DETROIT owned the shots on goal stat, 31-30.

Crawford was up to the task, though. After giving up a goal 2:43 into the third period, he stood up to the Red Wings’ avalanche of shots to give the Hawks a chance at getting back into the game. “He (Crawford) had several big saves, particularly right after they scored to go up one,” coach Quenneville said. “He kept us in there to make it a one-goal game and gave us a chance.”

With 2:02 remaining in the game, Kane got his 11th goal of the season to tie the game. Crawford was perfect in the overtime and shootout, and Kane got the only goal in the shootout to give the Hawks another win.

In addition to 11 goals this season, Kane has 26 points, leading the Blackhawks through this incredible, historic run. “Just amazing what’s going on,” is all Kane could say about the run. Blackhawks fans and the NHL agree.

This week the Blackhawks have four games this week, and only one of them against a team with a winning record. That comes on Tuesday when they host the Minnesota Wild (11-8-2), They then have a home and home matchup against the Colorado Avalanche (8-8-4), starting at Chicago on Wednesday and then at Colorado on Friday. On Sunday, they host the Oilers (8-9-4) again to finish off the week.

While the Blackhawks make their fans feel glee, the Bulls just leave their fans with frustration. They just cannot get a streak going and are stuck in the bottom half of the playoff race. They went 2-2 last week.

The week started with a game against the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers at home. It was announced before the game that their All Star point guard, Kyrie Irving, would not be playing. Even without him, the Cavs beat the Bulls 101-98.

Carlos Boozer led the Bulls with 27 and Luol Deng had 26. Kirk Hinrich scored 11 points and dished out 11 assists.

With the loss the Bulls lost 5 of their last 7 games. Coach Tom Thibodeau would not use the array of injuries the Bulls have had as an excuse. “Until we get the level of intensity up and play with high energy on both ends of the floor, play for 48 minutes, the results are not going to be good,” Thibodeau said. “You get what you deserve in this league and we’re getting what we deserve right now, so until we change that we’re going to have problems.”

On Thursday the Bulls hosted the Philadelphia 76ers in a game many marked on their calendars as the night of The Return of Derrick Rose. Even Sixers coach Doug Collins thought that would be the night. “I thought [Derrick Rose] was, for sure, going to play,’’ Collins said. “Got hurt against Philadelphia, come back against Philadelphia, game on TNT. I could just see him running out with the Adidas-commercial kind of thing.’’

Rose did not come out running in the game, but Joakim Noah certainly did. He had and incredible triple double scoring 23 points, grabbing 21 rebounds and blocking an astounding 11 shots. He also had 3 steals to go with everything else.

“His will from the start of the game until the end was just incredible,” Thibodeau said. “He was everywhere-blocked shots, switching, guarding everyone. Big-time multiple efforts.”

On Saturday the Bulls hosted the Brooklyn Nets and Noah again had a terrific game. He poured in 21 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and had 4 blocks, dished 5 assists and had 2 steals. The Bulls used a 26-12 second quarter to pull away and not look back in a 96-85 victory.

The Bulls were actually down 11 early in the game, 15-4, but by the end of the quarter, after a Nate Robinson three, the game was tied.

Carlos Boozer had 20 points, 8 rebounds, and a career-high 5 steals. Hinrich and Robinson had 12 points apiece. The Bulls opened the month of March with a win after having a losing February. The losing month (5-8) was just the second losing month in the 2 ½ seasons under Thibodeau.

On Sunday the Bulls traveled to Indiana to face the first place Pacers. Just before gametime, they got some bad news. Hinrich again was out due to an injury. This time it was his right foot, an injury Hinrich said he did not even know how it happened. Add him to the list of other missing players (Rose, Taj Gibson, Rip Hamilton), and it was a difficult night. The Pacers came away with a 97-92 victory.

It has been that kind of year for the Bulls and Hinrich. The Bulls are such a different team with him on the floor. Robinson is not a real point guard, he is more of a shooting guard, and Marquis Teague is too young and raw right now to lead an offense.

The problem is Hinrich has not been able to stay on the court on a consistent basis. He had an infection on his right elbow that had him play just 2 games in about a month. He has also missed games due to hip, groin, both knees, and now his foot. For a fanbase that has been anxiously waiting for Rose’s return, having to see his backup miss all these games is particularly frustrating.

The one bright spot on Sunday was the sight of Rose on the bench DURING THE GAME. He has traveled with the team and been working out before games, but he never stayed on the bench during games. Perhaps being on the bench is an indication that his return is close. At this point he may finish the season on the court and Hinrich in street clothes.

The Bulls are now 34-26, good enough for 5th in the Eastern Conference. They are just 0.002 percentage points away from the Atlanta Hawks for the last spot to have an opening round home court advantage. They are also now 4 games behind the Pacers for the Central lead, and now the Pacers own the tiebreaker by virtue of beating the Bulls all three times they have faced them. They face each other one more time, but the Pacers have won the season series.

This week the Bulls have three games. They travel to San Antonio to face the Spurs on Wednesday. They then host the Utah Jazz on Friday. On Sunday they end the week in Los Angeles playing the Lakers. Hey, he started the season last year against the Lakers in Los Angeles so why not start it again this season?

Well, that is all for now. Let’s cheer on the Hawks to make some more history, and let’s cheer the Bulls to start getting on a roll.