STAY OUT OF THE BOX

 

How can a great hockey team drop points? Dumb penalties, that’s how. The Penguins gave a seminar in stupid over their last two games and were lucky to split. The Penguins put Phoenix on the power play nine times, allowing two man-advantage goals en route to a 3-0 home loss. Then Philadelphia had seven chances with the extra skater, netting twice as the Pens eked out a 5-4 road victory.

Yo, Mendenhall: Less poems, more playbook

 

Among big-time athletes, the least excusable sin is stupidity. Balls get dropped, old guys lose sprints to the sticks, babies get kissed, but fans forgive and forget if the effort’s there. When it comes to donning the stupid helmet like Kelso, though, wounds don’t heal. Three recent examples: *Rashard Mendenhall was nailed to the Steelers’ bench Sunday because HE DOESN’T KNOW THE PLAYS. That’s the basis of Mendenhall’s job. If you haven’t memorized your section of the playbook after 17 months, you’re lazy, illiterate, drug-addled or just plain stupid. Mendenhall was once robbed at gunpoint. The perps either stole his brain or playbook, possibly both. *Santonio Holmes didn’t read blitz, didn’t break his route properly and Ben Roethlisberger threw a pick-six. This is Holmes’ fourth NFL season. Holmes is a Super Bowl MVP. He can’t be asleep at the wheel. Hines Ward is a career overachiever partly because he alwaysRead More »

THE BALLAD OF PASCAL DUPUIS

 

Penguins training camp is winding down, and most of the guys you expert analysts out there figured had a shot are now apartment-hunting in Wilkes-Barre, and with multiple levels of disgust. The lone remaining people’s choice is winger Chris Conner, but the only way Conner sticks is if the Penguins can’t agree to a contract with tryout player Ryan Bayda. Bayda is three inches taller than Conner and more aggressive. Each has a journeyman’s resume.

THE PUBLIC ENEMA

 

I’m sure most of yinz are unhinged by the Steelers’ admittedly unhinging 17-14 loss at Chicago. Not me. TALK-SHOW GOLD. Today, we do not live in the City of Champions. We reside in the City of Scapegoats, and there is mucho blame-o to go around. To wit: *Jeff Reed. Both his misses were makeable. That he didn’t make at least one is inexcusable. Reed’s job is not a complicated one, and he failed miserably at it. Not good when you’re after a new contract. *Santonio Holmes. CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! *The Steelers’ defense. On Chicago’s 97-yard touchdown drive, James Harrison moved the Bears from their 3 to their 18 by roughing the passer. Lawrence Timmons kept the march alive with a third-down holding flag. Ike Taylor kept it going by missing a third-down tackle. In addition, Chicago set up the game-winning FG by moving 41 yards in 3:03 more than aRead More »

BRAVO, OVECHKIN!

 

I never thought I’d say this, but…bravo, Alex Ovechkin! The NHL has always been run by Canadians, for Canadians, even when NHL-affiliated events transpire elsewhere. Want proof? When the 2002 Winter Olympics took place in Salt Lake City, Canadians hired to tend the ice (the U.S. had apparently lost the recipe) interred a Canadian dollar coin under the center face-off dot. A lucky loony, buried in American ice. U.S. Coach Herb Brooks was not amused. Me, neither. The 2010 Winter Olympics take place in Vancouver. NHL players will participate, as they have since 1998. But the NHL has no commitment to the Olympics beyond Vancouver. There’s talk of this being the last Olympics NHL players will participate in. It disrupts the NHL schedule, it detracts from the Stanley Cup playoffs, blah, blah, blah…all that’s true, but why stop now? You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. But ifRead More »

DON’T BOO STULL; WEEP FOR BALDWIN

 

Pitt fans booed Bill Stull. They cheered Tino Sunseri. They should weep for Jonathan Baldwin. Not too many truths became self-evident during Pitt’s season-opening win – it was only Youngstown State, after all – but the most worrisome was the minimization of Baldwin. Baldwin caught three balls, all in the second half. Only two passes went in his direction during the first 30 minutes, one a misfired screen that almost got Baldwin killed, the other an overthrown bomb. A press-box wag wondered aloud if Baldwin would transfer at halftime. Baldwin later hauled in a 42-yard aerial from Sunseri, but it was a balloon. Pure helium. Baldwin could have fair-caught it. Coach Dave Wannstedt cited the defensive attention paid Baldwin for the lack of touches provided the 6-6 receiver. But if new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. can’t get Baldwin the ball against Youngstown State, what will happen against, say, Cincinnati?Read More »

SKATERS OF THE WORLD UNITE

 

The NHL Players’ Association has reorganized, ousting a cartel of cooperation led by the deposed Paul Kelly and setting the stage for Bob Goodenow-style hardliners to assume control in advance of the current CBA’s expiration on Sept. 15, 2011. That’s not good news. Hockey has long been its own worst enemy. In this case, NHL players just refuse to accept hockey’s status as a fringe sport. It’s not the NFL, MLB or even the NBA. TV ratings, in fact, give the nod to the World Series of Poker. The NHL isn’t New York. It’s Saskatoon. Hockey players tend to forget that. NHL superstars are quite happy with their level of pay even though Oliver Perez makes more than Sidney Crosby. Within the context of the revenue produced by hockey, the Crosbys, Malkins and Ovechkins do fine. They are fairly compensated. Fading older players are reportedly behind the union’s new-found militancy.Read More »

Doumit: I understand

 

Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit got benched because he pouted and whined about being a good player on a bad team, a team that’s rebuilding for a day by which time he’ll be long gone. I know – you’ve got to be a pro. I know – he’s making $2.35 million. I know – you can’t tank plays under any circumstances. I know – he’s having a crap year, so who’s he to complain? But really…do you blame Doumit? I don’t. We all want to win. More accurately, we all want a chance to win. Can you blame a guy who vents because he’s been in the majors since 2005, has NEVER had a legitimate chance to compete, and every time his team seems on the verge of having a decent roster, all the good players get scattered to the winds EXCEPT HIM? He’s like one of those POWs Rambo foundRead More »

Penguins have a conundrum with their top two lines

 

With Max Talbot injured, the Penguins have a conundrum with their top two lines. The Penguins have a bunch of guys who play left wing, period. Temporarily switching one to right wing on Evgeni Malkin’s line, as appears to be the plan, might not work. Pascal Dupuis is a left wing. Ruslan Fedotenko is a left wing. Move either to right wing, you got problems. Neither has the hands to consistently shift the puck inside, through traffic, to his forehand. Neither has the finishing skills to benefit from his shot being on the inside of the rink. Neither plays particularly well on his backhand. Either will have trouble taking the puck off the boards with control on his off-wing.

Hiring of Tony Granato makes sense; Penguins still looking to add?

 

The Penguins’ hiring of Tony Granato as their new assistant coach makes sense: He’s young (45), dynamic and within the framework of what the Penguins have been doing since appointing Dan Bylsma as the team’s coach. Granato is a former NHL head coach who doubtless wants to be the boss again. It’s gutsy for Bylsma to bring a potential successor on board. But Bylsma has a pretty long leash after winning the Stanley Cup as a rookie. Anyway, if a coach isn’t winning, his team will find his replacement somewhere. Granato’s appointment is odd from one standpoint: The Penguins are a high-powered, fast-skating, north-south team. Last season under Granato, the Avalanche scored just 199 goals, the worst total in the league and the lowest since the lockout year. The Avs played a clichéd dump, chase and cycle style en route to a mark of 32-45-5, last in the West. ButRead More »