2011 has certainly been a rough year for Chicago sports fans.
The Bears, Blackhawks and Bulls all made the playoffs which is clearly a good thing, but the way they went out wasn’t pretty.
The Cubs are Chicago sports fans only hope now to win a championship. It’s been 103 years since they brought home a World Series title, so not a lot of hope is instilled in them.
Bears: 11-5, NFC North Division Champions
Lets start with the Bears, since this is a Bears blog. They finished the 2010-11 season with an 11-5 record. They clinched the NFC North crown in Week 15 in a win over the Vikings, where Devin Hester broke the all-time kick return touchdown record.
The Bears defense was back ranking ninth in the NFL, second at stopping the run and 20th at stopping the pass. The offense started the year struggling, but finished strong with the help of Jay Cutler and Matt Forte.
They took down the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Divisional round 35-24. But fell to their biggest rival, Green Bay the next week in the NFC Championship.
The Bears had their chances. They failed to beat the Packers in the Week 17 at Lambeau. If the Bears came away with the win, the Packers wouldn’t have made the playoffs.
The NFC Championship was a home game for the Bears at Soldier Field, but the Packers came away with the 21-14 victory. It was tough for a lot of Bears to fathom considering how great the team played all season, but a knee injury to QB Jay Cutler ended almost any possibility of a victory.
Third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie replaced the ineffective veteran Todd Collins, who came in for Cutler after he went to the bench. Hanie looked solid at times, but couldn’t take the Bears to the promise land. You can’t blame the young Hanie, but the Bears were in that game even with him until the end.
The Bears are not pleased by the way the season ended especially since they fell to their divisional rival in such a big game, but they will be back this upcoming season focused and ready.
The loss to the Packers may go down as the most painful in Chicago Bears history ranking on the same level as the Super Bowl XLI loss to the Colts and the 1988 NFC Championship loss to the 49ers.
Blackhawks: 44-29-9, 8th seed
Moving on to the Blackhawks of the NHL. This was the easiest to get over because they barely even made it into the playoffs. The defending Stanley Cup Champions hung around the Western Conference as the eighth seed because the Dallas Stars fell to the Minnesota Wild on the final day of the season.
The Blackhawks moved on to the playoffs, as a way different team as last year and found themselves in a similar spot, playing against the Vancouver Canucks. They quickly found out that the Canucks were much more physical and they fell down three to nothing in the series.
But they Hawks came firing back tying the series up at three apiece and forcing a game seven in Vancouver. They fought hard and sent the game to overtime. They even had a power play early in the overtime, but Patrick Sharp failed to cash in on a prime opportunity.
Minutes later defenseman Chris Campoli turned the puck over in the Hawks zone and the Canucks finished them for good. The series was tough for any die hard fan of Chicago sports, but the Hawks were lucky to make the playoffs, so forcing a game seven after being down three games to zero in the series was pretty impressive.
The Blackhawks will be a good team next season, they re-signed rookie goalie Corey Crawford to a three-year deal and may have found a gem in rookie forward Ben Smith. Plus most of them star players are intact.
Too many changes after a championship season doesn’t usually translate in another championship the following year and the Blackhawks saw that happen to them.
Bulls: 62-20, 1st seed in Eastern Conference
Maybe the toughest of them all for Chicago fans was the Bulls. The Bulls series ended last night as the Miami Heat won four games to one. The Bulls finished the season with 62 wins, an MVP in Derrick Rose and a coach of the year in Tom Thibodeau.
They beat the under .500 Indiana Pacers in the first round and the athletic Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the playoffs. They then hosted the Miami Heat, a team that they swept during the regular season.
Miami, who we all know has “the big three” in Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh came in beating Philadelphia and Boston in the first two rounds. The Bulls started the series looking real good by beating the Heat 103-82, but quickly fell apart. They dropped the next three games and it marked the first time all season that occurred.
They were controlling last night’s game holding a 77-63 lead with about three minutes left, but suffered a collapse, one that may carry over to the summer and beyond. It also marked the first time all season that the Bulls lost a game after winning by 10 or more points in the fourth quarter.
Derrick Rose was contained by the Heat and not many other Bulls players stepped up to help the MVP. Carlos Boozer struggled at times, Joakim Noah was consistently in foul trouble and Kyle Korver was just plain bad.
The Bulls need a shooter other than Derrick Rose, Luol Deng is a good player, but he would be even better as the third option. The Bulls have a young solid bench, who will only get better with time, but this team will never win without another star next to Rose.
It’s a shame to see the Heat move on considering how LeBron handled himself on national television with the “Decision” before the season. Also because LeBron controls outcomes of games with his flopping and complaining. I’m not going to say the referees controled all of the five games, but at times they made some flat out bad calls.
The last shot of the game by Rose, a three-pointer was an airball, it looked like it was blocked by LeBron, but I think Udonis Haslem hit Rose in the hand before the shot.
It’s too late to look back at all of the mistakes the referees or the Bulls players made. It’s simple they fell apart after surprisingly winning 62 games.
Overall, 2011 was a good year in Chicago sports, but it was a rough year the way the teams fell in the playoffs. The Bears, Bulls and Blackhawks should all be strong once again next season, but they will likely never forget the way they got bounced from their respective playoffs.
Next year could be the year or was this the year? That remains to be seen, maybe the anger and determination they went through will help all these teams reach the promise land.
The Cubs always have a chance, right?
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