Hawks-Flyers, Game 4: Philadelphia Freedom

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Hawks-Flyers, Game 4: Philadelphia Freedom

Friday, June 4, 2010
12:18 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

PHILADELPHIA One question is glistening on every Chicago Blackhawks fans lips. Is it:

How can our Hawks possibly rally from 2-1 up to win the Stanley Cup? No.

Will Philadelphia Flyers forward Dan Carcillo continue to play bright-eyed and bushy-faced, rocking his inner NASCAR daddy? Nah.

Should Chicago coach Joel Quenneville insert Bryan Bickell and Colin Fraser into the lineup for instascoring? Nope.

Will defenseman Chris Pronger decide to trash more pucks? Non.

Is Bill McCreary reffing tonight? Ding-ding-ding, there it is!

Its been another dreary set of games for the man now the most-tenured Stanley Cup Finals referee in history. Cough Natch we all expect a home-ice advantage, but unless Prongs is a hidden native Illinoisan, so far the calls have been a mite stingy on the Chicago side, with no trace of home-ice edge when the ice dancers are slogging through the soft surface of the United Center.

But while the staccato signals of the zebras whistles have made for great foddernot to mention five-on-fives turned into shorthandedness given the battles the Blackhawks have had with the refs so far in the Finals, there is blame to be laid at the Redshirts feet as well.

Dumb penalties, case in point Dustin Byfugliens slash on Pronger that led to Phillys second goal in Game 3, are nagging the Hawks, and team captain Jonathan Toews issued as big a scolding as youll hear him give after the teams self-handcuffing in Game 3.

Sloppy and excessive line changes arent helping matters, confusing the likes of alternacap Duncan Keith and earning a mea culpa from Q.

The Hawks have tended to play more conservatively than befits them, whether its hunkering down for the last 12 minutes of Game 2 or dampening down puck-possession suffocation in Game 3.

Thus we come not to bury McCrearyalthough lets hope the whistle is in his throat for any upcoming Finals games he has on the docket.

Brett Ballantini isCSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnikon Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawksinformation.

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

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USA TODAY

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

There were six teams deserving of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. But there were only four spots.

But what if there were more spots?

An expansion of the Playoff field to eight teams has seemed inevitable from the day the four-team system was announced. Four more Playoff games means oodles more TV viewers, which means oodles more dollars.

And then we wouldn't be having all these arguments, either — but that's nonsense because of course we would, trying to figure out who got snubbed from the expanded bracket.

But this season's emphasis on the conference-champion debate might kick the efforts to expand the Playoff into high gear. Just take it from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Now, technically speaking, there are 10 FBS conferences, each of which crowns a champion at the end of every football season. Emmert is obviously referring to the Power Five conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. He might want to pick his words a bit more carefully, considering he represents the other five conferences — the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt — too, but his point remains understood.

This season has sparked a ton of controversy as the Playoff selection committee opted for the first time to include a team that did not win its conference, Ohio State, and it picked the Buckeyes over the Big Ten champs, Penn State. Plus, Big 12 champion Oklahoma was passed over in favor of non-champion Ohio State, too, actually falling behind another non-champion from the Big Ten, Michigan, in the final Playoff rankings.

With that decision brought the reasonable question of how much a conference championship should matter in getting a team into the final four and competing for a national championship.

The Playoff committee's mission is to pick the country's four best teams, and there aren't many people out there that will argue that Ohio State isn't one of the country's four best teams. But there's something to be said for winning a conference championship because if the Buckeyes can waltz into the Playoff without even playing in the Big Ten title game, why even have a conference championship game — besides, obviously, earning one more night of big-time TV money.

And so the call for an expanded Playoff bracket has reached perhaps its greatest volume in the short time the Playoff has existed. The obvious solution to Power Five conference champions continually being boxed out is to lock in five spots on the bracket for the five conference champions. Then, guarantee a spot for the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, and you're left with two "at-large" spots that this season would've gone to Ohio State and Michigan, two of the highest-profile programs in the country sure to drive TV viewership in battles against conference-champion Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State and Oklahoma teams. And P.J. Fleck's undefeated Western Michigan squad takes the final slot.

That's quite the field. But if you think it would've solved all this year's problems, you're wrong. Still there would've been outcry that red-hot USC didn't make the field. The Trojans are playing so well that they could very well win the whole thing, despite their three early season losses. That debate over snubs will exist forever, no matter the size of the field, something we see play out each and every season in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Also, what a damper an expanded bracket would put on the final few weeks of the regular season. Ohio State's game against Michigan, the highest-rated game of the college football season with more than 16 million people watching, would've been effectively meaningless. No matter who won or lost, both teams would've made that eight-team field, right?

Additionally, another round of Playoff football would expand the season to 16 games for some teams. That means more physical demands on student-athletes and a season cutting deep into January, which would impact their educational and time demands.

But again, an expansion of the Playoff bracket has always seemed inevitable. There's too much money to be made, and at the same time fans seem to be all about that idea. People love the postseason for good reason, and the win-or-go-home nature of the NFL playoffs make those games the most-watched sporting events of the year.

Now the NCAA president is chiming in with hopes of an expanded field. So really isn't it just a matter of time?

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

CSN's Chris Boden and Tracey Myers have the latest on the Blackhawks in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

From an injury standpoint, it's been a tough few weeks for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are down two key players in captain Jonathan Toews and goaltender Corey Crawford, and now may be without defenseman Brent Seabrook who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

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While the Blackhawks haven't had much luck on the injury front, their upcoming two opponents are in the same boat.

"You look at the New York Rangers, a very talented team, but this is what every team goes through every season. Your depth gets tested," Myers said.

Check out what else Boden and Myers had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Ahead