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What the heck just happened?
We went into the holiday weekend enjoying one local baseball team's great start and looking forward to more. At the same time our winter sports stars dove into a playoff series we were confident they would handle successfully.
We exit the weekend with the other local baseball team sporting a winning record and the other winter team having begun the playoffs as successfully as possible.
The White Sox take a 6-5 overall record into this week's action and the Bulls swiped home court advantage from the Celtics with a 106-102 victory early Sunday evening.
Meanwhile the Cubs fell back to 6-6 after the Pirates swept through town. And the Blackhawks on Saturday suffered one of the most dispiriting losses I can remember, falling 5-0 to the Predators after the 1-0 loss that opened their first-round playoff series two days prior.
Sports are weird.
The big problem is the Hawks, of course. And I get the feeling that no one is confident they have a specific plan to get them back on track.
The team has rallied from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits in playoff series' in the past 10 years, but they have never faced what they do now, having to win four of the next five games with three of them sure to be on the road.
it isn't just that the Hawks lost the first two games of a playoff series at home for the first time in coach Joel Quenneville's illustrious tenure. And it isn't just that they were shut out in both games. It is that they simply are not generating any quality scoring chances.
Do any of Pekka Rinne's 59 saves during the first two games stick out in any hockey fan's mind? Rinne has been a master of positioning and has aggressively cut down angles on Hawk shooters. His 6-foot-6 frame has always filled up the crease.
But the 34-year-old goaltender said it himself after Game 2 when he noted that he was reasonably certain he had seen every shot that had come his way. In other words, Hawks forwards have utterly failed to establish themselves in front of the net to either screen Rinne or be in the best spot to poke in rebounds.
This is a bit of a broken record with me but it must be said again: The Hawks are also paying the price for cruising through the final week of the regular season resting veterans in each of their last four games, all losses.
All the commentators out there that advise teams to rest players once playoff positioning is secure continue to fail to acknowledge the very real threat that once a team stops striving to win every game it can, there is no guarantee it will be able to find its way back to a winning formula later on.
The Hawks were scorching hot up to that final week, at one point winning 17 of 20 games in the second half of the season and securing the top seed in the Western Conference in the process. And I know the temptation is strong to make absolutely certain that stars don't get hurt in late season games with nothing larger on the line.
Certainly some teams have rested veterans late in season and then still found ways to play well right from the start of their postseason. But the risk is there that they won't and it isn't acknowledged nearly often enough.
The only bit of good news at this point is that the Hawks have been a great team on the road this year. And in hockey, just one goal can swing momentum in a big, series-changing way.
But until we see the Hawks find a way to at least start generating quality scoring chances, their outlook is bleak.
Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.
Someone's about to earn this column's first moratorium.Continue reading "The Ex-Cub Factor" »
Posted on Apr 16, 2019