One NHL team is off to its best start ever

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One NHL team is off to its best start ever

From Comcast SportsNetCHICAGO (AP) -- The Chicago Blackhawks are off to the best start in their 85-year history, despite not being in charge for much of their game against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night.Thanks to Nick Leddy's goal at 2:45 of overtime and a zoned-in, 29-save effort from Corey Crawford, the Blackhawks defeated the Red Wings 2-1 and improved to 6-0.After taking a cross-ice pass from Viktor Stalberg, Leddy fired from the left circle and beat Detroit's Jimmy Howard with a shot that slipped just under his glove. Leddy, a defenseman, said it was his first overtime goal at any level."It's an unbelievable feeling, one I'll never forget," he said. "I heard that stat (best start) before the game. If we stick to doing the little things, we'll be great."The Blackhawks started 5-0 in 1971-72 -- Hall of Famer Bobby Hull's final season in Chicago -- and matched it on Saturday night with a 3-2 win in Columbus.On Sunday, however, they were anything but assertive for much of the second and third period. Part of that was penalty-related.Still, Chicago killed all six of Detroit's power plays, improving to 22 of 23 this season.Detroit's Johan Franzen finally connected at even-strength early in the third to tie the game at 1 and set up overtime. Duncan Keith scored a power-play goal in the first period for Chicago."We could have been on our heels a little bit," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "Detroit was pressing (being) down a goal. You know everything's coming. They were pinching."We could have been better, but at the same time, six (games) in nine (days) could have been a factor."Quenneville couldn't really fault his club, one of two undefeated NHL teams along with San Jose."I think everybody deserves credit," Quenneville said. "Everybody's contributing. Everybody was where we wanted them to be. Everybody had good conditioning to start with. Special teams, Crow (Crawford) in net, the team game. I'm pleased."Crawford, who made his fifth start in six games, was sharp again. Last season, the Blackhawks' 28-year-old No. 1 goalie was criticized for allowing soft and untimely goals. That hasn't happened so far this season."Focus has been a huge part of it so far," Crawford said. "I thought I was focused last year, but I wasn't quite there."This year, I've paid a little bit more attention to that, especially throughout the game. Every play around the net, I'm ready and getting low for little things around the net so I don't give up those little goals."Crawford needed to be sharp when his teammates sagged on Sunday."I thought we really carried the play in the last 30 minutes of the game," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "They were better than us early. They outskated us, and then we really dug in and got playing a while. We had every opportunity to win the game."Injury-depleted Detroit has gone just 2 for 26 with the man advantage so far."We've got to shoot the puck a little more and maybe things will be a little different," Franzen said. "It think it's just a matter of getting the shots and getting the traffic."Howard, who has started all five of Detroit's games, made 25 saves.Chicago has won four straight against Detroit, dating to Feb. 21, 2012. The Blackhawks and Red Wings met for the 722th time, the most of any two NHL opponents.Sunday's game was only the Blackhawks' second at home, and they begin a six-game road trip Wednesday in Minnesota. The Blackhawks don't skate at home again until Feb. 12 as they play 10 of their first 12 games away from the United Center.Keith scored the only goal of the first period, during a power play 2:24 in.Crawford had to be sharp to preserve the lead in second. Early in the period, he made close-in saves on Todd Bertuzzi and Henrik Zetterberg. And the Blackhawks needed Crawford as they ran into penalty trouble in the second. Detroit was unable to convert any of four straight power plays beginning midway through the second, including a 43-second 5-on-3 advantage."The D were blocking the shots," Quenneville said. "Key saves by Crow (Crawford). It was a group effort, with spectacular kills."We dodged a bullet. It was the key to the game."The Blackhawks started the third sluggishly, and Franzen finally tied it at 1 with an even-strength goal at 4:30 of the period. After Zetterberg's shot was blocked, Franzen picked up the loose puck and closed in from the right circle. He got by Keith and beat Crawford with a shot between the legs.Crawford made a point-blank stop on Cory Emmerton midway through the third to preserve the tie.Howard then made sprawling saves on Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews during a Chicago power play with just under 5 minutes left in the third. Keith's shot a minute-and-a-half later hit the post.Crawford stopped Franzen's prime chance 1:30 into overtime.Notes: Red Wings D Jonathan Ericsson returned after missing three games with an injured hip. ... Detroit C Darren Helm (back) and D Jakub Kindl (healthy scratch) sat out after playing on Friday against Minnesota. Both have missed four of five games so far. ... Red Wings D Ian White (leg), D Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) and LW Jan Mursak (shoulder) and G Jonas Gustavsson (groin) remain sidelined. ... Out for Chicago were LW Daniel Carcillo (knee) and D Steve Montador (concussion, from last season) ... The 1971-72 Blackhawks won nine of its first 11 games en route to a 46-17-15 record and first place in the NHL's old Western Division.

Bears In-Foe: Can this offense expose two key Lions injuries?

Bears In-Foe: Can this offense expose two key Lions injuries?

Coming off two long fourth quarter drives by the Titans the week before that cost them their home opener, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers kept Detroit's defense in the dumps Sunday, shredding the Lions for 31 first-half points.

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has been tasked with replacing the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, and Stephen Tulloch over the last couple of years, and having to Band-Aid the unit from key injuries. One was game-changing linebacker DeAndre Levy, who played just 17 snaps all of 2015 after signing a $20 million extension. Austin, who's had nine head coaching interviews the past two off-seasons, had to be welcoming Levy back with open arms. Then he suffered a quad injury in the Titans game, sat out versus the Packers, and his status will be one to watch this week.

Then there's Ziggy Ansah, the fifth overall pick from 2013 who's only in his sixth year of even playing football.  His 14.5 sacks last season gave him 30 in 46 career games and made him the new centerpiece of the defense. But the Ghana native sustained a high ankle sprain in that same game against the Titans and is not expected to be ready for Sunday's noon date on the lakefront.

Who could possibly pick up some of that pass rush slack? Ladies and gentlemen, meet Kerry Hyder.

Who?

The undrafted free agent spent 2014 on the Jets' practice squad, then moved to the Lions last year. He almost seemed destined to spend another year on The Squad before he finished the preseason strong. The door opened, and the 6-foot-2, 270-pound end has four sacks so far. Tackle Haloti Ngata, who is 32 years old, struggled with injuries after coming over to help replace Suh, but finished strong, and has started well. Second-round pick A'Shaun Robinson rotates in after the Alabama product was passed over by the Bears.

[MORE BEARS IN-FOE: From Megatron to MegaMarv?]

Levy's injury left the Lions with only four linebackers at Lambeau after one promotion from the practice squad. Speedy, physical Tahir Whitehead took over for the now-departed Tulloch in the middle and earned his way into the starting lineup the last couple of years. Austin has given the other starting spot to Kyle Van Noy in a last-ditch attempt to prove spending a second-round pick on him in 2014 wasn't a mistake.

The secondary includes a stud corner and safety. Darius Slay (2013 second round) has turned into their shutdown guy and signed a four-year, $48 million extension in July. Nevin Lawson is just 5-9 but plays physical and fast opposite Slay - and was called for a 66-yard (!) pass interference penalty Sunday. Free safety Glover Quin's interception has the defense's lone takeaway this season and is one of the game's best. The team invested a fourth-round pick on heavy-hitting Miles Kinnebrew, and injury-prone Rafael Bush in free agency. But former Illini Tavon Wilson was signed away from the Patriots and held down the strong side before departing Sunday's loss with a neck injury.

Special teams

The Lions' coverage teams are top ten in both punts and kickoffs. The loss of Ameer Abdullah to his foot injury will affect the return game firepower, with backup wideout Andre Roberts filling in. Kicker Matt Prater is 5-for-6 on field goals thus far after being fifth in accuracy last year, including a 59-yarder versus the Bears at Soldier Field in last year's season finale.

New teammates, new changes put Jimmy Butler at ease

New teammates, new changes put Jimmy Butler at ease

The earrings were gleaming from Jimmy Butler’s ears, as he was his usual-disarming self with a playful smile and wink during his question-and-answer session with the Chicago media.

At a point, he took a deep breath as he looked around the Advocate Center with some of his new teammates walking around, some of whom had to carry nameplates because they weren’t recognizable faces in this new setting.

And because new faces are in town, it means two things: some faces left town and for Butler’s sake, the new ones will only know him as “Jimmy Butler, All-Star”, not the guy who was a late first-round pick, not the player who couldn’t get off the bench.

Butler didn’t bring up his comfort level, but when asked, he didn’t deny things appear to be a bit easier this time around.

“Does it make me feel more comfortable? I mean, to an extent, yeah, because then you can never say how you may have think that I’ve changed,” Butler said.

Butler’s ascension rubbed some the wrong way last season, and it’s been spoken about ad nauseam, whether it was true or not. But the moment of honesty wasn’t so much a shot at Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah, who departed for the Knicks in various forms; however it was an admission to his level of security, one that perhaps can lead to a more peaceful existence with all the core pieces.

The one way he’s always lead and will always speak to, is by example and work ethic. It’s one that turned him into an All-Star and Olympian.

[MORE BULLS: Wade in Bulls jersey: same material, different reality]

“I think everybody that’s on this roster now just knows how hard that I’ve worked to get to this spot that I’m at,” Butler said. “They’ve seen it. They’ve witnessed it. All they’ve been around for me is this point of my career. I don’t know if it sounds bad. But I think that all these guys look at, ‘If Jimmy works like that and if I work like that, I’ll be in the same position that he’s in.’ I’ll be more than happy to let you have that position because I think hard work can get you anywhere that you want to get to.”

So with that, Butler volunteered himself to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, to be the sacrificial lamb of wrath if need be. Easy to say if he doesn’t actually believe Hoiberg is capable of going from nice guy to madman at a moment’s notice but Butler laid it out for the record.

“I told Fred, ‘As much as you can, use me as an example. I want you to really get on my tail about every little thing.’,” Butler said. “Because if Doug or Tony or whoever it may be is watching coach talk to me like that, it’s going to be like, ‘If he can talk to Jimmy like that, I know he’s going to come at me a certain way.’ That’s what I try to remind him every day. I think he’s ready for that. I’m a player. I’m coachable like everybody else. I want that. I need that.”

The additions of Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo add championship receipts to a locker room that needs it, considering the Bulls want to play their young pieces. Wade and Rondo, the Bulls privately believe, will help Butler deal with everything that comes with a new role of leadership — and by proxy, Butler’s relationship and expectations of Hoiberg.

“He was put in a position last year he wasn't familiar with and I think we'll see growth from it,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. “The great thing about Jimmy is you know he comes in each and every day and gives 100 percent. He gets better every year and I think we'll continue to see that growth in his game and him as a person. I think that experience with USA basketball was real positive for him.”

Whether the trio lives up to the “Three Alphas” nickname remains to be seen, but after having a locker room with too many low-pitched voices, perhaps the change in pace — any change in pace — will be a welcome one for Butler.

“The Alpha thing, I think we’ll be just fine. Everybody is going to have something to say,” he said. “As long as everybody is listening and is willing to take some criticism if you’re doing something wrong, just like if you’re doing something right I’m going to tell you, there’s good and bad in everything you do. At the end of the day, as long as we win games, it won’t matter.”