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Bears if Five

Q&A, with Special Bonus... Bears
by BEARSCast.com Staff

One: "They Lost On Purpose."
The theory that the Bears lost to the Packers on purpose has been floating around the Internet Tubes™ since that wretched game, and the BEARSCast staff takes personal offense to this. The Bears are professionals and highly competitive, too; they'd never just throw a game. C'mon now. But they would, you know, not try as hard because their opponents are pathetic and they know that the only thing that would make them feel good about their pitifulness is letting their hundred-year-old quarterback win his final game in the pros. Are we claiming that's what happened? Yes.

Two: "Rex Is a Dumbass."
Is he, really? Why, because he came out and said, basically, that he looked past this game, and that his head wasn't in the game and he more or less phoned in his performance, thus leading to his dismal 0.0 quarterback rating and a statline that featured more INTs than COMPs? We disagree. We think Rex' claim that he didn't try is along the lines of the brilliant playground defense when you lost a game of one-on-one basketball or were humiliated at King of the Mountain or Smear the Queer after talking a lot of trash: "Well, I wasn't really trying." This way, it isn't your ability that's questioned, but your dedication. If somebody has dedication problems, that can be fixed. Talent and skill, that's a different story. If Rex can win one playoff game, he completely erases that comment from our memories. Well played, Rex.

Three: "Tell Us About These Seahawks..."
Other than that we're going to beat them (again), what do you want to know? The Seahawks have a quick but undersized defense that can be run on and tends to fall off in the second half, particularly the fourth quarter. Matt Hasselbeck has had some trouble in the playoffs, but is a brilliant quarterback who is starting to hit a groove after coming back from an injury. Shaun Alexander was the NFL MVP last year. But the Seahawks were the fifth seed in the playoffs for a reason — they aren't nearly as good as they have been the last few years. Add to this the fact that leading receiver Darrel Jackson will not play against the Bears — a relief considering the Bears' damaged secondary — and you have an inconsistent Seahawks offense facing a fearsome Bears defense.

Four: "C'mon. Tell us More."
Um, OK. Seattle has a tendency to give the ball away and doesn't have a very opportunistic defense—they were in the bottom five in the league in turnover differential, at -8 on the season (the Bears, by contrast, were at +8, which is astounding considering Rex turned the ball over 25 times by himself.) The Seahawks have a pretty abysmal running defense, tied for 28th in the NFL at 4.6 yards a carry, the relevant statistic. An inability to stop the run paired with a defense that can't really force turnovers (they intercepted the ball only 12 times this season) points to a low-scoring affair that ultimately favors the Bears, who can break it open with defensive and special teams scoring.

Five: "Seriously, We Looked Really Bad Against the Packers. Is This Another One and Done?"
Maybe. Look, people, it's the NFL Playoffs. On any given Sunday, blah blah blah. We're the BEARSCast Staff, and we drop knowledge, but what do you want from us? The Bears have been wildly inconsistent on offense thanks to a handful of poor performances by Rex, and the defense has occasionally sputtered (notably in the first half against the Cardinals, against the Dolphins and that Packers game), but do you know where they have been pretty consistent? Winning. They won 13 games! That's a lot. And they already beat this team once. So the overwhelming likelihood is that they'll win. Or not.

Five v2.0: "Hey, BEARSCast, What Did You Think of the Wildcard Weekend?"
Other than our profound disappointment at the Patriots' victory, not much. We were glad to see over-hyped, over-rated Tony Romo single-handedly lose the game to the Seahawks, screwing up what may be the easiest job in professional football, a job so easy the name almost sounds like a joke — "Holder." Ha ha, Tony Romo. You suck. The Eagles will be a difficult team to get past if we have to face them in the NFC Championship game due to their wacky blitzing schemes, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. By the way, Peyton Manning is awesome.

Five v2.1: "Predictions?"
Bears over the Seahawks. For the rest, tune into BEARSCast.com!

Pucks in Five

A Return to (Poor) Form
by Jeremy Piniak

New year, same old problems for the Blackhawks as they enter a crucial stretch of their season. Plus, a possible farewell to a former Hawk, and Darren Haydar continues to make history for the Wolves in this edition of Pucks in Five.

One: Havlat, Hope on Hold
As if starting the new year by losing three of their last four games wasn't enough, the Blackhawks are also once again without the services of Martin Havlat, who strained his groin in Thursday's loss at St. Louis. Given the Hawks' offensive struggles and 6-9-4 record when Havlat missed 19 games earlier this year, it's no stretch to say Chicago's season hangs in the balance of how they respond to this latest setback. If the offense continues to sputter as it has been lately, the playoffs may be nothing but an afterthought by the end of the month.

Groin injuries can be tricky to heal, as proven by Minnesota Wild forward Marian Gaborik, who just returned from his injury after missing two months and will face the Blackhawks this Sunday. Havlat will miss at least the next week as he rests and receives treatment, and any additional time will depend on how he responds to the rehab once back out on the ice. The Hawks are missing other players besides Havlat: they also placed forward Rene Bourque on IR with a bruised ankle, and defenseman Jassen Cullimore is day-to-day with an injured shoulder. After putting together a nice streak while the team was healthy through December, the Hawks will be tested in 2007.

Two: Powerplay Prognosis
Continuing to examine the struggles of the Blackhawks perilous powerplay, there's unfortunately not much new to report after the week that was. Although the Hawks notched a pair of powerplay goals in their four games, their 19 attempts helped keep their conversion percentage at a paltry 11.4 percent. Martin Lapointe picked up an empty net powerplay goal to ice the 4-1 victory against the Blues, and Peter Bondra notched his fourth of the season in the 4-2 loss against Phoenix. Likewise, the Hawks found themselves shorthanded more often than not, averaging 6.5 penalties a game, and the penalty kill gave up at least a goal in three of the four games last week.

This week the Blackhawks do battle with the league-leading Buffalo Sabres Wednesday and the Minnesota Wild Sunday at home, while taking a quick trip to Detroit to face off against the Red Wings. While the Wild have the fifth best penalty kill in the league, both Buffalo and Detroit have struggled at times, giving the Hawks an opportunity to build some confidence if they are able to gain the man advantage. However, all three teams are fairly disciplined and don't take many penalties, so the chances may be few and far between. It will be up to the Hawks to keep their penalties to a minimum and capitalize on their opportunities, making special teams an important component to victory.

Three: Breaking Down the Wall
Exacerbating the team's offensive struggles, goalie Nicolai Khabibulin and the defense have been unable to take up the slack as well. Khabibulin had played strongly after returning from a finger injury November 17, but was pulled in two of the team's last three home games. December 29 against Boston, Khabibulin gave up three goals on seven shots and was replaced to start the second period, and Friday, the Predators scored on four of their first 13 shots before Khabi got the hook. Sunday afternoon, he managed to make it through a home game, but had only 13 saves and was obviously off his game in the 4-2 Phoenix win. Likewise, the team has been unable to get a steady pairing of defenseman to play solid at the same time, the latest to struggle being Jim Vandemeer and Adrian Aucoin, who was a healthy scratch Sunday and may soon lose his captaincy.

Coach Denis Savard had said he would ride his starting goaltender and expected him to get the majority of starts when he took over as coach. Whether Khabibulin is just going through a rough stretch of luck or is beginning to tire from the workload is something that needs to be monitored closely. With backup Patrick Lalime nearing a return from his off-season surgery, the team will soon have a glut of goaltending on their hands, which may allow Khabibulin some time to rest and refocus while Lalime and Brian Boucher pick up starts in an effort to build some trade value, as one of the two will be wearing a new uniform by the trade deadline.

Four: Recognizing Roenick
Sunday's matinee against the Coyotes brought a familiar face to the United Center, possibly for the last time. Former Blackhawk Jeremy Roenick returned to his old stomping grounds and notched a goal and an assist in Phoenix's 4-2 win. Although Roenick has made no official announcement regarding his status after his 18th season in the league ends this spring, he took time to soak in the atmosphere, handing out practice pucks after warmups and signing autographs after the game. If it was his last game here, JR certainly made sure it was an enjoyable one.

As I was growing up, Roenick was one of the marquee players on the strong Hawks teams of the early '90s, and embodied everything the city represented: hard-working, gritty, and always able to score when most needed. In his Hawks tenure, he notched 267 goals and 329 assists and helped lead the team to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1992. His trade to Phoenix in 1996 was the latest in a long line of management trading away fan favorites rather than ponying up the money and have a franchise player to rally around. Roenick currently has 489 goals in his career, and hopefully he manages to hit 500 before his time is up, this season or next, and the rest of the hockey world can recognize the Hall-of-Fame caliber career he's had.

Five: Haydar Hype
Chicago Wolves winger Darren Haydar's NHL call up lasted little more than a day, and he was back in a Wolves uniform to try and continue his AHL record points streak. Haydar played in three games the past week, and managed to notch at least a point in each contest, pushing his streak to 39 games, now tied for fourth-best all time in any professional league with a certain NHL Hall-of-Famer by the name of Wayne Gretzky. Gretzky also has the overall record with 51 games, notched during the 1983-84 NHL season. Haydar's streak extended despite the Wolves dropping two of their three games last week. However, Chicago is still leading the Western Conference of the AHL despite the week's setback, and Haydar looks to continue the streak with three games in the comfy confines of the Allstate Arena this week against Peoria, Wilkes-Barre Scranton, and Hamilton.

Bulls in Five

...is on the DL, but expected to return next week
by Jason Maslanka

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Comments

Betty / January 9, 2007 8:42 AM

Yes, Peyton is awesome, but can the Colts beat the Ravens? Me thinks NOT.

I disagree on the damaged secondary. We get Peanut and Textbook back for this weekend. Even with D Jackson, I feel we would be okay.

 

About the Author(s)

Ramsin Canon, Craig Aichele and Fitz are the hosts of Bearscast.com, the best and brightest Bears podcasts, part of the Chicago Sportscast Network. Now with 60 percent more non-football talk, bringing the football talk to 10 percent. Go listen. Send comments to hosts@bearscast.com.

Jeremy Piniak grew up watching hockey on all levels and is a lifelong Blackhawks fan who, inexplicably, still has hope that Bill Wirtz will once again provide Chicago with a championship hockey team and broadcast home games on TV, though he still mourns the destruction of Chicago Stadium. Every week he'll bring you five talking points on the state of hockey in Chicago (including, when possible, the minor-league Wolves and Hounds). Send comments to pucks@gapersblock.com

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