Never count a defending champion out. The Blackhawks backs were against the wall a few days ago as they faced a 3-1 first-round series deficit, however like post seasons before the Blackhawks surged back to tie the series up and it all comes down to Game 7 tonight in St. Louis.
In my series preview I said the Blackhawks would win in six, but this series deserves a winner take all Game 7, it has been fantastic to watch. Is it just me or is there a pattern here? The start of every playoff series the Blackhawks play like shit and then once Game 5 hits, it’s like a whole new team.
The Hawks have an advantage with their Game 7s experience. The Hawks have played in four of them during the Quenneville era and have won two, including Game 7 of last season’s Western Conference finals against the Ducks in Anaheim, advantage Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks want to keep their hopes for another Stanley Cups alive (that would be four in seven years, not too shabby), while the Blues are desperately trying to end a three-year streak of being ousted in the first round. Blackhawks take Game 7, by a score of 3-2. Go Hawks!
With a heavy heart (and a secret sigh of relief) the Bulls 2015-2016 season is officially over after Chicago beat the 76ers at home on Wednesday. I guess it’s better to end on a win, but the Bulls failure to find a lack of urgency was painful to watch this season and it was all too little too late.
Yes you read that right. The Chicago Bulls failed to make the NBA Playoffs for the first time since drafting Derrick Rose. Also, I’d like to note that the Bulls are in the Eastern Conference, which is by far the weaker of the two and they STILL couldn’t seem to drum up enough wins to snag that 8th seed in the playoffs. If I seem bitter, I am. The Bulls 42-40 record on the season hurt my feelings as a fan. I can’t pin-point just one problem that lead to the Bulls’ demise, it was more like a slew of issues that ended up just blowing the season out of proportion.
We’ll start with the injuries that always seem to hamper the Bulls and ruin my dreams of strutting around town in Chicago Bulls NBA championship swag from this decade. First, Joakim Noah went down in January with a season ending shoulder injury. Then Nikola Mirotic had to have an emergency surgery to remove his appendix which kept him off the floor for some weeks. In early February, star Jimmy Butler sustained a knee injury that kept him out of the game for about a month and some seriously crucial games. Not to mention Mike Dunleavy did not return from off-season back surgery until February. For the majority of the season, the Bulls were kind of a band of misfits and rarely had their starting lineup in tact.
Problem number two, coaching. Fred Hoiberg assumed the role of Head Coach in the wake of Tom Thibodeau’s dismissal in 2015. Here’s the thing, I definitely loved me some Thibs basketball. He wasn’t perfect, but he empowered his players to play passionately and effectively. He was a defensive stone-wall and this year was proof that defense matters a whole hell of a lot more than people like to admit. I hate to say it, but Hoiberg came off as a soft pretty-boy this first season behind the reins. Coming into the season Hoiberg was praised for his work at Iowa State and his offensive focus. Well my handsome friend, that sissy stuff may have worked in the farm fields, but it sure didn’t work in the big leagues. Hoiberg’s lack of command seemed most obvious from veteran players who had played under more, we’ll say ‘aggressive’ coaches. Jimmy Butler first stirred the waters when he spoke out after a tough loss that Hoiberg needed to be tougher on the guys. Umm, I agree. Most recently, Pau Gasol spoke out about how difficult this season has been for him. Players took games for granted, lacked a sense of urgency and maturity. Oh, you mean like your head coach playing a dumb and dumber clip when your season is on the line?
Despite the criticism, from haters like myself, Hoiberg has argued that he has a stronger relationship with his players than it seems through the medias eyes. Prove it buddy.
Problem number three, we have Jimmy Butler in his prime and Derrick Rose still tough, but a little washed up, trying to play on the same team. The two “super-stars” never gelled. Which SUCKS because we’ve seen what happens when you get two super-stars to gel, just google some old highlights of MJ and Scottie Pippen.
So what happens when you don’t make the playoffs? The rumor mill begins a churnin’. Some people think the Bulls should blow up the roster and start with fresh young talent. Others question if the team should keep both Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Some people are lobbying to axe Hoiberg and the whole front office. We’ve got a lot of emotional fans on our hands here.
Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol have been the free agent talks of the town this year. After Pau Gasol openly expressed his frustrations with the season, we’re all guessing the dude will opt out of his contract, but now focuses have been shifting to Noah. This season proves more than ever that Noah was the leader of this Bulls team and the player who could look at Butler and Rose and tell them to step it up. Now stories have surfaced that the front office may be looking to sign Noah to a short term deal. The question is, would Noah even want to take it after Hoiberg falsely said Jo-No volunteered to come off the bench earlier this season? The front office also believes Gasol is part of the “core” of the team So who stays and who goes?
My most favorite rumor of late is the Jimmy Butler trade. Butler’s quick rise to stardom and hefty pay raise has led to a bit of an ego issue and preferential treatment. Lets just say Jimmy’s rubbed some teammates the wrong way and some have gone to infer that his attitude is toxic to the locker room. With his level of play this season, it was clear that Butler was the star of the roster, but leadership is earned and not determined by who gets paid the most (Rose has proven that to us). Jimmy has shown his work ethic is top notch, but he may not yet be mature enough to lead or motivate veteran players. Now, he’s put himself in a predicament as the best player on an extremely dysfunctional team with a very high trade value as one of the most sought after two-way players in the league. If these issues are true, we can’t be surprised if Butler is wheeled and dealed this off season.
When your team doesn’t make the playoffs there are always serious repercussions, especially if you’re the so-called leader of that train wreck of the a team. Put your seat belts on Bulls fans, I’m predicting a wild ride for this off season.
At 9:30pm CT Kobe Bryant will be 48 minutes away from retirement. His storied career will come to an end after 20 seasons, 1,565 total games, one MVP, 2 Olympic Gold Medals, 5 NBA Championships, and a solid claim to a spot between the 5th and 10th best player of all time. Tonight will be his 65th game of the season, an impressive number for a 37 year old, especially one whose retirement tour lasted longer than any of his previous 3 seasons. As long as it seems to have been since he announced his retirement in poetic fashion in the Player’s Tribune as only Kobe can, it’s decades longer when you think about what’s happened and all he’s been through and accomplished with one team since coming into the NBA as a skinny 17 year old in 1996.
Although I pride myself on being a 90s Bulls girl, I’d be lying if I said I remember much from the first 3-peat, so it’s fair to say that I can’t remember an NBA without Kobe. As the first guard to be taken in the draft out of high school, Kobe was immediately traded from Charlotte to LA, and never looked back. It only took him two years to become the youngest NBA All Star starter ever, and four to create long lasting memories when he threw an alley-oop to Shaq to clinch the 2000 Western Conference Finals. After that there were a lot of awe inspiring highlights, a handful of alarming controversies, lots and lots of winning, and the almost inevitable injuries. And no one did any of those things better than Kobe. From the 15-1 2001 playoff record – the best in postseason history, to the Shaq feud, the 81 point game, to his clutch performance in the 2008 Olympics, it was Kobe’s world and everyone else was living in it. No one will ever forget his 5th NBA title in 2010 notching him 1 more than Shaq, or the free throws he shot when he went down with a torn achilles.
Calling tonight the end of a decorated career feels like an egregious understatement for someone who started 18 consecutive All Star games. In true LA fashion, the Lakers are pulling out all the stops tonight to honor their all time leading scorer, and rightfully so, including a Red Hot Chilli Peppers National Anthem, the customary tribute video, and appearances from 30 of his former teammates. With tickets costing hundreds of dollars more than any of even the Warriors home games this year, it will surely be a night to remember for Kobe, the fans, and probably his opponents – the Utah Jazz – who could very well be playing for their playoff lives amid the circus.
And what does Kobe think about it all? He told ESPN.com, “So far, I’ve been pretty cool about everything. I’ve been very thankful about everything. I’ve been very happy about everything. It hasn’t really hit me yet. We’ll see if it does.”
The Blackhawks will start their repeat dreams and open the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the St. Louis Blues tomorrow night at 8:30pm at the Scottrade Center.
This will be one of the most fascinating series of the first round that will guarantee a legitimate cup contender is going home early. These two teams are the big dogs in the central division. They hate each other and that makes it even more exciting to watch.
The Hawks and Blues met five times this season. Chicago won two games in the five-game season series, but recorded a point in every game as St. Louis’ three wins came in overtime.
The last time these two met in the playoffs was the 2014 series and come on who could forget that! Big hits, overtime wins and tons of trash talk, I can smell it already!
As we examine this series a bit more we can’t help but look at the Blackhawks playoff experience it is one of their biggest advantages. They have played a lot of bonus hockey the last few years and with the core group of Toews, Kane, Seabrook, Keith (will miss game 1, he is still serving his six game suspension) and Crawford their experiences is a huge advantage here.
Home-ice in this series is not going to be that big of a deal. The Blackhawks travel extremely well, and St. Louis is literally a hop, skip and a jump away. No advantage here. The Blues edge is that they are big as F*, their physical play and size are apparent in the teams previous meetings; the Blues have the edge on the offensive and defensive side of the puck. Hopefully, they won’t play dirty and try and take any of our guys out. Who can forget the hit David Backes took on Brent Seabrook in the 2014 series.
Two players that you need to know in this series are.
Vladimir Tarasenko: Tarasenko has played very well against the Blackhawks this year. In the five games these teams played he scored five goals, not too shabby. He is also becoming a playoff animal for the Blues. He netted 10 goals in his last 12 playoff games, and in just five games in April he netted four goals. Needless to say the Blackhawks top defensive pairing are going to have their hands full with Tarasenko. He is just getting started. If the Blues have a chance, he needs to continue his hot streak for the club in the postseason.
Patrick Kane: Where should I start?! Kane comes into the postseason even hotter than Tarasenko, with seven goals in his last five games. Kane is going to win the Hart Trophy for regular season MVP, it’s locked down. Kane won’t slow down; look for big things from his line with Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin. Yeah, try not to confuse them either!
The schedule for this season series (All times are Central): So you don’t miss a moment of the action
Game 1: Wednesday 8:30 p.m. @Scottrade Center
Game 2: Friday 7 p.m. @ Scottrade Center
Game 3: Sunday 2 p.m. @United Center
Game 4: Tuesday 4/19 8:30 p.m. @United Center
Game 5: Thursday 4/21 TBD @Scottrade Center
Game 6: Saturday 4/23 TBD @United Center
Game 7: Monday 4/25 TBD @Scottrade Center
It’s almost been two decades since the NHL last had a repeat champion. This is going to be a phenomenal series. The hardest thing to do in the playoffs is eliminate a champion that just knows how to win in the postseason. The Blues won’t pull it off. Blackhawks in 6.
The month of March is one the Blackhawks would like to forget. I don’t blame them; my March Madness bracket took a real ugly turn, early. Thanks Sparty (never trust the green and white), but hey congrats to Villanova, who had that one picked?! With all the excitement about the upcoming baseball season, it is hard to stay focused, but come on.
The Blackhawks have three games left in the regular-season and are fighting for better playoff positing at this point. The Blackhawks will host Arizona tonight and they currently sit six points behind the Blues.
In the beginning of March the Hawks were one of the best teams in the league, if not the best and as a mentioned before the month of March was not kind to them. The Hawks went an awful 7-6-2 and have pretty much looked like sh!t and going from an apparent Cup contender to looking like the Maple Leafs (the worst team in the league).
The Blackhawks are one of the most talented teams in the league, they literally have an All-Star player at every position, so what gives for the shitty play?
Let’s face it the Hawks just aren’t getting to the net as successfully as they use to, and their scoring opportunities are less than 50% and that’s 23rd in the league. Not something that a Stanley Cup winning team wants to boast about. Can someone tell my why when Toews and Kane are off the ice, this team gets scored on more than Fiona in Shameless? This team has too much depth and top tier talent. They really need to get into a defensive mindset. Speaking of defense, they will open the series without Duncan Keith; he will miss the series opener because of his six-game suspension for whacking Minnesota Wild forward Charlie Coyle in the face with a high stick last week.
They seem to be on a collision course to meet the Blues in the first round, and they have the talent to beat anyone in the playoffs at any time. The Blackhawks have been just fine the last six seasons winning three Cups, can they repeat. My heart says yes, the stats tell me to look the other way. Any way you slice it, its playoff hockey in Chicago and let’s bring home Stanley once again!
There isn’t anything better in March than the Hot Sun, Beer and Baseball in Arizona (The Cactus League). New friends and old friends come together to cheer on our home town teams. Also known as “Adult Spring Break” for Baseball fans.
In three quick hours and thanks to the two kind gentleman sitting in front and behind me at the newish Sloan park I learned all I need to know for opening day @Wrigley. So, amid all the Vegas odds and Chicago’s premature parade planning…
What decisions remain for Joe Maddon and the Cubs before we crack open the champagne?!?Three come to mind:
Where in the world do we play Jorge Soler? He would be a great DH but we only play 18 games at American League ball parks! He has been used out in LF and RF and other than having one of the best arms in baseball he has shown to be a defensive liability anywhere you put him . It looks like he will play the outfield in a platoon with Schwarber when lefties are on the mound.
Do the Cubs have a seven or eight man Bullpen?
With Lester, Arrieta, Lackey, Hammel and Hendricks already ticketed for the rotation, that sets up options left for the bullpen.
For that matter how many pitchers are on the roster ???? Let’s go with the for sure spots taken with Rondon, Strop, Grimm, Wood, Cahill and Richard. That leaves Neil Ramirez on the bubble with having no options left to go to Triple A. His velocity seemed down throughout camp but he has been productive in most of his outings.
And Finally who gets the coveted Bench Spot? Kawasaki has played well throughout all of camp and provides a great clubhouse personality that can’t be overlooked. The Cubs already announced that Shane Victorino won’t be going North with the team due to his reoccurring leg issues and Matt Szczur had the same problems with his oblique injury until his recent his recovery. So, it seems that Szczur would have the advantage as an outfielder because the Cubs have LaStella and Baez who can do what Kawasaki would do in the infield. It’s nice to have quality options.
The Cubs 2016 season is a guaranteed can’t miss with tons of media attention and fan support, here at Reverse the Curse we encourage feedback and ideas. Most importantly what is going to be branded this year’s hashtag?