By Rob Steingall
Frank Francisco, Mets: After a few hiccups in the early stages of May, Francisco has been rock solid, converting his last five save chances without giving up a run. On the season, he's 14-for-16, which is certainly effective. The Mets aren't an offensive juggernautand will be in their share of close games, which should allow Francisco to have a plenty of opportunities to pick up saves for the remainder of the year.
Addison Reed, White Sox: There are always growing pains from rookies who are thrust into ninth inning duty, but Reed has handled his first few weeks as the White Sox closer exceptionally well. He's a perfect 7-for-7 in save chances, and he's striking out overa batter per inning. While he doesn't have name value just yet, that doesn't mean he can't net you a hefty profit the remainder of the season.
Ernesto Frieri, Angels: Outside of the Reds' Aroldis Chapman, I don't think there has been a more dominant reliever in the majors than Frieri. His numbers are extraordinary (26 IP, 1.04 ERA, 4815 KBB), and now he's picking up saves. He's good enough to lockdown this job and be one of the most dominant closers in the American League.
Alfredo Aceves, Red Sox: The nice thing about Aceves is that manager Bobby Valentine has no problem calling on him for multiple inning saves, allowing him to collect more strikeouts and help your ratios. He picked up two saves last week, and has a secure holdon the ninth inning gig.
Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners: With the saves landscape constantly changing, you need to chase every last handshake, which brings us to Iwakuma. He closed out two games last week, and while the Mariners bullpen situation is in a state of flux, you have to go withthe hot hand.
The Blackhawks’ starts have been all over the map this season but their finishes have usually been strong. That was the case again on Sunday night as the Blackhawks took a lead, lost a lead and regained a lead for good in their 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
This one featured a little bit of everything. So let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Vancouver.
1. Jonathan Toews breaks through. If the Blackhawks captain’s confidence was a little shaken with his lack of scoring this season, it should’ve gotten a boost with his Sunday outing. Toews’ goal and three assists were as big for him as they were the Blackhawks, who needed every bit of it late against the Canucks. In his last 12 games Toews has three goals and eight assists. He’s getting there. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “it seems like he was around the puck way more and when he does that, usually good things happen.”
2. Great start. This hasn’t been written very often but it was more than evident on Sunday night. If this wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best opening period of the season it was pretty close, as they broke out to a 2-0 lead against the Canucks. The Blackhawks, outside of a 3 ½-minute sequence without a shot on goal, were tenacious and ready to shoot, taking an 18-9 shots-on-goal edge in that first.
3. Corey Crawford rebounds. Quenneville considered Scott Darling for this game, an understandable thought with Darling coming off a 30-stop shutout. But he wanted Crawford to get back to where he was prior to his appendectomy, and Crawford took a step in that direction on Sunday night. In stopping 26 of 28 shots Crawford got his 18th victory of the season and 200th of his career. Quenneville said Crawford “looked like he was in control.”
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4. Michal Kempny’s tough stretch. When Kempny has been good this season he’s been very good. When he’s been bad... The defenseman was in the penalty box when the Canucks scored their first goal and he was beaten by Bo Horvat on the Canucks’ second goal. Kempny didn’t play the final 14 minutes of the game. Quenneville, who liked what Kempny brought on the team’s road trip, said Kempny just has to work through some things. “Coverage with awareness and knowing sometimes it’s man coverage, sometimes it’s playing the puck and clearing the loose stuff,” Quenneville said. “Defenseman is a tough position as you’re growing and learning it, but the more you play the better you play and I still think he’s making progress.”
5. Brian Campbell gets to keep No. 500 this time. Campbell thought he had his 500th point against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night but it was taken away. Well he got it back on Sunday night, setting up Richard Panik’s 11th goal of the season in the first period.