|Bulls and Blackhawks look strong midway through seasons|
|Written by Michael Boyd, Daily Vidette Sports Columnist|
|Thursday, 13 January 2011 00:10|
As All-Star voting heats up in both the NBA and the NHL, Chicago fans will have someone familiar to cheer for in both events.
Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is stealing the show in the Eastern Conference and could possibly make his first All-Star start in just his third year in the league.
The Blackhawks will send a few more including forwards Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp along with defenseman Duncan Keith, who all got the nod to play in Carolina.
Although Rose will be the only Chicagoan playing ball in the Staples Center Feb. 20, it doesn’t take away from the rest of the talent on the Bulls roster this season. Chicago is currently perched nine games ahead in the Central Division and its 25-12 record places the Bulls tied for third in the Eastern Conference.
Keep in mind, the third-place standing is all without the three-headed monster of Rose, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah on the floor at the same time.
Starting the year without Boozer, the Bulls stayed competitive at 9-6 until his return. However, the Bulls had to trade one big man for another when Noah went down, but were able to go 8-4 without him.
I would consider the first half of this Bulls season to be a great success so far. New head coach Tom Thibodeau has his team playing better defense than Chicago ever has in recent memory and the emergence of Rose as a potential league MVP has many fans talking.
Forward Loul Deng is finally filling into his role of small forward, because the offense is not so heavily dependent on his ability to drive and create plays.
Although the ‘Hawks are sending four instead of just one to the All-Star game, they are not in as great of shape as their United Center partners.
This year’s squad is noticeably different from the familiar faces of last year’s Stanley Cup champions and their record shows it. The Blackhawks sit third in the Central Division at 23-18-3, behind the Detroit Redwings and the Nashville Predators, and just eighth in the Western Conference overall.
One of the main reasons for the ‘Hawks’ lack of success thus far has been the subpar performance of their goaltenders.
When the organization had to clean house last offseason it made the big mistake of not resigning goalie Antti Niemi and instead opted for veteran free agent Marty Turco.
The former Dallas Star has not lived up to expectations with a 3.02 goals against average and 9-10-2 record, so he got the hook in favor of the younger Corey Crawford.
Crawford has been one of the few bright spots for the team this year, only allowing 2.23 goals per game and accumulating a record of 14-8-1.
Although he looks practically as young as I do, (I still get carded for rated R movies sometimes) his game is for real and the Blackhawks would be better off to not let another solid, young net minder out of their grasp.
It hasn’t been all bad news for the Blackhawks however.
Sharp is having a career year with 25 goals already, easily on pace to shatter his old high of 36. Defenseman Brian Campbell is also currently on a hot streak and is leading the team with a +19, nine points higher than any other Blackhawk.
As each season for the Bulls and ‘Hawks is not even halfway over, it is still far too early to punch any playoff tickets or count anybody out just yet.
If history proves anything, it’s that once the playoffs come around, anything can happen.