No reward for domination

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No reward for domination

The Blackhawks would probably be ahead by four or five against a lot of goalies, but their domination has been countered by Mike Smith - some by skill, others by some fortunate bounces. Each team's killed off a penalty.

Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp have all been put on separate lines by Joel Quenneville, in addition to the Bryan Bickell-Dave Bolland-Michael Frolik trio, but all four have threatened and spent a majority of their time in the 'Yotes end. Corey Crawford's only been tested a couple of times, but made a pair of quick saves.

Andrew Shaw has been extremely active and a factor on every shift in his return from a three-game suspension, and was denied at the doorstep off a perfect cross-ice feed from Kane on a rush.

Shots were 16-2 in favor of the Blackhawks.

Michael Jordan's in the house, and was introduced with Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita to a standing ovation.

Mets bash five homers off Jason Hammel as Cubs get clubbed

Mets bash five homers off Jason Hammel as Cubs get clubbed

NEW YORK — Cubs fans created a happy-to-be-here vibe during last year’s surprising playoff ride — and also booed Jason Hammel at Wrigley Field in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.

While this didn’t fit John Lackey’s classic definition of a “Big-Boy Game,” the New York Mets again crushed Hammel and dominated the Cubs during Friday night’s 10-2 blowout at Citi Field, reopening questions about that breakdown last October.

Hammel gave up 10 runs across four-plus innings in a game that didn’t have any flow with three separate rain delays that lasted one hour and 59 minutes combined. His ERA soared from 2.58 to 3.45 on July 1, perhaps foreshadowing another second-half fade.

After an offseason reboot, the Cubs hoped Hammel 2.0 would be a more sustainable model. The sign-and-flip guy had gone 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA through 17 starts in 2014 before getting packaged with Jeff Samardzija in the Addison Russell trade with the Oakland A’s (where he went 2-6 with a 4.26 ERA).

The punctuation to that NLCS sweep — getting four outs in an 8-3 elimination loss to the Mets — seemingly began with a leg injury that messed with Hammel’s mechanics and confidence and divided his season into before (2.86 ERA in 103-plus innings) and after (5.10 ERA in 67 innings) the All-Star break.

Once again, the Cubs couldn’t solve Jacob deGrom (4-4, 2.62 ERA), who allowed one run across five innings and finally got enough offensive support to earn his first win since April 30.

The Mets blasted five homers off Hammel, including back-to-back shots from James Loney (an injury replacement who had been with the San Diego Padres’ Triple-A affiliate in late May) and Asdrubal Cabrera in the second inning, Brandon Nimmo’s first in The Show and another lightning-quick swing from Yoenis Cespedes.

Everyone has off nights, Hammel has performed at an All-Star level for long stretches throughout his career, and the Cubs (51-28) still have the best record in baseball and a 10-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the division.

But with all these young power pitchers, Cespedes in the middle of their lineup, lights-out closer Jeurys Familia and a resourceful front office, the Mets (42-37) aren’t going to concede the pennant.

Is there actually reason for optimism with the Fire?

Is there actually reason for optimism with the Fire?

After back-to-back wins suddenly the doom and gloom surrounding the Chicago Fire has been lifted, at least for now.

The Fire played well in a 1-0 win against San Jose. That win came three days after beating Columbus in the U.S. Open Cup.

Granted, Columbus was short a couple key players due to injury and sat a couple more to rest them. Meanwhile, San Jose is so short on centerbacks that when coach Dominic Kinnear was asked about the team's injury problems, Kinnear jokingly asked the reporter if he could play centerback.

Still though, there was something about the Fire's play that showed genuine improvement from the early season games when the team struggled to put shots on goal, let alone get goals or wins. John Goossens nutmegged two players in the first half and scored the game-winning goal. Brazilian right back Rodrigo Ramos lived up to what Brazilian outside backs are known for, a flair on the ball and a desire to go forward at every opportunity.

“I think that’s the way you play when you’re having fun," Goossens said. "You’re doing your job and in the meantime you’re having fun. Rodrigo is a great player who can run 90 minutes and that makes it easier for me. When he’s coming, the defender has to make a decision what to do. Will he stay with me or go with Rodrigo? I think we have a great combination and we have to keep working on that to make it even better, to make it even more difficult for the opposing defenders.”

[RELATED: John Goossens scores first MLS goal in Fire win]

Ramos looked like he is playing with more confidence than he did earlier in the season. The 21-year-old lifted a ball over a defender's head to get around him and on another occasion flicked a ball with his back foot to draw a yellow card from Shaun Francis. In addition he delivered a number of crosses to give the Fire scoring chances.

“That’s one of my strengths, to be strong up top so I’m trying to use that to the team’s advantage," Ramos said through a translator. "The team is lacking assists so I’m hoping to give a lot of assists.”

[SHOP: Buy your Fire jersey here]

The way the season had gone before this week and how the past several years have gone, it's hard to believe multiple good things can line up for the Fire at once. Fire fans will be forgiven for cringing at the thought of optimism because they've been burned so much.

However, on face value, things are legitimately headed in a positive direction, which admittedly isn't tough for a team in last place. David Accam and Goossens are back from injury and producing. Arturo Alvarez and Matt Polster, both regulars in midfield when healthy, should be back from injury soon. Michael de Leeuw is set for his debut in the team's next match. As opposed to having a rail thin roster, which has struggled to fill out its bench due to injuries, coach Veljko Paunovic may now have some tough lineup selection decisions to make.

“We are getting there," Paunovic said. "I still believe there is a long way to go."

Of course, the standings still don't look good for the Fire. At 3-7-5, the Fire are tied for last in the league with Houston, and are six points out of the last playoff spot in the weaker Eastern Conference. This is one of the reasons why Paunovic was quick to emphasize the importance to keep the streak going in Toronto on July 9. That's a Toronto team which will be without injured Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Will Johnson and Clint Irwin.

"Next game we need another win and that’s our message now," Paunovic said. "We just started. We have to take advantage of this momentum, this great period we created in the last two games."

Report: It's a four-year deal between Joakim Noah and the Knicks

Report: It's a four-year deal between Joakim Noah and the Knicks

It was made known before the clock struck midnight on NBA free agency that Joakim Noah was likely heading to New York, and Friday night, Noah reportedly agreed to a four-year deal with the Knicks.

ESPN reported Noah and the Knicks agreed to a four-year pact worth $72 million, quite the long-term commitment from Phil Jackson to a player who missed all but 29 games last season and has appeared in more than 67 games just once in the last seven seasons.

Noah heads to the Knicks to re-team with Derrick Rose, who the Bulls traded last week in exchange for Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant.

Noah had a pair of recent All-Star seasons with the Bulls in 2012-13 and 2013-14, earning NBA Defensive Player of the Year honors and getting named to the All-NBA First Team in 2013-14, when he averaged a career-best 12.6 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per game.

But injuries kept him off the court often during the past two seasons, with him missing 15 regular-season games in 2014-15 and only appearing in 29 contests (with just two starts) in Fred Hoiberg's first season in Chicago.

In nine seasons with the Bulls, Noah averaged 9.3 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per game.

Noah and Rose both depart the Bulls for the Knicks, where they figure to start alongside Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.