GOOD TRIP FOR THE PENGUINS

OK, so the Penguins lost to the Capitals again.

The Caps have dominated the Penguins this season if you look at wins and losses but all you have to do is look at the last two games between the two teams to see that, if they meet in the playoffs,  it’s anybody’s ball game. Or puck game.

In case you had forgotten, before last night’s loss in the fourth round of a shootout, there was the game in D.C. last month. The Penguins, after playing in Montreal on Saturday, flying to Newark and taking a four hour bus ride to Washington,  lost 5-4 in overtime on a Sunday afternoon.

I wrote yesterday that what I want most from the playoffs this season is a seven game series with the Capitals.

Last night’s game had a playoff feel to it. When you see a game like that you have to be glad that there are so many hockey games in a season.  I mentioned in a post yesterday that the biggest difference between the Steelers and the Penguins is that the Penguins play three or four times a week during their season and the Steelers play no more than 20 games a year and that’s if they go to the Super Bowl.

With the NFL, there’s a lot of talking–at least 345 days worth–and not a whole lot of playing.

Last night’s game was as exciting as any game the Steelers played last season and it was one of only 81, with a possibility  of as many as 36 more.

The Penguins played their game almost all night. The puck spent most of the time in the Caps’ defensive zone and the Penguins played a solid defensive game.  They also played without Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar, both of whom figure  to make quite a bit of difference on the power play the next time these two teams meet.

A Penguins-Capitals Eastern Conference Final is what everybody in hockey–except for a few thousand Penguins fans–is rooting for.

Here’s hoping they get it.

DO THEY NEED BEN’S DNA?

The big story last night and today has been that authorities in Georgia no longer want Ben Roethlisberger’s DNA. That has created some speculation about the strength of the accuser’s case.

But DNA is only important when there is some dispute about whether any sexual activity took place.

If Monica Lewinsky hadn’t preserved that stain on her blue dress, she would have been painted as a stalker by Bill Clinton’s protectors and Clinton would have gotten away with having the majority of the country feeling sorry for him.

The DNA on that dress made Bill Clinton a liar and created some PR issues for him.

The difference here is that, as Andy Sheehan of KDKA-TV reported last week. Roethlisberger admitted that there was sexual contact between him and the accuser.

This is still likely to come down to a he said she said and I’m no lawyer, but I wouldn’t think that Ben should be looking at this as good news anymore than he should be lookig at it as bad news.

I do know you’re having a bad month when the best news you get is that the cops don’t want your DNA.

According to Sheehan’s report, Roethlisberger didn’t deny having sexual contact with the accuser. He said after their encounte she “slipped” and that’s how she suffered the facial injuries.

The main point of all of this is that, whether Roethlisberger is charged or not, he’s going to come out of it with a personal reputation that is in the toilet. And probably deservedly so.

I’LL TAKE CROSBY

It’s Ovechkin vs Crosby tonight in D.C.  Rob Rossi of the Tribune-Review polled some NHL writers to find out which of the two they considered the MVP.

There are good points made for both players but I thought the best case for Crosby was made by Ken Campbell of The Hockey News:

• KEN CAMPBELL, THE HOCKEY NEWS: I would submit that Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin have been equally brilliant this year, so I think this season it should go to the true MVP of the league, the player who has been adjudged to be most valuable to his team. And I would submit that player has been Sidney Crosby in 2009-10. Largely because Crosby has decided to add a lethal scoring touch to his arsenal, his presence on the Pittsburgh Penguins has had more of an impact than Ovechkin’s on the Washington Capitals. I would also submit that when it comes to producing offense, Ovechkin is blessed with a far superior supporting cast. As of this writing, Crosby has scored the all-important first goal of the game 12 times, Ovechkin 11. Including shootout goals, Crosby has scored 24 goals that have put his team ahead in games, while Ovechkin has just 15. But where I think Crosby gets the nod most is in the much maligned shootout. Aside from the fact that Crosby has one OT goal compared to zero for Ovechkin, Crosby has six shootout goals in eight tries this season, while Ovechkin has just one in seven. Three of Crosby’s goals were also game-deciding goals. Also, Crosby has missed only one game to injury this season, thus being more available to his team than Ovechkin, who has missed 11 contests with a combination of injuries and suspensions.

Campbell’s best point is that Crosby has scored more important goals. He didn’t mention a pretty important goal that he scored  in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago.

The best hockey players in the world were gathered there for two weeks and when it came down to the last second and the last goal that was going to decide the whole thing it was Crosby who scored it.

And the play started with him beating Brian Raflski in a battle for the puck along the boards.

You really have to watch Crosby game in and game out to appreciate him. Ovechkin is going to produce more spectacular highlights and more goals, but Crosby has two appearances in the Stanely Cup Finals, a Stanley Cup ring and a gold medal. Ovechkin has better highlights and more goals.

Damian Cox of the Toronto Star made the best case for Ovechkin:

• DAMIAN COX, TORONTO STAR: “He is the best player on the best team. It’s not a vote on last year’s playoffs or this year’s Olympics. It’s this regular season. Both Ovechkin and Crosby have been superb, Ovechkin slightly better with a team still establishing itself. He also took on a new role of captain seamlessly.”

If Ovechkin is on the bettee team, that makes Crsoby more valuable to his team.

I’m surprised that none of the writers mentioned face offs.  Crosby is one of the best face off guys in the league and face offs are HUGE in the playoffs.

Crosby is also the best in the league and the best I’ve ever seen at winning battles for the puck along the boards.  The Penguins game is predicated on contstant, relentless pressure in the offensive zone.  Crosby makes those offensive possessions last longer by refusing to allow opposing players to take possession and clear the zone.  That doesn’t show up on the stat sheet but it has a lot to do with winning championships and gold medals.

It’s universally understood that Ovechkin is the more physical player, but I don’t necessarily agree with that. Ovechkin makes the spectacular open ice hits that might make Sportscenter but Crosby is ever bit as physical. He just does the dirty work in the corners that doesn’t get noticed.

The temptation is to say that it doesn’t get any better than Crosby vs Ovechkin, but that wouldn’t be true.

There’s still the possibility of Crosby vs Ovechkin in the playoffs.

I’ve heard a lot of fans say that they hope the Penguins can avoid playing Washington in the playoffs.

Sorry. I understand wanting the easiest road to another Cup, but I hope they play each other again and I hope it goes seven games. It definitely doesn’t get any better than that.

BIDEN PROVES AGAIN HE WAS DUMBEST VP CANDIDATE

Sarah Palin was the unsophisticated, inexperienced hick in the 2008 campaign, right?

Joe Biden made the dumbest comment of the campaign when he said that FDR went on TV after the 1929 stock market crash and told people to remain calm.  If Palin had said anything approaching that level of stupidity, she would have been dropped from the campaign.

Yesterday, at the health care bill signing, Biden, the sophisiticated, experienced senator did something that was not only dumber than anything Sarah Palin has done in public, but dumber than anything Tina Fey did when she was imitating Palin on SNL.

Biden, whispering to Barack Obama, dropped an F bomb, while wearing a live mic.

Imagine what the media would do to Palin if she had done something like this. Let’s see if it gets the kind of coverage that the notes she wrote on her hand received.

MIKE WHITE ASKS: WHO WINS LEBO BOYS OR UCON WOMEN

Thanks to Mike White, long time and excellent high school sports writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for asking the queston: Who wins if the Mt. Lebanon boys basketball team played the UCONwomen?

What a great question for a sports blog.

I haven’t been following high school basketball and I haven’t seen Mt. Lebanon play. Nor have a seen 10 seconds of the UCONN women’s 71 game winning streak.  It shouldn’t surprise you to hear that neither of those factors will prevent me from having an opinion.

I say Mt. Lebanon wins and it’s not close.

That is if we’re talking real basketball. No holding back by the boys. Banging underneath, picks etc.

I think most good boys high school teams would beat the UCON women.  Remember, the boys playing at Lebo are only a couple of years younger than the UCONN women. It’s not like we’re talking 22 year old women against 14 year old boys.

Although I will say this. I haven’t seen a JV boys basketball game since I was in high school more than 40 years ago but, I would put my money on the JV team from South Hills Catholic 1964 in a game against the UCONN women.

These were 15 and 16 year old kids but Dave Stobbe was 6-3 or 6-4 and the other inside kid was Bruce Nagle, who was about 6-2 and had tree trunks for legs. There was a freshman center named Steve Litz who was probably 6-3 and ended up getting a scholarship from Duke.

There were two great shooters in the back court, both around 5-10.  Val Madia and Ric Wesner. I try to imagine those big guys inside getting outrebounded by women–even the 6-4 superstar for UCONN and I don’t see it happening.

Not if they’re playing real, physical basketball.

The South Hills Catholic vaersity team from 1965 would beat the 2010 UCONN women by 70 points.

It would be embarrassing.  It finished 28-1 and outscored its opponents by something like 80-40. I picture the guys who played on that team, including former Steelers Director of Football operations Tom Donahoe, who was a tremendous shooting guard and I picture them in one on one matchups with women and I can’t iamgine them not totally dominating the game.

The best player on that team, Hank South, was one of the best players in the country, only about 6-4 but could jump out of the gym. No way any 6-4 woman could have prevented him from going to the hoop. He would have put up 50 or 60.

I talked to aguy who has scouted a lot of high school basketball over the last 30 years and, while he said the women are much improved, he said that a good boys team with any size at all, would just wear down a women’s team because of the strength advantage.

It’s a nice argument to have but I don’t think women’s basketball has come far enough that even a WNBA team could beat a good boys high school team.

Keep in mind, that any female playing high school basketball today–forget college–would have crushed me in a one-on-one game at any time in my life. I could hold my own in football and baseball but I’m one of the worst basketball players ever to come out of the South Hills area.

(Fire away)

ARE THE PENGUINS HUNG OVER?

I just heard a sound bite from former Penguin and current FSN analyst Jay Caulfied and he said that what me may be seeing right now with the Penguins is a hangover effect from the two long seasons and trips to the Stanley Cup Final.

He said that they have played in so many big games in the last two years that they’re  finally taking they’re  toll.

Makes sense to me.

I expected a season long hangover to be honest with you.

Last night’s game is a perfect example. The Red Wings have been hit hard by injuries and have been flirting with dropping below 8th place and out of the playoffs. Last night was a big game for them because every game the rest of the season is big.

Not so for the Penguins. Lots of people wanted to make it a big game because it was their return to the scene of the crime–where they were seen skating around with the Stanley Cup last June, but this is a group of guys that knows a big game when it sees one and it’s not going to see another really big one until April.

Last week the Penguins looked terrible in a loss to New Jersey. They kept turning the puck over and the Devils kept turning the turnovers into goals.

It’s not that the Penguins weren’t trying in either case. Just that the other teams were trying a little harder. If the Penguins play the Devils in the playoffs, the Devils aren’t going to see as many east-west passes as they saw last week.

The playoffs are totally different. Every game is huge and who’s more desperate plays a huge role in which team wins.

The Penguins haven’t had any reason to feel desperate in a long time. They’ll get the feeling again in the middle of April.

SHOCKING NEWS! NFL GMs DON’T READ THIS BLOG

Can you believe it? I had the overtime solution for the NFL right here on this blog a couple of days ago but the GMs were obviously too busy making plans to go to Disney World to take my advice.

Now there are reports that you shouldn’t expect any overtime changes. The theory being that, among other things, it would be too traumatic for the coaches to make a decision in the playoffs that they’re not used to making in the regular season.

We’re talking about guys who have been known to punt on fourth and a foot from their opponent’s 37 yard line, so, it’s understandable that some of them would have a nervous breakdown over deciding whether to kick a 30 yard field goal on fourth and five or go for the first down out of fear that his opponent would take the ensuing kickoff and go in for a touchdown.

In case you hadn’t heard, the new rule, for playoff games only, would give the team that loses the overtime coin toss a chance at the ball if the team that wins the toss settles for a field goal. If the team that wins the toss goes down and scores a touchdown, the game is over.

My suggestion makes the most sense, of course. Just get rid of the goal posts. Eliminate the field goal from the game.

There is only one reason for all this agonizing over what to do in overtime.

It’s become too easy to make field goals.

I keep reading story after story and column after column about the proposed changes and in every one of them ,either the writer or the person being interviewed says that field goals have become too automatic .

But I’m not aware of anyone other than I , who has offered the simple solution of either squeezing the goal posts and making it much harder to make a field goal or, better yet, eliminating the field goal from the game.

These are guys who have been around long enough to know that field goals weren’t always  so easy to make. They’ve made other adjustments, such as moving the goal post back from the goal line to the end line and bringing the hash marks closer to the middle of the field. They’ve even messed around with the clock and kept it running when it used to be stopped so that the games wouldn’t last as long.

Is there some curse on anyone who tampers with an NFL goal post?

What other reason could there be for not even one of the GMs  being smart enough to agree with me on this?