Random News: Bull Market, a Night at the Tops

Random News: Bull Market, a Night at the Tops

Monday, Feb. 14, 2011
9:50 a.m.

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

Happy Valentines Day! Heres hoping you didnt have to stand in line at Walgreens at 6am for a crack at a the remaining dented boxes of Russell Stover chocolates. But if you did, congratulations for being persistent. Is it just me or is Valentines Day like a trip to a 4am bar? Think about it. They all kind of revolve around a certain air of desperation:

Why am I losing sleep over this? Should I really be spending all this money? Why was I talked into celebrating this nonsense? Stupid peer pressure. And reallywhat will I get out of this by nights end?

Anyway

Here are some random thoughts and observations from the sports world:

BULL MARKET: The Bulls just went a combined 7-5 on Novembers Circus Trip and Februarys Ice Trip out west. It is the best such mark since the 97-98 season. And the news only gets better for the Bulls: four of the next six opponents are against teams that currently sit outside the playoff bubble (CHA, TOR, MIL, WAS). Of course, the Bulls do play San Antonio (Thursday) and Miami (Feb. 25th) in that stretch. But one of the Bulls biggest tests of the year will be when the calendar turns to March. Four of the first five games are on the road. The first three of them: at Atlanta, at Orlando, at Miami. Looks like they timed out this Joakim Noah recovery schedule just right, eh?

SHUFFLE THE DECK: There is still time to register for the Shamrock ShuffleChicagos 8K race that begins and ends in Grant Park and winds through downtown. The race is perfect for the novice runner because it contains a marathon-like atmosphere (nothing says motivation like trying to keep up with 40,000 of your closest friends), but the distance roughly five miles--- is a little more kind to your knees than a 26.2 mile marathon. And if youre a runner looking for a unique workout this week, I suggest the Lake Shore Drive trail: heck, the city plowed that path sooner than some of the side streets. If youre in the suburbs, try out the Swallow Cliff slides on Route 83 just west of LaGrange Road. Its like a StairMaster on a sugar high: 121 steps of muscle-building. Hey, with the weather soaring to near 50 this week, its time to break away from the poorly-ventilated gymnasium. Take advantage!

A NIGHT AT THE TOPS: It is a rarity in high school basketball when a 1 faces a 2 in the regular season. Saturdays City-Suburban showdown between top-ranked Simeon and 2nd ranked Benet could just as well be called the Halleys Comet game by that regard. OKOK, the occasion isnt that rare (Im sure that the top two teams have faced each other in the regular season more than once in the past 75 years), but this game should be a real treat for the eyes. Simeon defeated Benet in a classic double-overtime game in the Hinsdale Central Supersectional last season. This years tilt will take place Saturday at the UIC Pavilion, with tipoff at 8:45. Benet features Northwestern-bound guard David Sobolewski and future Wisconsin Badger, 6-10 Frank Kaminsky. Simeon counters with sophomore phenom Jabari Parker and a well-balanced, state champion lineup. Both teams are undefeated and ranked nationally.
READ & WATCH: Complete preps coverage

SPRING TRAINING: Keep up with CSNChicago.com for all the latest news from spring training. Our Cubs insider Patrick Mooney will be on the beat this week in Mesa and Chuck Garfien will have up-to-the-minute information from White Sox camp in Glendale starting on Wednesday. Follow them on Twitter: @CSNMooney and @ChuckGarfien.
READ: The fundamental nature of Mike Quade

AND FINALLY: Tune in tonight at 7:30pm for the Comcast SportsNet Awards, benefiting the March of Dimes. The honorees chosen are top athletes from Chicago's professional teams who have made considerable contributions to their teams and the Chicago community.

MORE INFO: The 2011 CSN Sports Awards

This year's honorees include: Duncan Keith (Blackhawks), Taj Gibson (Bulls), Marlon Byrd (Cubs), Gordon Beckham (White Sox), Israel Idonije (Bears), Sean Johnson (Fire), Ozzie Guillen (Lifetime Achievement Award), Jonathon Ruiz (Inspirational Athlete Award). The event will also present a special champions award honor to the 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. A special preview show will air at 7pm.

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Yanic Perreault came onto the ice as the Blackhawks wrapped up practice on Thursday.

It’s been a relatively common sight the last few seasons. Most of the time, Perreault has helped out when a particular player is struggling from the faceoff dot. That was true with Artem Anisimov earlier this season. But with Jonathan Toews sidelined the Blackhawks have been even more focused on improving upon and winning faceoffs. Thanks to the extra diligence, they’ve done that.

The Blackhawks’ overall faceoff performance has steadily improved. They’ll see how it goes again on Friday night when they face the New York Rangers, their eighth consecutive game without Toews.

“We’re working almost every practice and trying to get better on faceoffs,” Anisimov said on Thursday. “If we win the faceoff, we start with the puck and it’s pretty good. You can go to the offensive zone or win in the offensive zone you start with the puck and you have the opportunity to shoot the puck all day and get chances. It’s a big part of the game.”

Enter Perreault, who was a great faceoff man during his NHL career. The Blackhawks players say Perreault offers a wealth of information in each session.

“It’s different every day. The whole science behind it, he’s been great since he was brought in,” Marcus Kruger said. “He always has something new he wants us to work on, whether it’s just timing or body-positioning or something like that. It’s a lot of different stuff and we work on new stuff every day.”

Rasmussen agreed.

“It’s a lot of things you can work on,” he said. “You try to work on being in a low position so you get stronger. [There are] a lot of small things on how you can go against other guys that do it certain way, and you have to find your own way, too.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Their first game without Toews, against the Anaheim Ducks, was dismal. Part of that is the Ducks having some tremendous face-off guys. But Toews is the Blackhawks’ best at the dot – he’s won 60.3 percent of the time this season – so that first game without him was rough.

Here’s how things have progressed for the Blackhawks, with faceoffs won and lost and percentage, in Toews’ absence.

Opponent Wins-Losses Percent
Ducks 18-49 27 percent
Kings 21-37 36 percent
Panthers 39-35 53 percent
Devils 22-27 45 percent
Flyers 22-31 42 percent
Jets 31-27 53 percent
Coyotes 30-28 52 percent

So yes, there’s been improvement.

“I think we hold our own,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Yan works well with our center men, they take pride in trying to be the best they can and now they’re taking some important faceoffs and some they probably haven’t taken in the past, whether they’re defensive or special-teams faceoffs. They’ve all won some important faceoffs for us at key times, too.”

The Blackhawks have done their best filling the void left by Toews, especially on faceoffs. There’s been a lot of work put into it, especially with Perreault following practices. But the results have been there.

“We know we’d like to start with the puck, and we had a couple of tough games when Jonny went down initially,” Quenneville said. “But it’s been much better since.”

High School Lites Week 2 basketball capsules

High School Lites Week 2 basketball capsules

CSN Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest high school basketball games across Chicagoland for another basketball edition of High School Lites. Catch the show live at 11 p.m. Friday on CSN and streaming at CSNChicago.com

The show will feature numerous teams in the CSN Preps Power Rankings. The best game on Friday night could be No. 16 Benet traveling to No. 15 Notre Dame in a clash of unbeatens in the ESCC but there will be plenty of other highlights to check for.

The Red-West, North Suburban and Southland are all prominently featured on the show this week while High School Lites will also have highlights from the SouthWest Suburban.

This week's Viewers' Choice Game of the Week generated over 5,000 votes as Von Steuben will travel to Taft to represent the Red-North.

We'll also have a Getting to Know feature on Conant senior guard Jimmy Sotos.

Thursday's Game

Hyde Park at No. 7 Kenwood, 4:30 p.m. -- Kenwood will try to keep its momentum going as they host Hyde Park in a Red-Central battle. Kenwood (5-1, 1-0) is coming off of a Red-Central win over Dunbar earlier this week while Hyde Park (3-1, 1-0) defeated Lindblom for a conference victory as well. The Broncos are still unbeaten in Illinois as they're relying on senior big man Manny Patterson and his talented group of teammates. Hyde Park is trying to figure things out in head coach Jevon Mamon's first season as Andrew Anderson had a nice game against U-High at the Chicago Elite Classic.

Friday's Games

No. 11 North Lawndale at Westinghouse, 4:30 p.m. -- The Red-West is going to be a lot of fun to watch this season as this should be an interesting game. The Phoenix (5-1, 1-0) knocked off Marshall for a Red-West win on Wednesday while Westinghouse (3-3, 0-1) is coming off of a tough double-overtime loss to Farragut. Westinghouse is going to have to slow down Carlos Hines and Martrell Barnes but they can counter with a talented senior of their own in Coreyoun Rushin.  

Kankakee at Crete-Monee, 6:00 p.m. -- We also head to the Southland on Friday night as Kankakee (1-3, 0-1) travels to Crete-Monee (3-2, 1-0). The Warriors survived a high-scoring, double-overtime win over Rich East on Wednesday as they're led by senior and Toledo commit Dwayne Rose, the nephew of Derrick Rose. Kankakee is off to a sluggish start as they've lost some close games and they could use a conference road win here.

Rich East at No. 19 Bloom, 7:00 p.m. -- Keeping it in the Southland, Rich East (2-4, 0-1) will try to shake off a double-overtime loss this week as they travel to face No. 19 Bloom. Rich East has two one-point losses and the double-OT loss to Crete-Monee this year, so they could be better than the 2-4 record indicates. Bloom (4-1, 1-0) was impressive during Thanksgiving week at the Chicago Heights Classic as they look like one of the premier teams in the South Suburbs this year.

No. 24 Thornton at Lincoln-Way West, 7:00 p.m. -- These two teams battled in the SouthWest Suburban Red last season and both programs return some key pieces. Lincoln-Way West (2-4, 1-0) is led by senior Marco Pettinato as he's an All-Area candidate and big-time scorer. Thornton (3-2) will counter with a big scorer of its own with senior Alonzo Verge.

No. 16 Benet at No. 15 Notre Dame, 7:00 p.m. -- This could be the best matchup of Friday night as two unbeatens clash in the ESCC. Benet (5-0) is coming off of a runner-up finish in Class 4A as they bring back some talented players like Jack Nolan, Liam Lyman and Justin Enochs. The Redwings have looked very good early this season as they've piled up a lot of double-digit wins. Notre Dame (6-0) is also off to a hot start as they picked up an overtime win over Loyola and another victory over Bartlett last weekend. The Dons have a lot of size on the inside as Chris Heinichen, Jeameril Wilson and Sean Johnson are all 6-foot-5 or bigger.

No. 12 Stevenson at Mundelein, 7:00 p.m. -- Stevenson is off to a great start as they try to carry that into Mundelein in this North Suburban contest. The Patriots (6-0, 2-0) are led by Indiana commit and senior Justin Smith as he's one of the best players in the state this season. Mundelein (2-4, 0-1) dropped one to Zion-Benton earlier this week as they try to get back on track in the North Suburban race.

Lake Zurich at Zion Benton, 7:00 p.m. -- Two team with high expectations in the North Suburban face each other in this one. Zion-Benton (2-1, 1-1) dropped a conference game to leader Stevenson last weekend but recovered with a double-digit win over Mundelein during the week. Lake Zurich (4-1, 0-1) dropped its conference opener to Waukegan after a 4-0 start to the season.

Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Von Steuben at Taft, 6:30 p.m. -- This week's poll was a tight one as over 5,000 people voted and this game barely beat Lane at Uplift. The Panthers (0-2, 0-1) are trying to pick up their first win of the season after losing to an out-of-state opponent and No. 9 Uplift. Senior Rafael Cruz put up monster numbers last season as he's the player to watch for Von Steuben. Taft opened its Red-North slate at home against Lincoln Park as they're facing two tough opponents right out of the gate at home. They'll try to capitalize on those early conference home games with a win here.