SportsMonday: Blackhawks + Bulls = Baseball

The Hawks choked worse than a fat guy at a steakhouse over the weekend. Needing at least three points from two home games against fellow competitors for the final few playoff spots in the Western Conference on Friday and Sunday, they posted a donut (O) instead.

This is what happens when the defense still isn't good enough and hot goalies cool.

Yes, the Blackhawks outshot both the Avalanche (a 5-3 winner on Friday) and the Stars (a 4-3 winner on Sunday). But those teams have steady veteran Russian goalies (Semyon Varlamov and Anton Khodubin, respectively) and the Hawks don't. Actually, Khodubin is from Kazakhstan. Sorry about that big guy. Oh, and Khodubin actually backs up Ben Bishop for the Stars, making the Sunday loss even worse.

And while the opposing goalies were good, the Hawks forwards weren't. When prime scoring chance after prime scoring chance disappears into the middle of a goalie's torso or wide or north of the net, it isn't as much about the goalie as it is about the shooters.

The Blackhawks are five points out of the last playoff spot with less than 20 to play. They now embark on a West Coast three-game road trip. Not promising.

Meanwhile, a Bulls team that appeared primed for a final few months of the season tank-a-thon has gone 5-4 during the last couple weeks. I would actually prefer that no home team tank for more than a single season and the Bulls did that last year. So it is fine with me if the squad wants to help young players build confidence by experiencing success down the stretch of this season.

And please continue to remember that their chances of winning the lottery and drafting first don't change that much if they finish in the bottom three (14 percent each), fourth-worst (12.5), or fifth (10.5).

The Bulls are still comfortably fourth-worst, four games behind Atlanta. And the fifth-worst Grizzlies are seven games ahead. The bottom line is, the Bulls still have a better chance of slipping down into the third-worst spot (Cleveland is two games in back of the home team) than they do of moving up.

Then again, nothing about the final month-and-a-half of the season actually matters for the Bulls and their fans. Barring injury, they will probably play reasonably well the rest of the way. But they will do so at least in part because there is no playoff race pressure. It makes the most sense to shut down attention paid until the fall, when another season rolls around.

So what is a local sports fan to do? On Saturday, I chose spring training baseball. And it was good.

It wasn't the Cubs or the White Sox. I checked the NBC Chicago Sports Channel first (last year of doing that for the Cubs) and when that came up empty of baseball, I went to the MLB network. First up was the Red Sox versus the Yankees in both teams' spring training opener. It was relatively late in the game but it was still fun just to watch the baseball basics.

Shockingly enough, the team from Boston won.

The next game was Cleveland versus Cincinnati in Goodyear, Arizona. First of all I had to check for Chief Wahoos. None in sight! This season the baseball team from Cleveland has transitioned out of having as its logo an obviously insulting portrayal of a Native American Man! Seems an obvious move but it isn't to a bunch of dimwitted "fans." Nevertheless the Cleveland Indians are doing it.

Way to go guys!

Had to sit through an irritating interview with one of the Indian assistant coaches who apparently is a big North Carolina basketball fan (actually that is what the mute button is for so I deployed it), but had a chance to watch compelling baseball for several innings. The highlights were new Red Matt Kemp (that will take some getting used to) launching a two-run home run in the fifth. And then in the sixth, Reds players I've never heard of and almost certainly never will got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam with a perfectly executed 1-2-3 double play.

And I turned off the TV.


Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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