Round One Playoff Hockey Predictions

                The NHL playoffs are back in full swing starting tomorrow night and the Five Three Sports crew are giving their expert analysis for the first round. Our very own Blaise Mesa, however, decided to aim for the stars, choosing teams that are either not in the playoffs or not even in the NHL. His brilliant picks were the Blackhawks, Canadiens, Panthers and Vikings. There is no doubt in my mind that those teams will not be winners this season.

                None the less, with exciting matchups on the horizon like the Boston Bruins versus the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Las Vegas Golden Knights versus the San Jose Sharks, there’s plenty of hockey action to take in and plenty of hockey to watch!

                Let’s start with the Eastern Conference. The Eastern Conference comes into this year’s playoffs the stronger conference by far. The Tampa Bay Lightning tied the single season wins record last set by the Detroit Red Wings in 1995-1996. If that’s not enough for you, The Toronto Maple Leafs added the best free agent on the market this past offseason, John Tavares. You can never count out the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, who have combined to win the last three Stanley Cup. Even the so called “weak links” are stronger than the Western Conference. The Columbus Blue Jackets finished hot by winning seven out of their last eight and the Carolina Hurricanes were resurgent playing for new head coach (and ex-Hurricane) Rod Brind’Amour.

                The Western Conference does have its teams to watch. The San Jose Sharks have added a “once in a generation” talent in Erik Karlsson and prove time and time again that they belong in the playoffs. The Las Vegas Golden Knights picked up Mark Stone before the trade deadline, adding to a team that already signed Max Pacioretty in the offseason. The Winnipeg Jets are easily the biggest and most physical team in the NHL. Dustin Byfuglien, Mark Scheifele and Patrick Laine literally tower over the competition, not to mention they can score and hit pretty well. Talk about a triple threat.

                Without further ado, it’s time we get into the nitty gritty of the first round of the NHL playoffs!


                Eastern Conference

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Christian- Tampa Bay Lighting in 5

Ethan- Tampa Bay Lightning

                Man, what a tough pull for Columbus, the Lightning in the first round? Sergei Bobrovsky is having nightmares already and Artemi Panarin won’t be able to keep pace with the highest scoring team in the NHL (325 goals). There’s simply no chance for the Jackets, sorry. That does leave room for Artemi Panarin to come back to Chicago though, seeing as how Columbus looks like they’re heading downhill.

Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Christian- Maple Leafs in 7

Ethan- Bruins

                Look at what we have here, a rematch of last years first round bout. These two teams already hate each other and another first round playoff series can only make it worse. This time though, the tables are turned, as the Leafs have all the offensive fire power under the sun. John Tavares is ready for his shot at the cup, as is Auston Matthews. The only concern for the Maple Leafs is the Bruins top line, which has quietly dominated the NHL this season. It’ll be another glorious fight to the finish, expect these teams to take it the distance.

Washington Capitals vs. Carolina Hurricanes

Christian- Capitals in 6

Ethan- Capitals

                I’m sorry Carolina fans, you guys had a great season after being written off before the start of it, but here’s where your magic runs out. The Washington Capitals are too big, too fast, too strong and too good. They had the top power play this season and they are coming back for a second cup in a row, step aside please.

New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Christian- Penguins in 7

Ethan- Penguins

                The New York Islanders. Did anyone see this coming? Not only are they in the playoffs, they’re the second seed. After losing their best player to free agency (ouch), it seemed the Islanders were headed for a rebuild, not the playoffs. Alas, here we are and they take on an aging Penguins team. Experience will be the winner here, with Sid the Kid, Matt Murray and Evgeny Malkin leading the charge. The guys are clutch come playoff time and they’ll be well prepared after last years chance at a three peat was squandered by the rival Capitals.


            Western Conference

Calgary Flames vs. Colorado Avalanche

Christian- Avalanche in 6

Ethan- Flames

                The Calgary Flames with the first seed? Since when? Oh wait, since now. The Flames had a great season powered by Johnny “hockey” Gaudreau, who set personal bests in goals, assists and points. A man possessed; it would have been nice to see him hit the 100-point plateau. Speaking of the 100-point plateau, Nathan Mackinnon came up one point short in his bid for 100 as well. In come the Avalanche, riding high and finishing strong, even with the two of their top three players out for extended time. Now their back, healthy and with a goaltender in Philipp Grubauer who has been playing like a literal brick wall. The man hasn’t lost in regulation since March 11! The Avalanche are hot right now and I look for them to be the surprise upset in round one.

San Jose Sharks vs. Las Vegas Golden Knights

Christian- Knights in 5

Ethan- Knights

                Last year these teams squared off in the second round and Vegas made the Sharks look like toddlers. Too fast and too loud (that stadium noise was nuts!), the Knights whipped the Sharks 4-0. The Knights and Sharks both got stronger in the offseason, but the issue is still the same. The Knights play fast hockey and they have one of the best goaltenders (if not the best) in the NHL. Martin Jones is a liability on the Sharks and he’ll be there undoing in this series. Big Joe has to wait another year, if he doesn’t retire.

Nashville Predators vs Dallas Stars

Christian- Stars in 7

Ethan- Predators

                Nashville spent a good portion of their year with a lot of key players out. When they were healthy, they were great; when they were missing pieces, they were average. Heading into the playoffs, Nashville is back at full strength, which can scare some opponents but not the Dallas Stars. The Stars come in being the underdog but don’t expect them to roll over so easily. Some great defense and goaltending have this team ready for playoff hockey! If they can keep up in the scoring department, “Smashville” will fall in the first round.

Winnipeg Jets vs St. Louis Blues

Christian- Jets in 6

Ethan- Jets

                A tale of two seasons for the Blues. At one point, they were last in the league. Jake Allen is clearly not a starting caliber goaltender, but I think we already knew that. In comes Jordan Binnington, the savior of the Blues season. Since Binnington came in and won 10 straight games to start his NHL career, the Blues have done nothing but ascend the ladder to a playoff spot. All that being said, the Jets have been the exact opposite, slowing down over the course of the season. That doesn’t mean that St. Louis is going to waltz right in and dominate. Winnipeg is a perennial playoff team. They’ll out play the Blues in a hard hitting, black and blue slugfest and find themselves in the second round in six. The biggest hope that I have is that Dustin Byfuglien grabs two people off a pile again. What a sight to behold. The man is a TANK.


It’s going to be interesting to see how the first round of the playoffs play out, a few rematches and some fresh faces. It’s the best time of the year, PLAYOFF HOCKEY BEGINS!

The Chin Bin Post NFL Standings Report

                During the NFL offseason, the Chin Bin went along and predicted the final records for all 32 NFL teams. Now let’s see how he fared this season. Without further ado. . . Oh wait, one thing. Teams are listed in order by their regular season records.


                AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

Predicted: 8-8

Finished 10-6,

I have to be honest, I knew the defense was good and they had a shot to be .500 simply because of them, but Lamar Jackson taking over midseason and guiding these guys to a first-place finish and the postseason? What? Never in my wildest dreams would the guy who’s more running back than anything come in and go on a tear, leading this pesky Ravens team into the playoffs. To top it all off, they made a game out of what looked to be a blowout in the wild card round.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Predicted: 9-7

Finished: 9-6-1

Le’veon Bell not bothering to play this season in search of a bigger contract led me to believe that the Steelers were going to have a rough year. Tie that in with a tie (get it?) with the Cleveland Browns in week one and you had a team that never could quite put it all together. Ben Roethlisberger’s age is showing now more than ever and the Antonio Brown controversy to end the season (and a missed trip to the playoffs) and this team looks more like it’s going downhill rather than uphill. On a positive note, that guy who replaced Le’Veon Bell, James Connor, yeah, kid can play!

Cleveland Browns

Predicted: 6-10

Finished: 7-8-1

The opening day tie had Browns fans eager for what the rest of the season would hold. That excitement faded quickly the second they realized Hue Jackson was still at the helm. A paltry 2-5-1 to start the season and Jackson was finally booted (and hopefully booed) out of Cleveland. Fear not Hue fans, he found another job for the remainder of the season. Freddie Kitchens took over as Offensive Coordinator and Gregg Williams as interim head coach and all of a sudden, the Browns were exciting to watch. They finished the season with a 5-3 record and a lot of promise. Next season with Kitchens at the helm looks enticing.

Cincinnati Bengals

Predicted: 3-13

Finished: 6-10

Okay, so they finished better than I thought but they certainly played like a 3-13 team throughout the season. It was a miracle to see them even show up on Sundays with how bad that defense was. In case you missed it, they set an NFL record by allowing the most consecutive games of 500+ yards to opposing teams. Then, to rub more salt in the wound, they hired Hue Jackson, ya know, that guy from Cleveland. That was a horrible choice. Now that both Marvin Lewis and Hue are out, maybe the Bengals can begin a rebuild with someone not nicknamed “The Red Rocket” under center.

                AFC East

New England Patriots

Predicted: 10-6

Finished: 11-5

Okay, so I was one game off here too. That’s okay. I was hoping that age would hit TB12 a little harder than it did, but nevertheless it showed. By the way, what happened to Rob Gronkowski? He’s a shell of his former self and clearly needs to leave the game at this point. Another super bowl in the books and everyone that doesn’t live in Boston (and even some that do) is sick of it. One can only hope another year will knock Tom Brady into the ground. . . for good.

Miami Dolphins

Predicted: 0-16

Finished: 7-9

I’m not sure I could have been more wrong here. I guess if I would have had them going 16-0 that would be worse (or better)? Not really sure, but somehow, they managed to win seven games this season, one of which came against the Chicago Bears (Thanks Cody Parkey, garbage kicker). It amazes me that they could muster a single win, let alone seven. My ego, my pride. All shot thanks to the Dolphins.

Buffalo Bills

Predicted: 6-10

Finished: 6-10

I was dead on for this one. You shipped out the quarterback that got you to the playoffs the prior year, what did you think was going to happen? Couple that with one of the worst offensive lines in football and you get a team that musters six wins because of Josh Allen’s legs and the defense showing up. . . sometimes.

New York Jets

Predicted: 6-10

Finished: 4-12

I guess I should have seen this one coming. More no name receivers than one can even imagine and a rookie quarterback who is super talented but has no one around him, there wasn’t much chance for the Jets to win week in and week out. They did muster up some surprising performances and one could say the potential is there if they can add a few more pieces. Oh, by a few, I mean a lot. Moving on.

                AFC South

Houston Texans

Predicted: 10-6

Finished: 11-5

The Texans had a streak of nine straight wins at one point, clearly vaulting them to the top of the division. They kept finding ways to win until it came to the end of the season where they cooled off on their way to a first round exit. The worst part about this team is the lack of a running game and the WORST offensive line in football. The defense played well most of the time. Deshaun Watson spent most of the season running for his life and playing through injuries from getting smacked so many times.

Indianapolis Colts

Predicted: 5-11

Finished: 10-6

Um, excuse me, can someone explain the Indianapolis Colts to me? Even with an offense that could play ball, where did that defense come from? Pro Bowl snub Darius Leonard was the heart and soul of this defense and brought the Indianapolis Colts screaming into the playoffs, winning nine of their last ten to clinch a playoff berth in the final week of the season. Quentin Nelson was 100% as advertised and that offensive line was a godsend for Luck staying healthy for the whole season.

Tennessee Titans

Predicted: 7-9

Finished: 9-7

Sorry, I’m a little dyslexic sometimes. The Titans could have been in the playoffs had they simply beat the unstoppable Colts to finish the season, but alas, no luck (get it?). Derrick Henry came along late in the season as Mike Vrabel started to figure out how this team needed to be run. There were some flaws as Marcus Mariota couldn’t stay healthy for the entire season and they couldn’t get the big plays they needed from him when they needed them. I would almost suggest drafting a quarterback at this point, but that’s just me.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Predicted: 10-6

Finished: 5-11

Literally ZERO people predicted the Jaguars would regress as hard as they did but my god was it almost a thing of beauty to watch. Jalen Ramsey talks mad shit throughout the offseason claiming everyone is trash, then the Blake Bortles show came to town and made sure that the Jaguars had no chance. It’s almost like the opposing team would pay him to drop the ball or throw a pick. Quite a site to watch. It’s almost like watching Jay Cutler in his hay-day. Good Blake, bad Blake? What happened to Leonard Fournette? He may not be back in Jacksonville if he doesn’t shape up.

                AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs

Predicted: 6-10

Finished: 12-4

I did not see in a million years Patrick Mahomes coming in and blowing the doors off the NFL with insane stats and no look passes to boot. I mean, how talented is this guy? Apparently, his talent knows no bounds and I am caught with my pants around my ankles in public. That defense needs help though.  Kareem who?

Los Angeles Chargers

Predicted: 12-4

Finished: 12-4

Another one in the W column for me, sort of. I expected the Chargers run away with this division this year, but they ended up with a Wild Card spot. Hmmmm. Interesting. They looked so good most of the season and just fell short to finish it out.

Denver Broncos

Predicted: 9-7

Finished: 6-10

At one point this season, the Broncos were contenders for the playoffs and just when you thought they could make a run, they lost, and they lost badly. Loss after loss and a Case Keenum that looked more like a rookie than the Case we saw last year. A few bright spots moving forward in Bradley Chubb who had 12 sacks this season and Phillip Lindsay who came out of NOWHERE (undrafted rookie) to rush for 1,037 yards and nine touchdowns. WOW.

Oakland Raiders

Predicted: 8-8

Finished: 4-12

Okay, so Jon Gruden’s first year was a train wreck in every possible way. Trade Khalil Mack, the best edge rusher in the NFL for draft picks was his first mistake. Follow that up by trading your clear-cut number one receiver in Amari Cooper for more draft picks. This season had tank written all over it, but they weathered the storm and finished where everyone thought they would, in the basement. Now theey have a mad number of draft picks for Jon Gruden to build the team he wants. Oh, don’t forget they replaced Reggie Mckenzie with Mike Mayock, the draft guru. Have fun in a few years. . . Vegas.


                NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

Predicted: 4-12

Finished: 10-6

Well, I was completely wrong here. Dak look liked an average quarterback, someone that I would NOT build a franchise around; Zeke was a nightmare for opposing defenses, but the best aspect of this team by far was the defense. Somehow very quietly and quickly the Cowboys D became one of the best in the league and they ended up in the playoffs. Coincidence? I think not. Dak was carried late in the season by Amari Cooper, who sliced through the NFL and it’s cornerbacks like butter.

Philadelphia Eagles

Predicted: 13-3

Finished: 9-7

A tale of two seasons? A super bowl hangover? An injured Carson Wentz coming back too soon and then leaving again? You name it, it was part of the Eagles demise this year. The funny part is, the season still went relatively the same. It took some Nick Foles magic to get the Eagles into the playoffs. Last season, he only had to hold on to get into the playoffs and then proceeded to light everyone up. They fought hard and hung on as long as they could but, no repeat for the Eagles. Thanks, Alshon, for having the best hands in the league.

Washington Redskins

Predicted: 9-7

Finished: 7-9

This is a team that started the season 5-2 and looked like they turned the page with Alex Smith at the helm, but injuries absolutely decimated this team. They were missing half their offensive line, running backs and lastly, quarterbacks, by a little past the midway point of the season. You couldn’t believe that they had a shot after that. The Redskins fell fast with the likes of Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson trying to play quarterback. It must be tough being a Redskins fan.

New York Giants

Predicted: 7-9

Finished: 5-11

I honestly didn’t think Eli was going to be THAT bad for most of the season. Saquon Barkley is not a human being, period. Outside of Odell Beckham Jr. and Barkley, the Giants need new players at all their skill positions. The offensive line showed minimal promise but enough to make me think that a year together will really help them hit their potential.

                NFC North

Chicago Bears

Predicted: 9-7

Finished: 12-4

If not for the Khalil Mack trade just before the start of the season, this defense would have been top seven, not umber one overall. What a difference a single guy can make. Trubisky took strides throughout the year and started playing his best football towards the end of the season. Too bad about Cody Parkey. Who decided to pay that guy any money? It is my personal guarantee that if Parkey is on the Bears sideline next season, I will not watch a single game. . . even the super bowl (if they make it). Nobody expected a 12-4 finish from a team that was in the basement last year but here we are!

Minnesota Vikings

Predicted: 13-3

Finished: 8-7-1

Two ties in the NFL this season, is there a dark force at play here? Nope. Just the Vikings being the Vikings. A team that finally has their quarterback and a stacked roster on all sides, were expectations too high or what? Cousins is no better than Keenum and I will continue to say that until he can prove me wrong. Firing John DeFillippo wasn’t a bad idea, though I’m not sure Kevin Stefanski will be any better with his OCD QB.

Green Bay Packers

Predicted: 7-9

Finished: 6-9-1

Okay, Green Bay. You guys suck. (Had to take my shot, BEAR DOWN!). In all honesty, Aaron Rodgers was not 100% for the entire season. That’s issue number one. Then the rumors came around with Mike McCarthy and Rodgers not being on the same page. The obvious turning point of the season was the game against the LA Rams, where Ty Montgomery blew it and then was traded. It was a mess of the season for the Packers and they need a fresh start next season. They’ll get one with a new head coach and offensive coordinator.

Detroit Lions

Predicted: 6-10

Finished: 6-10

This one was pretty obvious. The talent in the division and the talent in the NFC as a whole made it tough or me to believe a team like the Lions could really come out at their usual 8-8. What I didn’t expect was the Lions to completely fall apart, as they looked lost most of the season. They fired their offensive coordinator, so hopefully that means they’ll get someone who can bring Matt Stafford back to pro bowl form.

                NFC South

New Orleans Saints

Predicted: 13-3

Finished: 13-3

My god, I hate it when I’m right. Not really, I love it. The Saints were rolled opening day by the Buccaneers, but afterwards it was all business all day. The Saints were every bit of the team they were last year and then some. It’s no surprise they tied for the best record in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams. That playoff loss may prove to be too much for the Saints, who go into next season as my dark horse team to MISS the playoffs.

Atlanta Falcons:

Predicted: 11-5

Finished: 7-9

This team lost so many key players and the defense was atrocious. There was no chance for Matt Ryan and Julio Jones to beat everyone single handedly. On a positive note, that Calvin Ridley guy can play. Maybe next season when they have an entirely healthy squad and they figure it out defensively. That would help them make it back to the playoffs.

Carolina Panthers

Predicted: 7-9

Finished: 7-9

The Panthers ride or die with Cam Newton. If he had a bad game, so did the team. It seems that however Cam played would dictate how the rest of the team played. It’s only logical that that be the case, but what stands out here is in contrast, a playoff team gets a bad game from their quarterback and they find a way to win (look at the Bears or Saints). The Panthers lost when Cam lost and won when he won. Christian McCaffrey is something of an elite talent, so they had that going for them. Everybody else, meh.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Predicted: 6-10

Finished: 5-11

Jameis Winston should be gone from Tampa, but new head coach Bruce Arians seems confident that he’s the guy. Only time will tell, but I think that’s a huge mistake. The Bucs are a deflated team, switching between QBs every few games and the locker room divided. Hopefully Arians can turn that around. If not, look for the Jon Gruden approach in the coming year.

                NFC West

Los Angeles Rams

Predicted: 15-1

Finished: 13-3

Not to say they had a bad season, but they definitely had their flaws. On paper, this team was unbeatable. In real life, come game time, the defense was only half as good as I thought they would be. The only name on their defense worth his name is Aaron Donald, who isn’t human at all. I refuse to believe that Khalil Mack or Aaron Donald are human. Either way, this team balled out this season and though they had their up’s and down’s, they are an elite team in the NFL. My question becomes, did they miss their window of opportunity?

Seattle Seahawks

Predicted: 3-13

Finished: 10-6

Well, I was way wrong on this one too. I didn’t see the Seahawks pulling it together. So many bad things went on in the offseason that they were all but written off. They ended up taking a three headed monster to the playoffs (their ground game) and falling short against the Cowboys. Kudos to Pete Carroll for making a competitive team out of thin air.

San Francisco 49ers

Predicted: 11-5

Finished: 4-12

My, my, my. The injuries to this team left them like the Redskins, but the 49ers had the injury bug bite early and often. Jimmy G went down way too soon, they had to replace nine out of eleven defensive starters because of injury at one time or another and it took their backup “starting” quarterback a start on Monday night football to get his twitter account verified. Talk about a wild season. Look for a healthier team next season, hopefully.

Arizona Cardinals

Predicted: 5-11

Finished: 3-13

The number one overall pick is theirs, so that’s nice. Kliff Kingsbury is their new head coach and Steve Wilkes is out after one season. The offense didn’t exist. Who is David Johnson? He looked lost the entire season after missing the prior season due to injury. Josh Rosen showed some promise throughout the season, but with the first overall pick, there’s rumors about Kingsbury going after “his” quarterback, Kyler Murray. We’ll have to see if this team can drag its feet out of the basement next season as this division looks menacing as ever.

Chicago Blackhawks Post All-Star Report

So, here’s the situation. The Chicago Blackhawks sit at 18-24-9, last place in the Central division and 15 out of 16 in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks managed to lose ground in the playoff race, dropping five straight before winning two games before the All-Star break. It’s no surprise the Hawks still sit in the basement, with terrible defensive play and an atrocious penalty kill being the main culprits.

                However, some good news for the Hawks is the powerplay, which has been on fire as of late. In their last seven games leading up to the all-star break, the Blackhawks have been a firey 10/21, which is almost 50%! That’s almost unheard of in the NHL. The biggest reason is the top powerplay line, which consists of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat. From the scoring ability and passing of Patrick Kane, who seems to be on another planet, to the leadership of Captain Serious, the Blackhawks have finally found a formula that works on the powerplay and it will hopefully be here to stay for a long time.

               Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have been on fire this year! They sit at 71 and 48 points respectively. It’s been a resurgent year for Toews this season, who has a 17.2 shooting percent, second highest of his career. He’s also on pace to break his career high in goals (32) and has been the life blood of this team since day one this season. Kane has been nothing short of amazing. The 71 points Kane has is proof that he can do it all, especially being on a team that can’t seem to win. Kane’s value to the Hawks rivals that of Connor McDavid’s value to the Edmonton Oilers. He leads the team in goals and assists and without him, this team would truly be the worst in the NHL. The Chicago fan base has been privileged to have these two players as mainstays on this team. Kane is on pace to break his personal best in points in a single season.

As for one last bright spot, how about Collin Delia. Talk about a potential replacement for the concussion prone Corey Crawford, Delia has flashed brilliant potential in his limited action. One can only hope that Delia will see a lot more action in the coming months. More games will give the Hawks brass a larger sample size to see if Delia is the next Hawks netminder. With Corey Crawford’s health up in the air and Cam Ward likely not to come back, Delia could be the guy as soon as next year. It seems that the Hawks won’t fully embrace a rebuild anytime soon, but why should they? With Delia playing well enough to be a starter in the league and the young guns coming up (especially defensively) in the next year or two, the Hawks can call this a soft rebuild before they take a shot at the cup one last time with Toews and Kane still rolling.

Last but not least, it was reported by that Henri Jokiharju has been assigned to the Rockford Ice Hogs. There doesn’t seem to be rhyme or reason for this, just another move to kill time I guess? Maybe the Hawks want to give him a chance to compete instead of being on a team with slim to no playoff hopes? I really have no idea. In my opinion, you would want to give the young defenseman as much time as possible up in the pros to learn as much as possible. I suppose we’ll have to find out as the weeks go on.

For now, the Blackhawks will take on the Buffalo Sabres on Friday in their first action since the all-star break. They’ll follow that up with a Saturday game against the Minnesota Wild, who currently sit at third in the Central division but are more of a fringe wild card team. Back to back wins would provide a huge boost for the Hawks coming out of the break.


Here come the Blackhawks, Kind of. . .

                Weeks away from the festivities of the all-star weekend, the Chicago Blackhawks sit in a peculiar position. The Hawks watched their starting goaltender, Corey Crawford, leave in mid-December due to another concussion, which will leave him sidelined for an unknown amount of time. Of course, having another major concussion after the first one sidelined him for ten months doesn’t bode well for the Hawks star. However, something funny happened. The Hawks picked up the slack of not having their all-star goalie between the pipes and started playing well again. If you remember, I criticized the Blackhawks for not showing up when “Crow” came back, as they seemed to give up on offense and defense. Well, as if one could have predicted it, the Hawks started playing well again when Crawford went down.

                Now, they have a gem in Collin Delia, who currently is playing at an elite level. Cam Ward has been serviceable at best, but Delia has shone bright. In Delia’s first seven starts, he’s posted a 3-1-3 record with a 2.70 goals against average and .932 save percentage. The one thing that Delia needs to continually work on is his rebounds and his net presence. There is so much potential in Delia that it seems likely that he’ll be one to take over for Crawford whenever Crawford calls it a career. I have no qualms with that because if he can continue to refine his game, he can easily become a top ten goalie in the NHL. We don’t know the full story of Collin Delia but we can’t wait to find out.

                Since Crawford went down and the Hawks started playing like an actual hockey team, the Hawks have crawled their way back into playoff contention. . . Sort of. The Blackhawks currently sit at eight in the Central division, but much like any over-eager Hawks fan hoping for the sweet taste of playoffs again, we can say that they’re not out of it yet. The Hawks have put a solid run together in the last few weeks to sit at 41 points. Although that’s only good for last place in the central division, they are only six points out of the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference. Interesting, right? Wrong.

                A lot has to happen for the Hawks in order for them to make it to the big dance. For starters, the Blackhawks have played the second most games in the NHL next to the Las Vegas Golden Knights. That means that although they’re only six points out, they’re also three games ahead of the eighth seed, the Minnesota Wild. The Wild can increase the gap and the Hawks would have no chance of catching them.

Another issue the Hawks have been having is they haven’t been able to hold it together for an entire game. For example, last night, against Las Vegas, the Hawks led the entire game. At one point, it was 2-0, then it was 3-1, then the Knights came back to tie it and eventually win it in overtime. If the Hawks could put these last few teams away (Las Vegas and Nashville) instead of falling in overtime, they would be sitting at a comfortable 43 points and only four points out which would make a late season run that much more likely. Alas, there is still hope, so don’t fret Hawks fans!

One last thing, Patrick Kane has been nothing short of amazing in the last few weeks. It seems he’s really turned his game up a few notches and the players around him are the beneficiaries. In 46 games this season, Patrick Kane has a saucy 60 points. Since December 16 against the Sharks, Kane has been on a tear, only having one game without a point, on New Years Day against the Boston Bruins. If not for that one game, Kane would be riding a twelve game point streak. None the less, Kane has notched three goals and nine assists in his last five games. The pace that Kane is on is beyond talent, it’s downright not human. If Kane can continue this pace, he has the chance to break his single season record of 106 points, set in 2015-2016. Kane has 35 games left to get another 56 points, which sounds a little outlandish, but it is Patrick Kane and if he keeps up his current pace (since December 16), 1.76 PPG, he’ll crush his 106 points and finish with 129 points. WOW!

                The Hawks hope to win out this week and the next to get into better playoff position before the all-star break. They play the New Jersey Devils on Monday followed by the New York Rangers on Thursday before they finish off the week against the Washington Capitals on Saturday. They only have one game the next week, playing the New York Islanders on Tuesday, January 22. If they can win all those games, they’ll sit at 49 points and hopefully even closer to the eighth seed and a playoff birth.

Nagy: 'We are going to treat this game like every other game'

The Bears have clinched a playoff spot and a first round home game, but they have no intention resting their starters.

Bears’ head coach Matt Nagy said in a Dec. 24 press conference the team will “treat [the Vikings] game like every other game all year long.”

The Bears can get a first round bye with a victory against the Vikings, and a Rams loss to the 49ers. The Vikings can also be eliminated from playoff contention if they lose and the Eagles win.

Nagy said certain circumstances could change the way he uses his players, such as a Rams blowout lead at half time. Nagy did not say how large a Rams’ lead would need to be to rest his starters.

“We’re going to win this football game. I don’t want our players or coaches thinking any different,” Nagy said.

GarPax, the two-headed monster

                Well the #BullsNegative movement I’ve been trying to get to catch hasn’t taken hold wit the masses, but it seems the Chicago Bulls have taken notice. The bulls sit at 6-22, worst in the Eastern Conference and only two games ahead of the Phoenix Suns for worst in the NBA. The Bulls cannot find a way to win and things aren’t getting any better. On December 3, 2018 the Bulls fired coach Fred Hoiberg. It’s clear that he never put it together as the head coach, but he wasn’t the only issue in Chicago.

                Nevertheless, in comes Jim Boylen, a less-than-friendly coach that was the bad cop in the Hoiberg regime. In case you missed it, the Bulls players did not take kindly to Boylen’s new leadership. Three games in and one day after the biggest loss in Bulls history, some players started a group chat that revolved around showing up for practice. Although the players showed up to practice, they told the coaches they were holding a player only meeting which was consequently followed by a team meeting. Things only got more awkward from there, as the Bulls are the laughing stock of the NBA right now. I’ll spare you the details because they are pretty sad. Not even the return of Lauri Markkanen could bring a spark to the team.

Needless to say, this regime isn’t going to be any better for the Bulls because they continue to overlook the biggest issue the team faces; Gar Forman and John Paxson. These two idiots have singlehandedly help destroy the Chicago Bulls. Think of it this way. Tom Thibodeau was a borderline great coach and because he didn’t agree with Forman and Paxson on some things, they threw him out like common street trash. To be honest that was the day I lost faith in the Chicago Bulls. It was obvious then and it’s obvious now; until the Bulls rid themselves of the toxicity thatt is “GarPax”, they will find themselves stuck in the same loop of garbage they’ve been in since “Tibs” was “let go”.

                I often get scorned for looking down on the Bulls as hard as I do but I can’t imagine things getting better until GarPax are gone. The longer we see the monster in power, the worse things will get. In case you forgot, too many players wanted out of Chicago over the years, citing GarPax as the issue. Look no further than Jimmy Butler and Dwayne Wade, Butler being someone to build a team around and Wade being a savvy vet, gone. A completely new regime would breathe some life into an organization that is otherwise dead in the water.

                Someone wake me when GarPax are gone and then I’ll finally turn the #BullsNegative into a #BULLSPOSITIVE.

Top Three Chicago Blackhawks so far this season!

A miracle? Maybe. At one point on Thursday night, the Chicago Blackhawks held their first lead in a game since November 18 when they defeated the Minnesota Wild. They only held their lead for less than a minute, which is indicative of how the Blackhawks season has gone since the return of Corey Crawford. We all knew the Hawks season would be tough with very few pieces added and those pieces being nothing more than bottom tier fill players.

                The Chris Kunitz signing has all but been invisible to the average Hawks fans eyes and after the Patrick Sharp miss last year, you have to wonder why the Hawks brass decided that doing the same thing was a good idea. Then there’s Cam Ward, who is way past his prime and shouldn’t be on the Blackhawks roster. I would rather see Collin Delia getting valuable NHL reps than a 34-year-old with no real place in the NHL.

                Ultimately, the Hawks season doesn’t look good and there’s a shakeup coming. Before the Hawks go into full on rebuild mode, lets look at the MVP’s of the Hawks season so far, just to keep things sunny side up!

                First and foremost, Patrick Kane. Kane currently has 34 points (15 G, 19 A) in 30 games this season. Without Kane, the Blackhawks would easily be a bottom of the league team; more so than they already are. Every night, as a Blackhawks fan, you can watch Kane get double teamed and be the focus of the opponents gameplan, but time and time again he finds ways to make magic happen the way only “Showtime” can. If you’re sick of watching the Hawks, don’t be. Patrick Kane is always playing and is a miracle to watch every night.

                Second on the list, Corey Crawford. Crawford returned from 10 months off and it looked like he never missed a beat. His statistics are a falsehood of how he’s been this year. He currently sits at 5-13-0-1 on the season with a 3.22 goals against average and .902 save percentage. Of course, the numbers don’t stick out, but if you watch the games (like I do) he plays so much better than that. I can’t remember a game where Crawford didn’t make a sprawling save to keep the Hawks in a game. The only thing you can do is stare in utter disbelief that a human being can move the way Crawford does in the net.

                Third, we’ll give it to Jonathon Toews. Toews has had a resurgent season and for the first time in five or six years, he’s fully healthy and playing like it. In 31 games, Toews has 13 goals and 11 assists for a total of 24 points. He’s been the lifeblood of this team night in and night out. Unfortunately, that hasn’t led to wins or an energy in the Hawks game, but it is great to see the captain that we drafted way back in 2006. Without the vocal leader of this team, there’s no telling where the Blackhawks would be.

                This week, the Blackhawks have fallen to the Anaheim Ducks and the Las Vegas Golden Knights and are currently in a deadlock with the Montreal Canadiens.

                Next week, the Blackhawks will take on the Winnipeg Jets twice, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks once each. Hopefully, they right this ship and get a few wins under their belt.

Everything Blackhawks: A Love/Hate Story

                For the better part of the past ten years, the Chicago Blackhawks have led us (the fans) on a journey that can only be described in one word; legendary! For any fan, it was also known as the Quenneville era. Ten years of superstars, amazing hockey and three Stanley Cups, we have so much to reminisce and be proud of. However, now we are drudging through a season that is painful to watch and at times, unbearable.

Before we dive into what’s going on in the current Chicago Blackhawks universe, let’s take a look back on some of the best moments in the Quenneville era.

Nothing is more iconic of the Quenneville era than the Blackhawks playoff runs. The 2010 Stanley Cup run was filled was nail biters, overtime and a myriad of ridiculous plays. The first defining moment came on June 6, 2010; the day the Chicago Blackhawks won their first cup in 57 years. Of course, it could be none other than “Showtime” Patrick Kane, who ripped a puck far side past Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton with 15:50 left in the overtime period. Just thinking about that shot gives me chills and a HUGE wave of emotion. What a huge win for the city of Chicago.

Of course, the Blackhawks weren’t done making Hawks fan’s blood pressures go through the roof. Look to 2013, when the Blackhawks beat the Bruins to win their second Stanley Cup. Bryan Bickell, remember him? Well, if you don’t, let me give you a refresher. Bickell tied the game with 1:16 left on the clock after captain Jonathon Toews found him in front of the net. Chills. Again.

If you ask any Hawks fan what 17 seconds means to them, they should have a simple response. Maybe one of the greatest moments in Chicago sports history. 17 seconds after Bryan Bickell became a hero in Chicago, Dave Bolland found a loose puck rebound and buried it to give the Hawks a 3-2 lead and their second Stanley Cup victory. More chills and another HUGE wave of emotion incoming.

Lastly, the third Stanley Cup the Hawks won came in 2015. It marked the first Stanley Cup home win for the Hawks since 1938 and the third Stanley Cup in 5 years, Chicago had no problem celebrating until the early morning. A defensive game all around, the Blackhawks won by a final score of 2-0. The moment came with 2:47 left in the second when my favorite Blackhawks player, Duncan Keith, broke the 0-0 tie. I remember getting out of my seat and celebrating like no one ever had before. Amazing goal, amazing player. Right then I think I knew that it was going to be a Hawks victory. Of course, no Stanley Cup game would be complete without a Patrick Kane finisher to put the game away with 5:44 left in the third.

Needless to say, I could reminisce all day about the miraculous playoff runs for the Blackhawks and probably cry all day, but it’s time to move forward as our current Blackhawks team is in a bit of a pickle.

The Blackhawks currently sit in sixth place (out of seven) in the Central division and things are looking all sorts of a mess. A trade of Nick Schmaltz, although warranted, doesn’t make the Hawks a playoff team. The good news from that is that Dylan Strome has come in and ignited something for the Hawks. In four games, Strome already has three points (2 G, 1 A) and looks to be helping in any way he can. Brendan Perlini has yet to tally a point for the Hawks and may just be a body to get through the season. If Strome can continue to play well, he could be a staple for the Hawks in the coming years. He’s just 21 which means he’s got nowhere to go but up. Perlini is only 22 and a first round pick in 2014 and can become a solid player in years to come as well.

The big issue with the Hawks is their defensive play. You can’t have aging players like Brent Seabrook on your top line and expect to get anywhere. He’s too old, too slow and only plays half the ice when he wants to. The occasional amazing play keeps him notarized throughout the league but otherwise, he’s playing like Michal Rozsival, old and tired. It’s sad because the only viable defenseman we currently have is Duncan Keith and he’s 35 this year. He has had to make up (as best he can) for the Hawks lack of other NHL caliber defensemen. Let’s look at that second line.  Erik Gustaffson is a pile of garbage. The man belongs in the AHL and nowhere near an NHL roster. He can’t play defense which is the position he is supposed to play. I have rarely seen him in position and he rarely makes plays in the defensive zone.

How about something positive? Henri Jokiharju. In the first bit of the season, before the wheels came off, Jokiharju was playing well in all aspects of his game. He was getting increased ice time every game, he was playing well in the defensive zone well and doing what he does best in the offensive zone, creating offense. He has since run into some of the growing pains that an NHL rookie experiences in his first few seasons. Of course, it was expected to happen. As the NHL shifts to a more offensive game, incoming defenseman are at a steeper learning curve and that’s what we’re seeing with Jokiharju right now. Currently, Jokiharju has no goals and 10 assists on the season. He came close to his first goal a few weeks ago, but Jonathon Toews tipped the puck on the way to the net and was given credit. Give it a few years and watch him grow in an absolute stud on the Chicago blue line.

In order for the Hawks to right the ship, they need to move some pieces. That all starts at the top. I’ll be the first to admit, I would love to see the Hawks make the playoffs again, but that’s likely not happening this season.

I would also like to be the first to say goodbye to Stan Bowman. Bowman is the man that negotiates the contracts for the Blackhawks and he has clearly screwed the pooch. If you need an example, look at Brent Seabrook’s contract. WOW. Enough said for that. Brandon Saad’s contract was inherited but that’s not an excuse. He’s an obvious waste of six million dollars a year. Jonathon Toews and Patrick Kane deserve their contracts of course, but all these huge, non-moveable contracts Bowman made are screwing the Hawks roster depth. Simply put, he’s got to go. They should have kept Quenneville and got rid of Bowman, simple as that.

Next, after Bowman get’s excused, so does Jeremy Colliton. Nothing against Colliton, but he came to a team that was already dead in the water. He is trying his best to resurrect the dead in a sense, but he’s going to be a casualty of a team that may be entering a rebuild. With Bowman and Colliton gone, the Hawks can find a middle-aged coach that can bring valuable experience and a new vibe in the Hawks locker room. Hopefully, that can include a GM that is more money friendly.

Next, say goodbye to the following players:

Brent Seabrook- Meet your new assistant coach?

Erik Gustaffson- Goodbye. Nobody wants you here.

Artem Anisimov, Alexander Fortin, Brandon Saad, Marcus Kruger, David Kampf, Chris Kunitz, Jan Rutta, Cam Ward, Anton Forsberg

                That’s a rough clear up of the roster at the end of the season. Of course, we can hope the Hawks make some more trades throughout the season to help clear some cap space, but we’ll have to wait and see about that.

                For the past few seasons, while the Hawks clear the bottom half of the roster and start over again and again, the offense has had to rely mainly on Patrick Kane. He has next to no help and it shows game in and game out. I know it seems crazy to do a mock depth chart this early, but the roster should look more like this come next season:

Line 1: Patrick Kane, Jonathon Toews, John Hayden

Line 2: Alex DeBrincat, Dominik Kahun, Dylan Strome

Line 3: Brendan Perlini, (center), Andreas Martinsen

Line 4: TBD

                The top two lines should be able to provide goals and offensive firepower and the third line should be the hustle and agitator line. The fourth line is TBD because the Hawks should have a completely new one come 2019-2020.

                With John Hayden providing the hustle, it will allow Kane and Toews to be more dynamic. If you’ve watched the Hawks at all this season, you may have seen John Hayden, or as my girlfriend calls him, “Dreamboat” flying around the ice, making plays, fighting off defenders and playing solid defense. Also, he has no problem stepping up to the plate if anyone messes with Kane, which is an added bonus. The second line consists of potential, with DeBrincat, Kahun and Strome all labeled as snipers or playmakers. It would be odd to see Kahun at center but that is his official position and if he works at it, he could become a solid second line guy. That being said, the Blackhawks need depth down the middle of their lineup. Anisimov was only good with Kane and Panarin on his line because they were able to skate around everybody and he only needed to sit in front of the net. Kampf and Kruger are obviously not cutting it. They need a respectable center for at least the second line to be able to compete with some of the powerhouse teams.

                Of course, we know all about the defense. It needs a complete rework. Of course, the Hawks have a lot of bright young talent in the system that need some refining before they’re ready to compete. For now, we’ll work with the assumption we’ll see some of those guys next year:

Pair 1: Henri Jokiharju, Duncan Keith

Pair 2: Connor Murphy, Brandon Manning

Pair 3: Adam Boqvist, Brandon Davidson

Rotational guys: Gustav Forsling, Ian Mitchell, Nicholas Beaudin

                It’s quite possible we won’t see Adam Boqvist next year because he needs to bulk up in a big way in order to not get pushed around at the NHL level, but the pool is stacked for the Hawks and things are looking bright. I believe that Duncan Keith still has one or two more years left in the tank while the Hawks wait on the youngsters and then hopefully, the Hawks will keep him in the organization in a different capacity.

                Lastly, the Hawks future goaltending is almost as exciting as the future of the defense. During the preseason, we saw Collin Delia, Alexis Gravel, Kevin Lankinen, and Matt Tomkins. It’s very crowded at goalie but with Forsberg and Ward potentially departing, Delia and Lankinen would be next up. Corey Crawford will play until he can’t anymore, that much is obvious. However, the Hawks will need to groom someone behind him in the coming years and Delia is the next man up. Delia saw two NHL games last season and did not disappoint. With little help in front of him, Delia played well last year and he should be able to parlay that into a potential starting role once Crawford is gone. Here’s how it should look come 2019-2020:

Starter: Corey Crawford

Backup 1: Collin Delia

Backup 2: Kevin Lankinen

                Alexis Gravel could also make a push for that “second” backup spot. That would mean a starting gig in Rockford and a call up in case of injury, but Lankinen has had more experience and will probably get first crack at it.

                With a lot of potential changes coming, the Hawks will look to make something of this season to keep fans interest until they can become a Stanley cup contender again. The Hawks will take on the Anaheim Ducks, Las Vegas Golden Knights and Montreal Canadiens this week. Strap on those brain buckets boys and get ready for a bumpy ride for the rest of the year.

Chicago Shake-Up? It's about time

                0-7-1. That’s the Chicago Blackhawks record in the last eight games played. In case you somehow missed it, the Hawks rid themselves of long-time head coach Joel Quenneville on Tuesday. The move was questionable at best and (clearly) wasn’t the true issue that’s facing the Hawks. The issue clearly stems from the players. Either way, we can hammer home the issues with the Hawks, or we can take a quick trip down memory lane and predict what’s coming.

                So, let’s look back. The first two weeks of the Hawks season was incredible, much like their open to the 2017-2018 season. The Hawks began this season 6-2-1 and in third place in the standings. The Hawks fell apart after that. Since then, the Blackhawks have, as mentioned above, skidded to a 0-7-1 record. The firing of Quenneville made it seemingly worse. Jeremy Colliton, who is the heir to the Quenneville throne, inherits a team in immediate need of a rebuild. It sucks to say because it’s not like Colliton is a bad guy and he had a good amount of success in Rockford, but he’s going to be a casualty of this rebuild.

                If the Hawks continue on their dismal path, you can expect a couple of things to happen. Stan Bowman will be gone, seeing as how he is the one that screwed the Blackhawks cap. What has really killed them has been Seabrook’s no movement clause. Not only is Seabrook the highest paid defenseman, they can’t cut him or move him without eating the cap anyway. The worst part is, he’s playing about as good as a sixth defenseman, speaking of which. . .

                Holy firesale! The Hawks will start getting rid of the bottom half of their roster. Nobody should be safe on the Hawks unless they have the last name Toews, Kane, Crawford or Keith. Saad? Get him out of there. Seabs, fire him. Eat the contract. It doesn’t matter how you get rid of him, just do it. Gustaffson, gone. Trade him for a seventh-round draft pick. He’s about as useless as that anyway. Jan Rutta, gone too. Like I said, firesale. Sell everyone for draft capital and rebuild.

                Look, although it’s been two games for Jeremy Colliton, those two games showed me enough to know that the he is not the guy. Imagine you’re a Hawks player and they just fired one of the best coaches in NHL history. Your immediate reaction would probably be anger or sadness, which would make sense. Now, it seems to me that through no fault of his own, Colliton has lost this locker room. It would impossible to say he even had it, but if he did for even a split second, he lost it already. I almost feel bad for him. He never had a chance and they are going to suffer for it. The stars don’t respect him, hell, they probably know better than him. This team is in dysfunction and it’s starting to all come out. Find a coach that’s going to start from scratch, treat these players as players and not super stars.

                All in all, it has been a tough season for the Hawks and it’s only going to get tougher. Best of luck to the Hawks the rest of the way, we’ll be watching. . . barely. This week, the Hawks will see the Carolina Hurricanes, St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings and the Minnesota Wild. Best of luck boys, I know you’ll need it.

The Wheels on the bus are falling off. . .

                Well, what an up and down start to the Chicago Blackhawks season. Is anyone else feeling like this is a repeat of last year? It seems like it. The Hawks came out swinging last year in the early going, scoring at a ridiculous pace and getting phenomenal goaltending as well. Eventually, the Hawks tapered off last season and teams found their weakness. The defense, which featured old and aging players mixed in with some way too inexperienced young guys. The only defensive guy last year worth playing would have been Duncan Keith, who did the best he could with nobody else next to him.

                Fast forward to this year. The Blackhawks started out on fire, winning close game after close game. Then, much like last year, we’re starting to see the wheels come off. Unfortunately, it seems the turn this year started when the hawks got goaltender Corey Crawford back, who has played nothing short of amazing since he has been put back in the lineup. The issues that the Hawks have had haven’t changed from year to year.

                Look at the biggest issue, inconsistency on defense. Even from the first game, the Blackhawks had blaring holes in their defensive play. Whether it be an actual defenseman (Looking at you Erik Gustaffson) or a forward who was caught watching instead of playing, it’s been bad.  Unfortunately, the Hawks have even younger players than they did the previous year, which is leading to a lot of goals on “rookie” mistakes. Many of the goals that we’ve seen this year have been no fault of the goalie. Crawford has looked like he hasn’t missed a beat and is playing some of the best hockey of his career. His record and statistics won’t show that, but he really has held his team together.

                The second big issue this year is offensive inconsistency. Holy hell guys. After the first two weeks the Hawks were second in scoring. Now, they sit at the bottom half of the league (18 overall). It’s only a month into the season and already, the Hawks are going back to old habits. After a huge start, the Hawks have tried to be too cute with the puck. They ALWAYS attempt the extra pass which always seems to be intercepted. It’s all smoke and mirrors that gets finished (if they’re lucky) with a single shot before it leaves the zone again. Also, (last bit about the offense, I swear!) what is Erik Gustaffson doing? Every time he’s in the offensive zone he acts like a winger which would be great if it didn’t lead to odd man rushes the other way. Okay, one more thing. Nick Schmaltz needs to learn to shoot. I have seen Schmaltz pass the puck to nobody 100 too many times this season and I’m sick of it. Okay, offense. Done.

                The last thing I want to look at is the special teams. The power play is 27 overall and it is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. Everyone tries to be too cute with the puck, making five to ten more passes than needed. That is assuming they get it into the zone, which is few and far between. Then there’s the Hawks penalty kill, which is improving but is still in the bottom half of the league (22 overall). Ultimately, if the Hawks could decline penalties I would suggest that. There’s no reason that the Hawks, with all their offensive fire power, should be unable to score. It’s been a constant over the last few years but it’s not getting better. Somebody needs to get these guys a new scheme.

                Enough bashing though. I know sometimes I’m too harsh on the Hawks. I expect success and that can hurt when they don’t succeed. Let’s take a quick look at some positives this year so far.

                Corey Crawford has been nothing short of amazing since he’s been back. I would wager to say 90% of the goals allowed by Crawford have been at the hands of the defensemen playing in front of him. He has come back from that concussion and been better than anyone expected.

                Henri Jokiharju has played well for the most part, playing mad minutes with Duncan Keith night in and night out, which is huge for his development. Now, of course, we’ve seen the lapses in his game from time to time, but I want to point out that every night, he’s playing against the other team’s top line and holding his own, which is fantastic to see. He may not be perfect, but he is learning and will be a staple of this defense in the coming years. Also, his offensive upside is amazing.

                The Hawks currently sit in sixth out of seven in the Central division. After such a promising start, the Hawks are back to where they were last year. We can hope that going forward, the hawks find their rhythm and start winning some games. This next week, the Hawks take on the Carolina Hurricanes and the Philadelphia Flyers. Let’s hope for some solid victories!