Benz: Penguins – Capitals Sequel Lives up to Hype even if Stars Didn’t


2016 Penguins-Capitals was Epic in its Own Way The sequel rarely lives up to the original. But when it comes to Penguins vs Capitals…this was a really good effort. “Sorry to disappoint,” said a laughing Sidney Crosby after the Penguin 4-3 OT elimination win over the Capitals in game six Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center. From his personal point of view you can understand that response when I asked Crosby to compare this recently completed Pittsburgh win over Washington to the legendary 2009 series. The same response could’ve been anticipated for Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. The three NHL mega stars combined for just three goals in 21 periods of hockey. In 2009, Sid and Ovi had three each in one game alone. So, no. The star power didn’t shine as bright as it did in the 2009 epic. But that didn’t make this edition any less exhilarating. Tension?Read More »

Grading Steelers 2016 Draft Class


Steelers Draft Roundup The 2016 Steelers’ draft class is complete. A lot of defense. A good amount of potential on special teams. Almost nothing on offense. Here’s a look at each pick with the obligatory subjective attempt to put an objective grade on a group of players who have never even played an NFL down. (Grading based on how good the pick appears to be relative to where he was drafted, and how he fits the roster) 1st Round…ARTIE BURNS (CB/MIAMI, FLA.): The analogy I keep using on Burns is this: It’s like you’ve saved up enough money throughout high school to buy yourself a car for graduation. Then you get it home and realize you don’t like it because you should’ve gotten it in red instead of blue. I feel that way anyway. And I’ve gotten the impression from many Steelers fans that I’m not alone. After 19 yearsRead More »

Round 1 Talking Points: Consolation Prize for Steelers?


Round 1 Talking Points: Consolation Prize for Steelers? Every year the NFL draft amazes. It’s way too long. Nothing much physically happens. Yet it generates a thousand talking points. Here are a few. Some of them Steelers specific. Some of them not. But all of them memorable from a night certain people would want to forget. …. The streak is over: For the first time in 19 years the Steelers used a first round pick on a cornerback. It’s something Steeler fans and some media members have been demanding the Steelers do for years now. Yet the pick was met with muted enthusiasm in Steeler nation. The main reason why is that the selection of Artie Burns out of Miami (Fla.) felt like a consolation prize. Quite a few people in Pittsburgh (with yours truly leading the way) were pounding the drum for a different cornerback: William Jackson III outRead More »

Game 5 Post-Game: Past problems get whacked down for the Penguins


Game 5 Post-Game: A monumental departure The Penguins played a hockey game Saturday afternoon. They also played a game of Whack-A-Mole, smacking down just about every problem that has cropped up for them in recent playoff appearances. -Can’t beat the Rangers in the post season: WHACK! -Can’t close out a team when they have them down in a series: WHACK! -Don’t play well in the afternoon: WHACK! -Can’t clinch a series on Consol Energy Center home ice: WHACK! -Can’t get pucks past Henrik Lundqvist: WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! The 6-3 final on the jumbotron in game five was misleading though. It wasn’t even that close. That was such a series deciding blow out, I was waiting for Jim Paek to score. It was a monumental departure from what we have seen since the Penguins last won the Stanley Cup in 2009 when it comes to finishing off aRead More »

Game 2 Analysis: Rangers turn the tables on the Penguins


Penguins – Rangers Game 2 Analysis If you are looking for low hanging fruit to craft an explanation as to why the Penguins lost 4-2 in game two in their opening round NHL playoff series against the Rangers, the options are many. –Evgeni Malkin returned from injury and threw off the chemistry –Jeff Zatkoff came back to earth –Mike Sullivan should have continued using seven defensemen. You could advance any one of those three theories. You could. But you’d be wrong. Malkin was fine in his return. Especially early. He and Kris Letang nearly scored on a nifty give and go on his second shift. And he made a slick play passing himself the puck off his skate as we have seen him do many times. Plus he had a third period assist on Phil Kessel’s 4-on-3 power play goal. It’s tough to really pin any of New York’s fourRead More »

Penguins focused on being who they are and maintaining their identity through playoff run


IN THE NAME OF THE IDENTITY During this now decade-long run of consecutive NHL playoff appearances, the Pittsburgh Penguins’identity has been that of numbers. 87 71 29 58 And unfortunately….1. No, not as in Brent Johnson. As in just one Stanley Cup. If this is the year that number turns to “2”, Penguin head coach Mike Sullivan wants Pittsburgh’s identity to remain what it has been as his club went 14-2 over the last month of the season. 87 81 62 58 6 4 43 And any one of the many others on that team that can skate with hair-on-fire kind of speed that you care to reference. It’s an identity that seems to have reattached this club to its fan base. A fan base that loves to bask in its team’s storied history of Art Ross trophy winners (four different men/15 times). A fan base that gladly has turnedRead More »

Surfing Through the Fallout from the “Burfict Ending” Gameplay


SURFING THROUGH THE FALLOUT FROM THE “BURFICT ENDING” GAME This morning was a first. Not sure if I’ve ever been on the air doing a post game show until 3am, then waking up while asking myself the question: “Did we get to everything last night?” Sadly, the answer was probably no. A few hours on the air wasn’t enough to wrap up a few hours of chaos in Cincinnati on Saturday night. That will probably continue all week. And it better. Because fines, suspensions, and potential firings could &/or should be the fallout from that display between the Steelers and Bengals in the first round AFC Playoff game. The Steelers won 18-16. But how the Bengals lost is getting most of the debate nationally now. Rightly so, the Bengals morphing into the Bungles once more is the top story. But the Steelers were also accessories to this crime against sportsmanship.Read More »

Benz: No clear favorite in tonight’s Steelers – Bengals Tilt


STEELERS – BENGALS UP FOR GRABS It shouldn’t be this hard. It really shouldn’t. It shouldn’t be this difficult to pick the Steelers to win their Wild Card game in Cincinnati tonight. After all, Ben Roethlisberger has only lost twice in Paul Brown Stadium. His opposing quarterback, A.J. McCarron, will be making his NFL playoff debut as a starter. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1990. All the history says bet on the Steelers. But what matters most, the present, suggests this game is up for grabs…or it may even tilt in favor of Cincinnati. In fact, for every argument you present in favor of the Steelers, there’s a “yeah, but…” which should give you pause. THE BENGALS ARE PLAYING WITHOUT THEIR STARTING QUARTERBACK: Yeah, but…is that as bad of a thing as it may appear on the surface? Andy Dalton’s playoff history is bad. He’s got anRead More »

Encouraging signs from Fleury’s return game vs Islanders that will be tested in home-and-home series with Blackhawks


ON FLEURY’S RETURN PERFORMANCE VS ISLANDERS Sure. The Penguins could’ve made it easier on Marc Andre Fleury Saturday night. A lot easier. Playing in his first game since December 14th thanks to a concussion, the goaltender had to face 40 shots. He stopped 38 of them and the Penguins beat the Islanders at Consol Energy Center 5-2. “That first period felt pretty quick. From watching on TV or up in the stands. It looks pretty slow,” said Fleury with his trademark giggle. “Then when you get in traffic with people around you it gets quicker.” But Fleury was plenty quick between the pipes himself. Especially on a save with 2.7 seconds left in the first period, stopping a wide open Nikolai Kulemin. That allowed the score to remain 2-0 Pittsburgh going into the first intermission. “That one felt good. It kept the score 2-0. And I felt it was aRead More »

Benz: Firing Mike Tomlin should be on the table


Mike Tomlin isn’t coaching for his job this weekend. But he should be. Even if the Steelers lose to the hapless Cleveland Browns on Sunday (which would complete one of the great Steeler collapses in recent memory after losing to similarly struggling Baltimore last weekend) Mike Tomlin’s job is safe. That’s how the Steelers operate. The organization hasn’t fired a coach since Chuck Noll took over for Bill Austin in 1969. But I had to couch that last paragraph a little bit. I stated “one of” the great Steeler collapses in recent memory because Tomlin has already been in charge as two other seasons came off the rails in ignominious fashion. In 2007, the Steelers dropped four of their final five games including a home playoff defeat against Jacksonville. And in 2012 the Steelers lost three times in December (including twice at home) to miss out on the playoffs. AndRead More »