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Monday Wakeup Call: Pitt’s (second) last gasp

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Morning, lunatics …

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>> The Monday column counts the Penguins’ many blessings — not least of which was Joe Vitale’s roof job up there yesterday — with a rather odd collection of tales related to this winning streak now at nine.

Here’s news coverage of beating the Bruins again, by Rob Rossi and Josh Yohe.

And here’s what all three of us Tribbers — and far more important folks — had to say afterward …

>> If you missed it,  the Sunday column took the Sidney Crosby-Mario Lemieux debate and downplayed it, then bit into it, then downplayed it again. Guy can’t make up his mind.

>> Upon writing and filming the above, I took off for the Pete just in time to catch the Pitt hoopsters whooping it up for … an eighth seed?

Yikes.

Well, if there’s anything less meaningful than looking at where the Panthers get seeded or their byes or double-byes, I haven’t seen it. Not much seems to matter.

Beyond that, I kind of liked Talib Zanna’s reaction what I raised the topic with him: “We like this seeding better than our seeding last year.”

How do you say “Touche” in Nigerian?

Here’s news coverage of Pitt’s reaction, by Kevin Gorman at the Pete.

And here’s Dante Taylor’s still badly bruised — but foul-free! — right eye …

I’m delighted to tell you I’ll be with the Panthers all week out in Salt Lake City, the first NCAA tournament I’ll have covered. Very much looking forward to it.

>> Took two months and two time zones of travel, but Mike Tomlin finally deigned to speak with reporters. Our Alan Robinson is in Phoenix at the NFL owners’ meetings.

Sounds like the Steelers are in the market to spend money … they don’t appear to have.

>> I’ll visit with Ken Laird and Guy Junker on TribLIVE Radio today at 11:30 a.m.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and more, including his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the top four columnists in the country -- highest circulation category -- by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the top three columnists in the country by the National Headliners Awards. For 2013, he was named top columnist in the state by the Keystone Awards and second-place by the Pennsylvania AP Managing Editors.

176 Comments

  1. * Enjoyed the column, though I figured a little dig would be sent towards those in the fan base like myself that question the coach and his staff for not making adjustments. Maybe one has to ask, why did it take until a 7-6 win in Montreal for the team to come together and start changing their ways defensively and be aggressive on the PK. I hope the next time this team needs a tune up, it doesn’t take two months for the Bylsma to adjust.

    * Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, and Brad Marchand did as they pleased on Sunday trying to bait the Penguins into stupid penalties, much like the Flyers have attempted and successfully executed over the last year but outside of James Neal curious counter punch to Lucic’s gloved punch, Pens did wise to avoid the post-whistle attempts or hard checks between whistles.

    * This made the decision to dress Deryk Engelland all the more curious. What deterrent? If I’m Simon Despres, I’ve got to seriously wonder why I’m being scratched against bigger teams. Engelland played well enough Sunday and the defense was noticeably slower and struggled to get the puck up the ice after Kris Letang didn’t return late in first period.

    * Panthers have peaked as a program under Jamie Dixon or so it feels right now. He’s a good guy, good coach but he could be here for twenty more seasons and I don’t think he’ll ever win a national title. Reading comments about their first round match-up with Wichita State (go Shockers!), most feel Panthers should win easily. After that, they’ll be hitting the books as Gonzaga (go Bulldogs!) are one of the best teams this season.

    * The Go Shockers! is from when I was a young lad and wanted to go to college and be a pitcher at Wichita State because of watching them win the ’89 College World Series. Did you know former Pirates infielder Pat Meares was a SS on that ’89 team?

    * I used to live in Spokane Washington where Gonzaga is located so I started to take to the school while there. I’ll be rooting for them again.

    • Eric any possibility the Pens don’t want Despres going against physical teams because they could perhaps be afraid of an injury? Its the only reason I can see and it seems with the amount of teams that have come to see the Pens play that they are going to move someone and its most likely him.

  2. The Penguins should auction off those green warmup jerseys they wore yesterday to get Sid some wingers.

  3. Jamie needs to recruit a spot-up, knock-down 3-point shooter, even if it’s his 12th player. Switching to the ACC will only magnify this glaring need, which has existed since the Ben Howland regime, so Pitt had better start adjusting its recruiting.

    On Despres, he should get his time with Letang down, but when Kris returns, and with Eaton playing soundly, it would be wise for Dan B to make Engelland the odd man out. The explanation offered for shuffling Simon in and out is silly. I would almost prefer that Dan B just state that he has a lot of allegiance to his grinders — having been one himself — and leave it at that.

    DK: Ashton Gibbs was one of the best 3-point shooters in the country, right?

    • Happen to notice how many teams from the ACC made the tournament?

    • Point taken. I was trying hard to recall any Pitt player in this recent era who could consistently rise up beyond the three-point line — even without a step and where closely guarded — and of course Gibbs would never come to mind.

  4. DK:

    Think you have that video of you talking about the Pens 9th win in arrow cued at the wrong time. In the still image you look like you had a Great St Patricks day!

  5. Ancient history now, but there was a time when Dean Smith couldn’t win the National Championship. Same for Roy Williams at Kansas, Tom Osborne at Nebraska. It took JoePa 16 years to win one at Penn State. I don’t think that Dixon has peaked or leveled off. He will reach the ultimate goal someday.

    • Add Calapari to that list of great coaches who took a long time to win a National Championship.

      • Boehiem another coach who his critics were saying he could never get the cuse to the next level.

        Folks let remember where Pitt basketball was before the Howland/Dixon era. Playing in the old barn, players getting arrested and lucky to win 15 games and make the NIT.

        Under Dixon they play in a sold out palace with a long waiting list, the players are good citizens and they regularly win 20-25 games competing in the best basketball conference in the country.

        Would I love to see them make a final four? Sure, but all in all Pitt hoops is and has been in a pretty good place under Coach Dixon.

  6. “Maybe one has to ask, why did it take until a 7-6 win in Montreal for the team to come together and start changing their ways defensively and be aggressive on the PK.”

    Only “one” has to ask that. One who is evidently having difficulty enjoying solid coaching from a first place team on a 9 game win streak against some stout competition. And even some contributions from the fourth line.

    Go Pens.

    • “one” + for you !

      Go Pens!

    • Hey now, Drew,you gotta admit, Bowser has a point regarding DB. I mean, we got toasted last playofffs, and Dan’s slow to make in-game adjustments.
      On the flip side, give credit where it’s due.
      I told hubby, the defensive play all around the third period yesterday against Boston was the best I’ve seen from these guys…I loved it!

      • As in “Bylsma strikes again”?

        I agree with those words. I just give them a totally different meaning.

        Context.
        - Leading the conference
        - 9 game win streak
        - Good D and G play. Shut down or shut out the last two opponents
        - Even contributions from the fourth line

        So. That brings me back to Bylsma strikes again.

        Maybe he HAS struck.
        Maybe it HAS been figured out.
        Maybe someone can’t let it go and enjoy the ride.

        Even Dejan acknowledges when a prior opinion has to be changed based on changing circumstances.

        (You like how I did that “even Dejan” backhanded compliment thingee?)

        • I agree. I guess maybe I’m saying it’s like once burned…you fear the fire…or something like that ;)

          • I’m in the fear the fire camp. We’ve been burned not oncely, not twicely, but thricely. This stuff is great, but it’s also part of a pattern that’s developed over several years. We do awesome (or at least awesome enough to be really excited) in the regular season and utterly melt down in the playoffs.

            Actually not tryin to be pessimistic. I’m really hoping that pattern changes this year. But until we get past the first round I can’t hold my breath.

            I’ll even admit Disco has made some adjustments that have worked well. But I’m still infuriated he sits Despres. The reasons just don’t make any sense. Only conclusion I can make is he’s total trade bait, which I think is a really bad idea.

            I’m not even close to jumping on the Tyler Kennedy’s Renaissance bandwagon.

            • I hear ya, Brad. That was my point on DB and his “in-game” adjsutments. And overall adjustments. I fear the fire as well.
              But like you, I am optimistic.

              As far as Depres, someone said somewhere (I think it was our own Patrick who said it) that perhaps Depres was being tested, to see how he kept his composure/self-control when he was scratched. At first I thought maybe…but nah….it’s been too many times. Something is up, or DB just doesn’t trust Depres, but he should. Depres has proven himself trustworthy and up to the task.

              • If that’s what they’re doing, isn’t that like the BMTIB merit/demerit system or whatever it is they do? Can’t remember what it was but it sounds similar if that’s the case.

            • Let me take the question to the point of absurdity, Brad. Mine not yours, and I am purposely using an extreme and absurd example.

              -If the Pens Never Lose Again, all the way to a championship, and…

              -During that absurdly wonderful stretch, Bylsma Never Dresses Despres Again…

              Are you still furious?

              Believe it or not, I’m NOT being sarcastic. Also, of course, not realistic. Just want to stretch the current events out to the extreme to ask.

              And if the answer is Yes, please help me understand. Again, not going for sarcasm.

              • For better or worse, I would be upset, yes. Mainly because he’s the first D we’ve had since Letang that really looks like he could be another Letang, maybe even better.

                It’s because they have obvious talent staring them right in the face and could be using it so much better, IMO.

                For example, people keep mentioning putting Engelland on the 4th line wing and I’d like to see that. Opens a spot for Despres, who’s a little more sound defensively, put’s a big guy who fights up front. I doubt he’d have a problem screening the net. Plus, Engelland has a decent shot.

                My thoughts there are could Engelland really be less productive than Adams, Glass or Kennedy? I know it won’t happen, but I like the idea.

              • Again just MO, but Engelland has to be on the ice every game they play that requires a physical presence. I really don’t care where. Depres is an obvious choice CURRENTLY.

                While an obvious natural offensive talent, he the least physical of all the Dman (especially given his size) and I’m not sure he has ever dropped gloves at the NHL level…if that’s not his game, that’s okay, but I don’t understand the shock when he is chosen to sit when it’s needed. That’s the reality of playing the flyers, bruins, rangers, islanders….

                If you watched the Rangers game and saw how “chippy” they were- with Engelland out- and the then the big, bad Bruins…not (other than trying to goad Neal a couple of times) lends credence and this is obviously HCDB’s strategy and I agree with it.

              • tp,

                I certainly understand your points. But I can count about ten times off the top of my head where Despres laid a solid check and knocked the guy cleanly off the puck and play went the other way. No stick involved, just body. A couple of them were open-ice. Martin and Eaton just don’t do that, which is fine, but Despres has shown that ability quite well.

                I like that they let Sid take his knocks as a youngster and think it’s served him well. I think Despres would also benefit from this. I just don’t see that he’s been knocked down any more this season even than Orpik who’s possibly the strongest skater on D, at least equal with Letang.

              • Brad is correct on Depres. I’ve seem him many many times just deliver a solid check and take the puck away. Nothing flashy, just doing his job.

              • Sure, he has made some checks, okay fine, but I may disagree with the number, but you all know there is more to being a physical Dman than a couple of “solid” checks. At his size, he NEEDS to develop that part of his game and MAYBE HCDB is trying to get that point across.

                I ‘m not sure my point is being made so I will try again.

                The issue is not with Depres as much as it is with the Pens roster. It is the lack of physicality throught the roster and with the division/conference we are in….

                So if you agree with that, and Engelland has to dress – who other than Depres do you sit? I have not heard any responses yet.

              • tp, (not sure if this ends up in the right place)

                My vote would be sit Kennedy or Adams, put Engelland up front. I seriously like the idea of him up there as a net-front guy.

                I agree there’s certainly room for improvement with Despres in all departments, but I’m not sure how he’s supposed to get the experience when he sits every other game. And I don’t see how Disco can use that as a reason when half the D are definitely not physical players.

                I’m not buying Kennedy’s resurgence and his forecheck still isn’t what it was. And that’s just going off the standard he set for himself.

                Adams has been poor in faceoffs (only 44%) and not as strong defensively either.

              • Brad-

                Agree in concept with your idea. I would probably lean towards Adams, myself, but also recognize that he is one of HCDB favorites and does contribute on PK, which I not sure changing, right now, is a good idea. If it tails off then sure.

                I’m sure Depres is reasonably intelligent. If he is being sat for Engelland, you would think he could add 2 + 2 and do more than throw a few “solid checks”. If that’s not part of his game, okay. If he could develop it….maybe another Chris Pronger.

              • The thing I don’t want to see is him becoming another “Ron Stackhouse”.

            • “Actually not tryin to be pessimistic.”

              Interesting bit of self-reflection for a guy who made up a three-consecutive-playoff-meltdown narrative and blamed it on the coach. :)

              Is it bad that my first thought was about Brad in Indiana, PA when TK lit the lamp??

              • More like he threw a lit-match and it landed on a fuel source. :-) Had to do it.

                And yes, I do still largely blame Disco for those 3. Not the only factor, but a big one.

            • I still believe all three of those meltdowns are independant of each other.

              Jaroslav Halak was unbreakable. They put more rubber on him than a highway and he turned it all away. Ask the entire western conference last year what happens when you meet a hot goalie in the playoffs. It happens.

              Tampa got lucky and met a Penguins team that was missing key players. Sid was out and James Neal was still hitting a goal post a night. The Cooke suspension didnt help.

              Last years Flyer debacle is the only one you can hang on Coach Bylsma. What do you want him to do from the bench the previous two years? Shoot Halak in the Knee in 2010? ‘Coach up’ TK into playing like Sid in 2011? Tell James Neal to aim 2″ to the left and stop nailing goal posts? There’s only so much a coach to do. At some point players have to go out and win the @(^!(^#&!& game.

              • Agree and actually, IMO, last year the Pens peaked to early and the back to back losses to the islanders started a down hill slide on both ends of the ice that they carried into the playoffs.

                Another thing I read, was max talbot totally grilled the flyers on the Pens PK and PP inside and out both strategically and personnel tendencies. Yes, it happens a lot in all sports, but max was certainly integral in the PK and the combination of that with the loose play (slump) at the end of the season is an easy connect to the scorching.

                Here’s hoping they can keep the mo going this year, but not so easy to stay at the peak for extended stretches as in the playoff records of the President Cup winners.

              • One of the wiser comments/evaluations I’ve read here!

              • Pens were missing Malkin in 2011 as well, Patrick.

                I’ve tried to have this talk with the fire Bylsma crowd before, but it falls on deaf ears.

                One thing I’ve tried to find is a single article blaming the coach after the Tampa Bay and Montreal series. I’ve asked around and either nobody can find one or nobody(i.e. smart people) pays attention to me.

                I could be wrong, but I followed the team religiously in those days and can’t remember ANY talk of blaming Bylsma.

                Seems like this entire narrative has been written in hindsight.

              • Patrick, I just see it a bit differently, that’s all. Halak was incredible, but IMO when you run into a hot goalie (other than Manon Rheume) as a coach, you need to adjust to that and I don’t believe Bylsma did enough. Not saying it would have turned the tide, but they could have done a little more to get in his kool-aid.

                The Tampa series we were up 3-1. We had 106 points in regular season and finished one point out of top seed. If the team was good enough to do that, they had the ability to win that series even without Crosby, Malkin and the pipe-stomping version of Neal.

                Again, it doesn’t excuse the players. But Bylsma has a record of underperforming in the playoffs as well.

              • The Tampa loss wasn’t even an upset. No Crosby, no Malkin, playing against a lineup of Lightning superstars, and the Pens still took it down the wire in a 7th game. That’s fantastic coaching, quite honestly.

                Bylsma does deserve some of the blame for the other two. Regarding Halak, there’s no such thing as an unbeatable goalie in the playoffs. If he’s stopping everything, you change your strategy – get bodies in front of him, try to screen him and try to deflect every shot coming in. There are ways to do it. Philly sure figured him out in the next round.

                The Flyer loss in 2012 was a mess, and everybody deserves blame for that one, from Shero to Bylsma to the players.

                I’m on the fence about Bylsma’s overall performance. This year’s playoffs will reveal a lot since the team has the talent to go at least a few rounds deep.

          • As a Pirate fan I totally get THAT. No complaints re not trusting until final delivery. My focus wasn’t on that, but rather on the constant refrain of complaints – current game plans, not future/past trust – in the face of hockey’s longest current win steak and obviously improved play.

            Dejan often writes in response to complaints of Pirates coverage that teams earn the coverage they get (my interpretation of his words). That he’ll be positive when something positive happens.

            So applying that logic to the Pens, I think it is totally illogical to be negative, nitpicky, talking about firing the coach if (yesterday), complaining about every move in the course of the NHL’s best play over the past two weeks.

            But no disagreement about not counting championships before they hatch. That would be nuts(ting), right?

            • You might be on to something- Bucco mentality infecting our Pens fan-ness. Didn’t even think of that. +>

              Did you get to see Despres play yet (since you’re suffering in frigid Florida and didn’t know if you got NHL center ice)? Kid’s good. Exciting to watch. Potential to be a bigger Letang.

            • On the Florida thought, we might be thawed out from the next snowstorm in time for opening day. It’s so hard to get excited for baseball with winter storm Ukko or whatever it is heading here after St. Patrick’s Day.

              • Dear Lord, it’s SNOWING here AGAIN! Has anyone gotten a shot at that friggin rodent in Punxsutawney yet????

              • Punxsy’s just a half hour down the road from me. I’d head there with a shotgun today, but the vile, little rodent’s road is mined with ice and snow. Grrrrr!!

              • LOL Karen, thanks, but Groat says HE got the lil bugger! ;)

              • Ok, first, no. I haven’t seen Despres play this season. But thanks for your response…and from others as well. Great, fact-focused discussion today.

                Second. Snow on or after St Patrick’s Day? Really?

                Would it hurt everybody’s sensibilities if I told you I was sitting under a tent yesterday (because it was warm) in the cordoned off parking lot of Nolan’s Irish Pub in Cocoa Beach? A very sunny 78. Wind chill factor made it seem 85.

                Sat there with about 2-3,000 of my closest friends listening to one Irish band or singer after another. The hit of the day was the Brevard County Police Fife and Drum Corp, with pipes, drums, kilts and precision.

                Wonderful end to a sunny, warm day that began with an early AM stroll on the beach.

                But maybe I shouldn’t share that.

                Wouldn’t want people to feel bad.

              • Drew loves making me cry :*(

          • NMR,

            I’ve personally had these same thoughts about Bylsma at the time of those series, but hadn’t yet discovered the wonderful lunacy of this blog then.

            I just talked to my wife about this stuff at that point. Until she fell asleep, anyway.

            • Amen to that, buddy! Those were my pre-blog days, as well.

              I think we know we’ll have to agree to disagree for now on Disco, but hearing opinions like yours and not just what gets printed in the papers is the beauty of the blog.

    • They didn’t change all that much. More than anything the center is just coming down beneath the hash marks to cover the crease so Dmen can get deeper and not let guys sit back there and make plays. Thats it really. On guy coming into the zone by about 20′.

      And that’s not some huge systematic change, or something Bylsma’s previous system dictated they were or weren’t allowed to do. That’s not a defensive style that is written on a board as “This is what we will or won’t do”. Its hockey 101.

      It’s not a matter of “Why did it take so long for Bylsma to change?”

      As it is “Why did it take so long for the players to play the right way”

      You can’t blame Hurdle his players going up and hacking at the first pitch every time. You can’t blame Tomlin when lineman get caught holding over and over and over.

      Hockey isnt like football. “System” only goes so far. Hockey is hockey. It isnt “why did it take so long for Bylsma to adjust?” as it is “Why did it take the guys on the ice so long to play 200′?”

      And before we take the next step….let me point out that you can’t bench everybody.

      Let me point out Tomlin’s handling of the RB’s this year as exhibit “A” as to why benching people doesn’t always work. Google Ryan Miller’s comments on Patrick Kaleta if you need more proof.

      • Patrick, you shed a lot of light here. Are you serious?? It was just one player – the center – that came back to the hash marks? And that created all this better defensive play???

        • and that isn’t sarcasm. truly.

        • Well…Eaton helps. And all the forwards seem to be in better positions along the wall to take passes. But the only real thing I’ve noticed that is “different” is the Center coming back further. Everything else is the same as always, they really are just playing the same system better. they have done 2 different breakouts I hadn’t seen before where they go out the other side. Previously they had stubbornly tried to go up the right side like always even when the opponents had two guys standing there just waiting for them to try it. The defensmen have done a better job of taking ice given to them when the other team backs off waiting for that )#&!&)@# stretch pass.

          But mostly its the center coming back further. And Mark Eaton. That’s all I got.

      • Patrick, on the benching, totally agree. I remember back in the day when the previous BMTIB was always trying to “teach” Jose Guillen “a lesson”. Dan B is much more positive in his player approaches. It’s probably too early to tell, but it seems to be working with TK recently. People also forget that when you “bench” someone, the replacement has to be able to play. None of the Steeler RBs had anywhere near the talent of Mendenhall.

        Back to the Steelers, it looks like some players are voting with their feet regarding the Arians/Haley issue.

        Stuart

        • Every team is different. Benching works when you have the dynamic for it. Obviously Michel Therrien uses it as an instructional tool. I think Therrien is a great coach. He turned the Penguins into champions and is doing the same in Montreal.

          Some people had Montreal as the worst team in the Eastern Conference to begin the year. I wrote them in as a playoff team and the fifth seed and everyone called me nuts.

          Obviously Bylsma doesnt bench players and he is a great coach, too. Different styles, mostly the same players. Similar results. Again folks…”system” in hockey doesn’t mean as much as it does in football or basketball. In some ways hockey is like baseball. You dont have a “system” in baseball, just general philosophies. It doesn’t change much from when you are 10 or 30. Baseball is baseball and hockey is hockey.

    • And actually, no to be too nit-picky (but of course I’m about to) it didn’t start with the 7-6 win. It happened a few days later in Philly when they went into the first intermission down 4-1 playing exactly the same way they had for the previous month.

      Since the drop of the puck in the second period of that Philly game the Pens have a GAA of 1.33 and outscored their opponents 26-9. I don’t know what was said in the locker room between the first and second period, but damn if it didn’t work. Maybe no one said anything. Maybe they got sick and tired of looking like clowns? Maybe they were tired of being embarrassed defensively? Maybe some crack head fan in Philly shouted something at them. Who knows.

  7. Alex Presley stories in the Trib and the P-G. Why? Was he the designated guy yesterday?

  8. DK –

    Didn’t have a chance to say this yesterday, but the Crosby v. Lemieux piece was some of the best work you have EVER produced – and that is not easy for me to say because ALL of your work is gold.

    I have been trying to tell my wife (now and forever a HUGE Pens fan) about Mario and how different he was/is compared to Sid. After reading the column, she gets it!!

    Thanks for alll the great work

    • Agree with this completely. Hate comparing players who are completely different just to say who is better. Marino vs Young was the comparison that came to my mind. Both incredible but they couldn’t be any different in style. Great article DK and yes it did all have to come back to a football reference.

  9. JAL’s Bud the Spud Morning Links

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtySGSuKZe8

    GENERAL DAILY UPDATED BASEBALL SITES

    1- MLB Transactions

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/pittsburgh_pirates/

    3 Go Buccos- Pirate News (from external sources)

    http://gobuccos.com/pittsburgh-pirate-news/

    4 Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Spring Training Tracker

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/st2013

    BLOGS and such

    5—Pirates Prospects

    Pirate City Notes: Solis, Waldron, Relievers, Watson, Mathisen, Allie

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/03/pirate-city-notes-solis-waldron-relievers-watson-mathisen-allie.html

    Draft Prospect Watch: Stanek Hits 95, Moran Homers

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/03/draft-prospect-watch-stanek-hits-95-moran-homers.html

    6 Bucs Dugout

    Phil Irwin struggles against Yankees

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2013/3/17/4116586/phil-irwin-struggles-against-yankees

    7 Raise the Jolly Roger

    News and Notes

    http://raisethejollyroger.com/2013/03/news-and-notes-26/

    8 Rant Sports

    Expectations for Atlanta Braves Paul Maholm

    http://www.rantsports.com/mlb/2013/03/17/expectations-for-atlanta-braves-paul-maholm/

    9 Rumbunter

     The Pirates Final Roster Spot: Ivan De Jesus Jr Are You Buying It?

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/03/18/the-pirates-final-roster-spot-ivan-de-jesus-jr-are-you-buying-it/

    Garrett Jones And Gaby Sanchez Set To Platoon For Pirates, Who Should Play, And When?

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/03/17/garrett-jones-and-gaby-sanchez-set-to-platoon-for-pirates-who-should-play-and-when/

    10 Green Weenie

    Right Field – Who Wants It?

    http://oldbucs.blogspot.com/2013/03/right-field-who-wants-it.html

    • Bud the Spud Stompin’ Tom Connors Written in 1969 and turned into a children’s book in 1994. If you have been to an NHL game you have probably heard one his songs, The Hockey Song, which he wrote in 1973.

  10. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    11 Bradenton Herald

    Spring training | Pirates’ Phil Irwin no stranger to adversity

    http://www.bradenton.com/2013/03/18/4441306/spring-training-pirates-phil-irwin.html

    12 Journal News

    Yankees notebook: Russell Martin says former team faces challenges

    http://www.lohud.com/article/20130317/SPORTS/303170066/Yankees-notebook-Russell-Martin-says-former-team-faces-challenges

    13 Sacramento Bee

    Marcos Breton: Clemente would have been proud of this victory

    http://www.sacbee.com/2013/03/18/5271005/marcos-breton-clemente-would-have.html

    14 Beaver County Times

    Karstens happy to stay Pirate

    http://www.timesonline.com/sports/pirates/karstens-happy-to-stay-pirate/article_eef1df22-8f81-11e2-b0a0-0019bb30f31a.html

    15 MLB Daily Dish

    NL Central rumors & news: David Freese, Jeff Samardzija, Rafael Furcal

    http://www.mlbdailydish.com/2013/3/17/4115128/nl-central-rumors-news-david-freese-jeff-samardzija-rafael-furcal

    16 New Bern Sun Journal

    Bill Hand: One man’s memories of the sandlot

    http://www.newbernsj.com/news/local-columns/bill-hand-one-man-s-memories-of-the-sandlot-1.112996

    17 ESPN

    Pirates believe this year will be different

    http://espn.go.com/blog/spring-training/post/_/id/999/pirates-believe-this-year-will-be-different

    18 PBC SITE

    Alvarez shows signs of life at plate in Bucs’ loss

    http://pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130317&content_id=42869474&vkey=news_pit&c_id=pit

    Bucs hope Wandy’s Classic run carries over

    http://pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130317&content_id=42868484&notebook_id=42868486&vkey=notebook_pit&c_id=pit

    SPORTS WEBSITES

    19 Baseball Prospectus

    The Week In Quotes

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=19911

    20 Fangraphs

    2013 Positional Power Rankings: Third Base

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/2013-positional-power-rankings-third-base/

  11. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Steelers express interest in former Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/3/17/4116480/nfl-rumors-free-agency-steelers-ahmad-bradshaw

    Moves Steelers are making in free agency seem system-based instead of talent-driven

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/3/17/4114880/steelers-free-agency-transactions-roster-depth-chart

    22 Steelers Depot

    -Report: Steelers Have Interest in Former Broncos LB Elvis Dumervil

    http://www.steelersdepot.com/2013/03/report-steelers-have-interest-in-former-broncos-lb-elvis-dumervil/

    Soccer(football)

    23 Daily Telegraph

    Wigan Athletic 2 Newcastle United 1: match report

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/competitions/premier-league/9936032/Wigan-Athletic-2-Newcastle-United-1-match-report.html

    24 World Soccer Daily

    World Soccer Daily: 10 stories you need to read, 15th March, 2013

    http://www.worldsoccer.com/247/world-soccer-daily-10-stories-you-need-to-read-15th-march-2013

    PENGUIN BLOGS and NHL Links

    25 Sun Herald

    Penguins beat Bruins 2-1 to run win streak to 9

    http://www.sunherald.com/2013/03/17/4533861/penguins-beat-bruins-2-1-to-run.html

  12. For Milo and I who follow the Missouri Valley hoops all year, Pitt got a tough draw. Going to Salt Lake city for starters. I assume at altitude as well. And Wichita State is good. And Pitt is young, and has lost to inferior opponents before. I didn’t understand all the Pitt love on the selection show. I’m not sure they get out of first round.

  13. “Work/intangibles: Because Lemieux prioritized offense, he had a tendency to take his breathers on the ice as much as on the bench. Many criticized that, but he could log 28-30 minutes because he conserved energy ”

    Above from Sundays column. Well put DK. Mario constantly double shifted and I clearly remember watching him “take his breathers on the ice”. Funny thing was that it left the rest of the guys playing 4 on 4 or even 4 on 3. If you left Mario uncovered shame, shame on you!
    Good read DK.

  14. “A struggling backup goaltender will stand up in the locker room during the intermission of a game in which he isn’t playing, and he’ll admonish his teammates to, essentially, stop being so stupid with the puck.” DK

    Hmmm….very interesting….maybe that veteran leadership is already in the room.

  15. * One of these years it would be great for PITT to get BACK into the 2nd weekend of the BIG DANCE (go Panthers!) ;-) ….what a great year to do THAT !!
    .
    .
    * knock off a # 1 seed early in the tourney….well, we can all dream? ….hmm, one of these years…………………………..
    .
    .
    HAIL TO PITT

  16. I was wondering who they would get to replace DK on KDKA’s Showdown; after last night it looks like it is Vinnie Richichi from Vinnie and Cook. ;-)

  17. Yesterday I mentioned that I was impressed with the renovations at McKechnie Field. We sat in the new LF bleachers. The view of the game was much better than I expected. My only minor complaint was that the scoreboard that showed balls/strikes/out was too small

    You can walk around and look into each teams bullpen

    Youklis’ first inning home fun may have been aided by the wind a little bit

  18. Gregory Polanco is very tall. He is listed at 6’4
    If he puts on some weight & muscle he could be a monster

  19. The @Pirates reassign Brooks Brown, Gerrit Cole, Kris Johnson, Ali Solis and Kyle Waldrop to minors; option Phil Irwin to Indy.

  20. Serious question about WBC (not the actual event, but its effect on MLB)- are guys likely to have setbacks because of this thing? Never followed it and probably never will, but my impression is that putting guys in live actual game situations this early in the year is bad for conditioning, etc?

    And doesn’t it hurt guys like Taillon who are trying to work their way up since they’re not in camp?

    • I’ve never seen any good come out of it, Brad. Ex. Oliver Perez a few years back pitched well in the WBC and stunk out the place for the Pirates. Other than him being a head case anyway, the WBC might have had some effect on that.

    • The studies produced by an out-of-town newspaper have show that WBC players have actually been hurt LESS during the soon-to-follow season.

      • Hope they’re right. I wish they’d play that classic after the WS. Makes more sense to me, but they didn’t ask my opinion.

      • How about younger guys like Taillon? Will BMTIB look at his performance there as insignificant, noteworthy? I only know about the one game where everyone said he pitched well.

        • “Insignificant” seems a bit belittling. I think any time you see one of these prospects with big “stuff” use it to get outs against legit big leaguers, it’s a comforting sign.

          But one only needs to hear about Taillon’s very next start against AA spring training competition where he got hit around on fastballs left up in the zone to see he still has plenty of learning to do.

          • Just wasn’t sure how MLB teams viewed their guys’ performances in those games, whether they put much stock into them or not. The AA thing’s certainly not so good.

  21. AW, you up for Opening Day? The trip into work this am kinda sold my lady, she said, we could have weather like this for the ballgame? I said, sure, she said, well you’d still want to go if it was like this? I said, of course. She said, talk to your buddy on the blog, I think I’ll pass…..

  22. DK,

    Loved the Sid/Mario article as well. Saw the headline and thought” ugh, they are completely different players with completely different skill sets, Please don’t tell me you are going to compare them”. Then you didn’t. Brilliant.

    Always thought of Sid with a 4th liner’s motor and a 1st liners skill set. Its his motor that sets him apart. Nice to have your best player be the hardest worker. Pens will always be a contender if they have him.

    As far as us fans getting nitpicky when we are in the midst of a 9 game winning streak, its is simply a matter of us fans being smart enough to know that regular season success doesn’t always translate to post season success. In all the sports. We see complaints (valid) about the Steelers defense after shootout wins. Its because we are smart enough and experienced enough to know that in all sports, DEFENSE wins titles.

    Same goes here. Until the light went on after the 7-6 win, the Pens were winning, but not playing winning PLAYOFF hockey. Now they are. Hope Letang gets healthy soon.

    • I guarandangtee you the reason people find the nitpicking kinda funny in the midst of a 9 game win streak is NOT because they think the streak means a Stanley Cup or even a victory in the first round. Even I know that playoff hockey is different (and I’m a dope), but you acknowledged that they are playing Playoff hockey now. Since the second game of the streak. And the moaning continues. And complaining about them not doing it sooner? Really?

  23. Ah, Jandy? I don’t like people shooting at me! :)

  24. I wanna see one of the Trib hockey writers write the Fluery/Barasso comparison article now that he has broken #35 SO record.

    Nothing brings out the vitriol quite like trolling the “Fluery Sucks” crowd…..

  25. If Pitt makes it by Wichita, does anyone think they have a chance against Gonzaga?

    • I do, due to hidden vigorish, after all the failures, Pitt is due to overachieve

      Now, the PBC, on the other hand…..

    • I would vote “No”. But hope they get a shot at Gonzaga.

    • I haven’t watched a ton of college bball this year, but I watched Gonzaga two different times and they are good. Really good. I don’t know if Pitt has a chance. I might go as far to say that Gonzaga might be my favorite to win it all this year.

    • What does Pitt have to lose? If Dixon lets them play ball anything can happen

    • I do. Best draw out of the #1 seeds. (That’s have a chance)

    • Actually I feel they have a real good shot. They physically are a team that can give Gonzaga problems. Pitt has shown this year it is capable of beating anybody in the country on any given day, but it is also capable of losing to anyone on any given day.

      I believe all in all though a good draw for Pitt even as a #8 seed.

    • Pitt is one of those teams that I wouldn’t want play. You never know from day to day which team is going to show up.

    • I do, Pitt normally gets beat by really good guard play, my understanding is that Gonzaga is more focused underneath and although Adams hasn’t been what we all hoped offensively he is a strong defender as is Zanna. They deserve better than an 8 seed but if they were going to get a good draw this appears to be it.

  26. John Russel managed the Orioles game yesterday. His son,Steel, is a catcher in the minor leagues. He got a hit in yesterday’s game.

    No truth to the rumor that someone on the bench had to wake JR up when his kid came up to bat

    I wasn’t a fan of Russell but I do like these kinds of stories

  27. Watching the games this weekend I noticed something that I really liked, and that was some really solid play by Brooks Orpik. He went out there and was continuing to block shots, which he has been doing all season, but he was also clearing the crease and delivering some good, hard body checks. It was really good to see him playing that way and I think the entire defense was better because of it.

    I have to wonder how the Pens were able to get Eaton so easily after watching him play these past few games. He really is a solid defenseman who isn’t afraid to get in the shooting lanes to make it hard for shooters. I realize he had a pretty lousy year in NY last year, but it has been great to see him thrive being back in the Pens system.

    Vokoun looked really good in net yesterday. Did a great job making sure his teammates could get needed rest by freezing the puck every possible chance and not giving up a ton of big rebounds. I think he was talking to himself as much as to his teammates during that Philly game and his own words have really started to sink in.

    TK looked like he was back to his old ways these last two games and that is a good thing. He was in on the forecheck and playing hard, inspired hockey. If he continues to play this way, I think we will start to see good things from the third line.

    Brandon Sutter was a stud out there yesterday. That between the legs pass was Sid like and most goalies do not make the save on the resulting shot. I am really liking the way Sutter plays and have been truly impressed with how poised he is at all moments of the game.

    All of our (mine included) complaining about Despres not playing seems like it could change here for at least a bit. If Letang can’t play because of injury, Despres has to be the one to take his place. Not how I wanted to see Despres get more chances, but we will all now get to see how he handles the pressure (assuming Letang misses any games).

    • Iceman, I was just totally impressed with the way the entire TEAM played defense, especially the last period against Boston and just shut them down. Haven’t seen that in a long time.
      Lotta good stuff we’re seeing on the ice these days, and I’m enjoying it!

    • Very true on Orpik. He has looked much better after that string of games where he just looked lost. Sutter’s pass was redonculous- too bad it didn’t translate to a goal (not that it would have made Sportscenter anyway).

      Agree on the Despres situation. Not at all best case scenario. I wonder how Letang’s injury is going to affect potential trades and his FA situation. Granted the injuries aren’t really his fault, but he gets injured a lot.

    • Very nice recap Iceman.
      Orpick startin to look like Orpik again. I still believe he has had some nagging physical problem.
      Eaton has been a pleasent surprize-solid.
      Vokun also solid. Cagey old veteran. I don’t have a link but his comments after the game impresed me.
      TK always plays at 110% but he still drives me nutz if he would start getting his shots at least in the same zip code as the net I would feel much better.
      Go Pens

      • Hopefully Orpik’s problem is just age. Hard to believe but he’s not a spring chicken anymore.

        TK always plays 110%- on one side of the ice. He also won the Bill MISS-terton trophy over the last 3 games. Defensively he reminds me of the dogs from “Homeward Bound”.

        • Now that you mention the dogs….LOL Good one!

          • Also makes me think of Jeff Foxworthy’s standup from about 20 years ago when he talks about taking his family to Hawaii and the movie on the plane was “Homeward Bound”. I was a kid when I heard it, but it still cracks me up.

      • Side Note: was I the only one getting hoarse screaming at the TV every time Pierre called him Orpeck? My wife had to tell me to calm down. Twice.

        Is it really that hard to get names right? It was just last year when NBC finally got Marc-Andre’s name right and quit adding the “Andre” onto his last name. I can understand the first game or two when its a guy like Zybynek Michalek and he pronounces it Zi-BI-nik. But Orpik is hardly difficult to figure out.

        I swear they do it on purpose.

        And dont even get me started on Milbury……

    • most underrated on the D, Niksanen? I don’t get to see every game but caught both Bruins games and was really impressed.

  28. Adam Schefter is reporting the Steelers made a big push to sign Jake Long right before he agreed to his $36m deal with the Rams. Wonder what they offered? Guess those salary cap issues are pretty easy to overcome.

    He would’ve looked great wearing the black and gold, by the way.

    • I just saw this myself. And of all the players to go after I am wondering why Long when they have more pressing needs elsewhere. Yeah Long would have been great for the Steelers but he would take us out of the running to fill any other holes. Wonder if they were already planning for 2014

  29. It was a terrible draw for Pitt. The 8th seed is the worst. Plus, they better bring it. Wichita St. can play. I see Pitt as the decided underdog, quite frankly.

    Personally, even if Pitt loses in the first round, I regard the season as a success. See Zanna’s quote above.

    I’m looking forward to seeing if the Western teams are as mediocre as the selection committee seems to think they are. UCLA was stuck with a 6 seed. The Pac 12 tourney winner, Oregon is a 12. I saw Colorado play a few games and they looked good. The Mountain West teams look solid, although I cringe at the thought of loathsome Steve Alford having a team in the national semifinals.

    I think the western teams were undervalued and the Big 10 was overvalued. I was at the Big 10 Tourney on Friday and Saturday and I was somewhat underwhelmed. If the refs call the games tightly, the Big 10 is in trouble.

    Really looking forward the tournament. None of the 1 seeds are clearly superior. A lot of teams, including Pitt, have the opportunity to go deep in this level field. Maybe the final four will have some new faces.

    • Thanks to the Trib for sending Dejan out to cover the game. Looking forward to the coverage. But the image still on his video link above makes him look like a Zombie. Hope he will be reclaimed from the dead before embarking to Utah.

    • Pitt opens as a 5 point favorite over the Shockers. I think it is a good match up because Wichita State actually shoots worse than Pitt and relies on rebounding. Pitt however is a slightly better rebounding team.

      I think the West is wide open, if Pitt could somehow make it to the second weekend they would most likely face Wisconsin/Kansas St once again two teams the Panthers match up decently with.

      I know some people do not like metrics, and statistical based numbers but Pitt is actually rated the third best team in the West by Sagarin after Gonzaga and Ohio State.

      Maybe this is the year Dixon finds some March magic and pulls a seeded upset. Either way should be fun.

  30. Dejan, it’ll be good to have you in Utah for a change! Welcome in advance.

    My excitement at the prospect of Pitt playing here greatly overshadowed the lousy seeding. Does anyone know if the University has tickets to sell? Unfortunately, we’re in the same ticket “session” as Gonazaga, who travels very well, so tickets aren’t selling cheaply right now.

  31. Here’s a good one if you can’t stand the commentating done by NBC annnouncers during the Pens hockey games lol:
    http://www.faceoff-factor.com/2grading-the-pens/4752/pens-vs-bruins-grades

    • Here’s a few to add to Doc’s list… I love the guy, but he’s sometimes way too predictable with his phrases:

      —a goaltender’s equipment becomes “paraphernalia”….
      —the completely odd and oft-times over-use of “…(blank) and three-quarters of a minute remaining…” (or one-quarter of a minute)

  32. DK,

    Enjoy Salt Lake City. I was out there years ago. It’s a really cool landing with some really great views on final approach. Kinda neat how they basically have to bring the planes in on a swirl since it is literally a basin. But I digress…

    Enjoy the city!!

    • No question the view is beautiful…but March weather in the Rockies is VERY unpredictable and can make that “swirl”, let’s just say….interesting. It makes landing at Chuck Yeager seem like the carriage ride at Kennywood.

  33. Just jumping on today to say that in the last 3-4 games PM has played as well as I’ve ever seen him play…he looks stronger on the boards and more aware around the net. HOWEVER he’s had impressive stretches before too and then fizzled in the playoffs. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice……….So I say we take advantage of his increased trade value for cap purposes and to get the depth we need at forward and on defense. Prior to the last 3-4 games he cost us 4 goals in the Toronto and philly games so lets see how he does now…especially with letang out.

    • Martin has been strong all season. And has for most of his career. Maybe last year was the anomally. Anyone remember the year that Gonchar was the goat? Two years later we were all sad to see him leave. In fact a lot of people on here have said they would love to have Gonch back just to QB the power play.

      We could end up saying the same about Martin. Last time LeTang missed time Martin took over on the PP and all of the sudden it started to take off. He isn’t near as turnover prone as he was. I still see him as a potential cap buyout this off season but I am not insistant on it like I was before the season began.

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