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Insider Only On Replacing Malkin, Martavis Bryant/NFL’s Stupidity, Pitt/NCAA Tourney

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MONDAY BUZZ COLUMN

I checked with the Penguins and they insist that they will show up for the rest of the season.

The question, of course, is will they be showing up for the playoffs now that Evgeni Malkin is out at least until April?

Lots of people who follow and/or cover the Penguins wrote them off about 30 seconds after hearing the news about Malkin’s upper body injury and that’s somewhat understandable.

It’s understandable because the perception of the Penguins – with Malkin – has been that they are a borderline playoff team and not a serious contender for the Stanley Cup.

Funny, there aren’t too many people saying the same thing about the Chicago Blackhawks.

Since December 21st, after adjusting to their new coach Mike Sullivan, the Penguins are 21-15. The Blackhawks, over that same period, are 21-13.

And the Penguins just picked up four points on the road in Columbus, against a Blue Jackets team that had won 11 of its last 18 and by blowing out the Rangers in Madison Square Garden.

Who’s going to have to fill the void left by Malkin?

How about everybody?

As I’ve mentioned here before, there is nothing that is more of a factor when it comes to making a deep playoff run than health.

Over the past several years, the teams that have lost the fewest players to injuries have made the deepest runs. No team has had fewer major injuries than the Blackhawks.

Sidney Crosby’s job is a lot tougher. He’s going to get even more attention from opponents’ top defensive line.

Crosby is producing like the best player in the league again with 23 goals and 27 assists in his last 37 games. That’s a 50-goal season pace and nobody in the league has more points since Mike Sullivan showed up to coach him.

The consensus seems to be that Phil Kessel is the guy who has to make up for Malkin’s absence, but it’s a little unrealistic to expect his goal production to be better without Malkin centering his line.

The Penguins aren’t going to make a long playoff run without Malkin but it’s not unrealistic or unfair to expect them to play well enough without him to hold off teams like the Flyers and Devils.

And when you have two of the best centers, one of the best defenseman and one of the best goalies in the league on your roster, it’s not crazy to think that you can make a serious run at the Cup.

If, of course, they stay healthy.

And the Penguins won’t be the last playoff team to lose a star player between now and June.

Martavis Bryant/NFL Stupiditypit

-I’m having a little trouble buying Martavis Bryant’s depression defense. His agent, Brian Fettner, who didn’t know about Bryant’s possible season long suspension until reporters started calling him Saturday morning, told USA Today, “We’re all stunned. Me included. His isn’t a party issue. It’s a coping issue and a depression issue and he’s got to take care of it.”

Maybe it is a depression issue, but if the league buys that defense, why wouldn’t every player who fails a drug test make the same claim? (Bryant today accepted his suspension and will not appeal)

It’s just more proof of the stupidity of the NFL’s stance on marijuana use.

Why should the Steelers have anything to say about how Bryant copes with depression, boredom or anything else?

It’s March. He doesn’t have to catch a pass for at least six more weeks in mini-camp.

The suspension and the loss of income is likely to make him even more depressed.

If Bryant comes to work stoned, and it affects his ability to do his job, that’s a totally different story.

Otherwise, if Bryant wants to go skiing in Colorado, where weed is legal, and get Rocky Mountain High every night, the Steelers and the NFL should have nothing to say about it.

By the way, do you think there might be a coach or front office person or two who smokes weed every once in a while?

Pitt

PITT, SYRACUSE MAKING TOURNAMENT IS A TOURNAMENT WITH TOO MANY TEAMS

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About The Author

John Steigerwald

TIOPS Columnist

John Steigerwald, a life long Pittsburgher, has been covering PITTSBURGH sports since 1977 as a TV anchor/reporter, columnist radio reporter/commentator and talk show host. He is also the author of one of the best selling local books in Pittburgh history, "Just Watch The Game."

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