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The Blackhawks blew last week's road trip in the first period of their first game.
Sure, they rallied and actually earned a couple of impressive points in Tampa on Wednesday and Washington on Sunday, but the 3-2 setback against a bad Florida Panther team ("Florida Panthers Stun Streaking Blackhawks," the Miami Herald blared) last Tuesday in the first of three games out East set the tone. And that game was lost when the Hawks just didn't show up early on, allowing all three Panther goals before the first intermission. A missed opportunity for what should have been an easy win.
The road trip's bad vibe grew worse in the following game against Tampa when Dave Bolland, who does so much of the dirty work (checking opposing stars, goading guys into penalties) for this team when he isn't busy making slick plays to generate offense and winning a tone of face-offs, found himself on the wrong end of a brutal cheap shot to the head from opposing forward Pavel Kubina that sent him to the bench. He was still sidelined as of Sunday and there was no timeline for his return.
If I'm Bolland, I'm sitting out the rest of the season. Remember what happened to Sid Crosby earlier this year when the Penguins unconscionably allowed him to return too quickly from a first concussion? Months later the league's biggest star by far still hasn't recovered from the second concussion that he suffered during his first game back.
(See also: Bob Probert's Broken Brain.)
The NHL claims that it is determined to make players face grave consequences for shots to the head in an effort to - if not rid the league of those sorts of hits - at least significantly reduce their frequency. But the league only mustered a three-game suspension for Kubina.
So Dave, we all know that the only way to make absolutely sure you are completely recovered from this concussion is to shut it down until next year. There are still plenty of questions regarding how quickly guys can return from initial concussions but one thing that is perfectly clear is that if a second concussion follows too closely on the heels of the first, the chances for long-term damage increase substantially.
As for the rest of the Hawks, they rallied from a 3-1 second-period deficit to force overtime against the Lightning before eventually losing in a shootout and then fell to the Capitals in overtime after tying the game in its final minute.
With 11 games left on their regular-season schedule, the Hawks hold the seventh spot in the Western Conference; their 82 points place them two overtime-loss points ahead of ninth-place Nashville, which if the season ended today, would be the first team on the outside looking in at the playoff picture.
The champs, who also stopped by the White House on Friday for a little ceremony to celebrate their Stanley Cup, have a huge game tonight at home against the San Jose Sharks. If they can win it, they will be right back on track for a spot in the middle of the Western Conference playoff pack. Lose it and things start getting a little dicey.
Can we stop with the yammering about multiple future championships? First, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf weighed in last week with his assessment of the Bulls' future, opining that this team could very well win "at least four championships."
Then on Saturday evening, Michael Jordan told fans "don't be surprised if you have six more coming."
Can we just get one first and go from there?
Don't get me wrong, I am as excited as anyone about Derrick Rose's MVP season, the development in particular off supporting players Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, and a fast-rising bench led by guards C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer. This team has tons of potential.
But are people really convinced that this group has more potential for multiple championships than the Heat?
And even if the Bulls do finish atop the conference and make a run at a title, Boston and Miami will be waiting, not to mention the Finals-bound Lakers.
Even if the Bulls somehow eke out a championship this year, they will have stronger future rivals than the 1990s Bulls ever did, starting with the Heat but also probably including the New York/New Jersey teams that have begun collecting high-priced free agents and won't stop until they've put together their own All-Star-laden dream teams.
This kind of talk is never productive - and rarely on-the-money. After all, we're still waiting for that White Sox dynasty to repeat. And did someone mention the Bears?
I tuned into the North Siders' spring training game against the Dodgers on Sunday just in time to see Stalin Castro hit a seeing-eye ground ball/low line drive back through the middle for a base hit that he then stretched into a hustle double. It was Castro's third hit of the game and it drove in the tying run from third with two outs. It was just the sort of at-bat you wanted to see - a guy taking it easy in an RBI situation and just trying to put the ball in play to knock in a run.
Just the day before, Castro hit two home runs and drove in four against the Reds.
Castro has had some difficulties in the field this spring and Cub fans will probably end up having to put up with a few more errors than average from this guy for at least another couple years. But what a prospect he continues to be.
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