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Friday, July 3

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White Sox Thu Jul 02 2015

Sale's Strikeout Streak Survives for Sox

Chicago White Sox On Tuesday night, and against the MLB-best Cardinals no less, Chris Sale struck out 12 batters to become the second pitcher to ever strike out at least 10 in eight consecutive starts.

Sale has been one of the best and most consistent pitchers in baseball since 2012, and baseball as a whole has become a strikeout-contingent game. While Sale's feat isn't surprising, being good for 10 Ks a game is still very impressive. How has this streak come to be?

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

Bulls Thu Jul 02 2015

Bulls Offseason Checklist Nearly Complete

BullsPhewww that was a scary couple of hours. Once the clock struck midnight and the calendar rolled over to July, Chicago Bulls fans waited with bated breath as the NBA free agency period started. The Bulls are usually an aggressive team during the offseason when they have cap space available, but this year they passed over the new options and concentrated on locking up their core and keeping the guys they know.

Jimmy Butler (restricted) and Mike Dunleavy were both free agents coming into the summer and the Bulls made it their number one priority to retain them. The team didn't have to sweat too much as they both verbally agreed to new contracts yesterday, the first day of the free agent negotiation period.

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Chris Zois / Comments (0)

Soccer Wed Jul 01 2015

Watching Team USA Kick Ass in the Park

By Veronica Arreola

The build-up to the Women's World Cup has been almost as much about judging the entertainment value of women's sports as it has been the quality of Team USA to win the cup. Last night US Soccer held a last minute outdoor viewing party for the semifinal match against Germany and Chicago showed up. The diversity was amazing.

As I sat on a picnic blanket with my husband and our soccer-obsessed pre-teen, I took note of many other families on their own blankets. But there were also the countless college-age students who made it clear they wanted to stand in the front row and cheer on our team. The group of people in front of us looked like they swapped meeting up at their neighborhood bar for the lawn in foggy Lincoln Park. And it should be noted that the beer garden was heartily packed.

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Tailgate / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Wed Jul 01 2015

Blackhawks and Saad Part Ways, But All Not Lost

Chicago BlackhawksIt was a move most everyone considered impossible, losing out on a proven 22-year-old stud to cap restraints, especially after he scored eight goals and notched three assists in the postseason to help his team win its third Stanley Cup in six years. But after the news broke Tuesday afternoon that Brandon Saad had been traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the first thing to set in after the initial sting was acceptance in the salary-cap era.

A great two-way player, who benefited playing alongside surefire hall of famers in Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, Saad won over the Hawks faithful with his work ethic and electrifying plays on the scoring end and with no-look passes. There's no question the Hawks have gotten away with paying Saad an extremely affordable salary, but, eventually, his talent on the ice was going to cost Stan Bowman and company much more than the annual $842,500 bargain after season's end when he would become a restricted free agent.

Welcome to the era of the salary cap, Blackhawks fans. It's meant to give the league a fighting chance against a dynasty, and offers a chance for players like Saad to strike it rich and lead a new team to the promised land after an apprenticeship with the best. Currently, that's what is important to Saad. What's important to the Hawks, in this inevitable aftermath, is what they received in return so as to continue to redefine what is "dynasty" after these collectively-bargained rules were set in place a decade ago.

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Jim Crago / Comments (2)

Bulls Mon Jun 29 2015

Meet the Newest Chicago Bulls Draft Pick

BullsThe Chicago Bulls made the smart move during the NBA draft June 25, in that they took the best player available. That player was 6-foot-11-inch power forward Bobby Portis from Arkansas. Going into this year's draft, fans had to be nervous about what the Bulls front office was going to do. Forget that they have a new coach and offensive strategy, we have covered that enough -- the real issue was whether general manager Gar Forman was going to go with his brain over his gut.

Forman has been known to be a bit of a homer when it comes to his draft picks. He will select guys he is familiar with, as opposed to what the team needs. Tony Snell and Cameron Bairstow both played at the University of New Mexico, where Forman used to be an assistant coach, and Forman was pretty tight with Doug McDermott's father Greg when they both worked at Iowa State. McDermott and Snell have been under-performing since joining the team and Bairstow was riding the pine pony for most of the 2014-2015 season, playing only 64 minutes. So you can see where some of the apprehension was coming from on draft night.

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Chris Zois / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Fri Jun 26 2015

Blackhawks Parade and Rally Another for the Ages

Chicago Blackhawks It was a thrilling ride the Hawks took us on the last two months, and it ended with a third Stanley Cup in six years, and the team's sixth overall in its history (that still seems way too low). After commissioner Gary Bettman awarded Duncan Keith his much-deserved Conn Smythe trophy and asked captain Jonathan Toews to come over to accept Lord Stanley, all that was left was the celebration.

For those who missed out on flooding the streets of Wrigleyville, or packing into those trendy downtown nightclubs, which now hang the iconic Blackhawks logo, there was to be yet another celebration for all on Thursday, June 18, rain or shine. Unfortunately, too much rain forced the city to hold the rally at Soldier Field; however, despite the lack of space to pack hundreds of thousands in attendance, the impromptu event seemingly ran efficiently.

Local photographer Joshua Mellin beautifully captured some of the images from the Hawks' rally. So even if you weren't able to make the party of the year, Joshua's images will put you front and center.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Bulls Wed Jun 24 2015

Draft is Key to Bulls' Future Success

BullsThe NBA Draft may not have the same hype as its counterpart in the NFL, but it is the linchpin for NBA teams' futures. A solid selection during the draft can have a lot more impact than signing an aging free agent or swapping for a one-year rental at the trade deadline. For the Chicago Bulls, this year's draft on June 25 could be the blueprint for their future.

The Bulls are in a quasi-transitional phase. Their core group of players remain intact, but they have a rookie coach and a new offensive strategy to implement in the coming year. Coach Fred Hoiberg has signed up for an interesting adventure. He has inherited a team that has very little salary cap wiggle room and a roster of war-torn veterans and unproven sophomore players. Hoiberg won't have the luxury of chasing a big free agent signings like Kawhi Leonard or Marc Gasol, so it is important that he and the front office are smart in Brooklyn.

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Chris Zois / Comments (1)

White Sox Thu Jun 18 2015

No Offense, but the White Sox Can't Hit

Chicago White SoxWhen you sit and think about it, it's perfect that the White Sox are 28-37. They have the talent to be much better, but in reality, the Sox should be much worse.

The team's Pythagorean win-loss record 24-41 and the Sox's run differential is negative-69. The problem has been twofold: The defense has been awful, ranking last in Baseball Prospectus's Defensive Efficiency. That has marred the pitching: The defense has bumped Chris Sale from excellent to just great, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon from good to average and John Danks from potentially feisty to dreadful. Jeff Samardzija hasn't gotten any help from his fielders, either.

But the offense has been just as abysmal.

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

Bulls Thu Jun 18 2015

Hoiberg's Coaching Staff Coming Together for the Bulls

BullsFred Hoiberg's coaching staff is slowly coming together as the Bulls have officially hired Jim Boylen as associate head coach. Boylen is no novice to the game -- he's coached at both the college and pro levels for more than 30 years.

Hoiberg has expressed his desire to add a seasoned veteran to his coaching staff. Boylen meets all those requirements and Hoiberg expressed his enthusiasm for the new associate head coach.

"I am very excited to add Jim to our staff as our associate head coach,'' Hoiberg said in a statement released by the team. "His track record speaks for itself with nearly 30 years of coaching experience and three NBA championships on his resume."

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Chris Zois / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Tue Jun 16 2015

Blackhawks Win Third Stanley Cup in Six Years

Chicago Blackhawks As the Blackhawks stood in line last June to shake hands with the Los Angeles Kings after dropping a Game 7 thriller at home, each player who remained wanted to do whatever possible to erase that memory from their mind, and make it right for a fan base which had grown tenfold.

Repeating as champs in any sport is the toughest thing there is to do; repeating as champs in a salary-cap era is nearly impossible. The Hawks had managed to win two in its cap era, but the Kings matched that feat after wiping through the Rangers in last year's Final.

After a long offseason, a series of ups and downs throughout the regular season, and a rather erratic start to the postseason, the Blackhawks -- period by period, game by game -- began to erase that memory. And then, finally, just as the skies opened from up above the city and unleashed a torrential downpour before Game 6, the Hawks washed away all memories from a year ago, and eventually shook hands on the very same spot, but this time as Stanley Cup champs -- now its third in the last six years.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Tue Jun 09 2015

Blackhawks in a Familiar Spot Down 2-1

Chicago Blackhawks After Brandon Saad gave the Hawks a 2-1 lead a little over four minutes into the third period of Game 3 Monday night, the cheers that followed nearly tore the paint off the United Center. The passing that occurred to set it up -- Jonathan Toews slings the puck up to Duncan Keith at the point, to Marian Hossa down low, and across to a wide-open Saad for pay dirt high on Ben Bishop's glove side -- was a thing of beauty, and something Hawks fans wished would occur on an actual power play from time to time.

Nevertheless, the goal was a real back-breaker for Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, especially after his team blew a five-on-three power play late in the second period. The Hawks looked to open things up after such a textbook play; however, a mere 13 seconds later, Ondrej Palat tied the game as Gene Honda was still announcing Saad's go-ahead score when Braydon Coburn beat Marcus Kruger on a pinch to set it all up the other way.

The Lightning eventually took the lead for good after Cedric Paquette took a beautiful feed in front of Corey Crawford from Victor Hedman with just 3 minutes, 11 seconds remaining in regulation, to give Tampa Bay and the legion of Hulkamaniacs, a 3-2 win and a 2-1 series lead. It was quite deflating for those watching at the UC, at home or at their local watering hole, but it's a situation the Hawks have been in before and a deficit they can overcome like they did in 2013.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

White Sox Fri Jun 05 2015

Samardzija, White Sox Have Small Margins of Error

Chicago White SoxWhen Jeff Samardzija was traded to the White Sox in December, the expectations were that he and Chris Sale could form possibly the best one-two pitching combination in the American League.

Two months into the season, that hasn't quite been the case. Chris Sale has been great, but Samardzija, with a 4-3 record and 4.68 ERA, has taken his hits.

Of course, many of the preseason White Sox projections have been inaccurate so far. But what's up with Samardzija?

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Thu Jun 04 2015

Blackhawks Match Lightning Speed to Take Game 1

Chicago Blackhawks If the first 10 minutes of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final was any indication as to how the Tampa Bay Lightning were going to go about playing in this series, the Hawks quickly countered and was able to catch up in faceoffs and speed to steal home ice after a 2-1 win at Amalie Arena.

A lot was made, coming into this series, about Tampa's top-scoring threat in Steven Stamkos, as well as the "Triplets Line," consisting of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat and their creativity and speed on the ice. The talent is undeniable, but it was two players from the Hawks' "80's Night" line, in Teraveinan and Antoine Vermette, who were the difference on offense.

The Lightning brass took a lot of measures to keep Hawks fans from buying tickets and raining on its parade for these first two games of this series, which proved to be a lame move, but somewhat successful. What they couldn't stop was the Hawks reigning the final 20 minutes and stealing home ice in this final battle for Lord Stanley's Cup.

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Jim Crago / Comments (1)

Blackhawks Mon Jun 01 2015

It's Blackhawks & Lightning for the Stanley Cup

Chicago Blackhawks After battling though six unforgettable games against the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Final, the Blackhawks managed to calm everyone's nerves after the first 20 minutes of play in the deciding Game 7. The feeling was either the Hawks in a close one or the Ducks mow right through in a laugher.

Instead, it was captain Jonathan Toews scoring the game's first two goals, which resulted in Bruce Boudreau's team playing on the backs of its skates in yet another disappointing finish to a Game 7. The 5-3 final from the Honda Center Saturday evening may look close, but the game was pretty much over after Toews' second and now his team finds itself playing for its third Stanley Cup in six years.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Thu May 28 2015

Blackhawks Force Game 7 on Shoulders of Duncan Keith

Chicago BlackhawksThere was something about going into Wednesday night's Game 6 that felt different for a Blackhawks team looking to avoid elimination on its home ice at the United Center. The Hawks have been circling the waters around these Ducks the previous five games, looking to strike and draw blood with not merely a flesh wound, but to devour their opponent, but haven't quite found the right gear to do so.

Some bad turnovers, line experimentations and a sub-par power play have kept the Ducks along and above water -- not to mention the Ducks' size and quickness to choke out a lot of shot attempts. It's been a back-and-forth series thus far, and after a 5-2 win to even things out, there's no doubt Saturday's Game 7 will be no different.

When the Hawks have been down in this series, they appear to be skating with a hockey organ strapped to their backs. When they find a groove, it's due to their all-world defenseman Duncan Keith, strapping his teammates to his shoulders to lead the way on both ends of the ice, much like he did in Game 6.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

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