Tag Archives: Penguins hockey

Pens 3 Capitals 6

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Game Recap

This one was a lot like the Pitt/Georgetown game last night.  Both featured teams from Pittsburgh and DC that are at the pinnacle of their sport.  Both games spent about 2/3rds of the contest in a tight battle being played at a very high level.  Both games saw the Pittsburgh team loose focus for a minute and not be able to come back.  The Pens and Caps were tied 3-3 after 2 periods, but the Capitals put in two goals at the beginning of the 3rd, and played defense until the horn blew.  Both teams played a fantastic games overall.  It’s just something you have to be thankful you got to witness, and then move on.  A lot was being made of this game because of the budding rivalry and whatnot.  I just didn’t see it.  It’s just another regular season game.  Yeah, it stinks to lose to the Caps.  It stinks to lose to anyone.  But this game was never the Pens goal.  That has always been to give some company to those Championship banners in the rafters (I think Ovechkin is pointing at them in that picture above.  I guess he doesn’t quite know what they are yet), and this game had little impact on that goal.

If you really cared about the star matchup, however, you weren’t disappointed.  Ovie had a pair of goals.  Crosby had one for himself, and Malkin had 3 assists.  Once again, I’m not sold on whole points race thing.  Yeah, I’m sure the guys are competitive about it and want to win, but once again it has nothing to do with the ultimate goal.  I’m sure Ovechkin would trade his scoring title last year for Sid’s Stanley Cup ring in a heartbeat.  But I guess it’s still a little fun to root for your guy in the good vs. evil battle.

Overall, I think we played well.  I’d even venture to say that we out-played the Caps for most of the game.  The difference is the 5 minutes in the third period where we blinked.  That’s all.  You can’t let up for a second against a good team like the Capitals, and we made that mistake.  It happens.  Next up is the Flyers on Sunday.  Yet another rivalry game.  They’re always fun.  But, still relatively meaningless in the regular season.  So we’ll see.  Philly’s really been turning their season around lately.  I’d love to stomp on their progress a bit.

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Pens 2 Western Canada 1

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Pens 3 Flames 1

Pens 3 Oilers 2

Pens 2 Canucks 6

Well, there’s only one way to describe this swing through western Canada: bi-polar.  The Pens entered the three games coming off a ‘taking care of business’ win in Toronto and an awful game in Minnesota.  Fleury continued his up and down play by following up one of his worst games against the Wild with one of his best against Calgary.  He played well enough to win in Edmonton, and was out in Vancouver (until it got out of hand).  But I just don’t understand where these lapses are coming from.  Some people seem to think it may be because he’s thinking too much about the next time he’ll be in Vancouver.  Others seem to think that he’s lost motivation after winning a cup.  I have no idea, but something is going on between his ears that’s taking away his consistency, and I’d love to know what it is.

Calgary was a classic game where Fleury stole it for us.  He faced 38 shots and stopped 37 of them.  The ice was heavily slanted in the Flames favor all night (we only got 27 shots ourselves).  We just continued the bad play from St. Paul.  I have no idea why.  The good news from this game is that the power play woke up a bit.  We actually went 1 for 5 in this game as opposed to 0 for 6 in Minnesota.  I know, I know.  Baby steps.  The only other notable thing in this game was how Sid continued his hot streak, putting in yet another goal.  Maybe he was just trying to impress the young lady in the crowd seen above.  Can we put her on the payroll?

We started out the game in Edmonton the same flat way as Calgary and Minnesota.  I think with the late night (stupid west coast games starting at 9:30) and the Pens down 2-0, a lot of Pittsburgh fans turned the game off.  It could have been much worse if Edmonton wasn’t such a bad team themselves.  You know how pitiful this game was?  There was 7 total shots by both teams in the first period (4 for Edmonton and 3 for the Pens).  I didn’t realize that that was possible.  I mean, with all the talent on our roster we should have one guy with 7 shots in a period.  Wow.  It wasn’t until Tyler Kennedy scored a few minutes into the 3rd period that we woke up.  The Pens scored 3 times in 7 minutes and came back to win, shoving it in the face of all those whose bedtime is 11:30 or so.

I was kind of hopeful that the momentum from the Oilers game would carry over into the Vancouver game, but unfortunately we ran into a brick wall.  That brick wall being our backup goaltender, John Curry.  Now, to be fair, Curry is a recent call up from the Baby Pens, and he’s only played in 3 career NHL games.  But, he just played awful.  Really really awful.  He let in 5 goals in 14 shots, and some of them were such bunnies that he would have benched even if he were still in Wilkes Barre.  It was so bad that it didn’t really matter how well the position players played, we just weren’t going to win that game.  Period.  The one bright spot is that Evgeni Malkin broke his streak without a goal.  He didn’t try to.  The puck just kind of bounced off his skate after a bad pass.  But I’m sure he’ll take it.  It goes to show what happens when you go to the net.  I’m just a little disappointed that he has to wait until Tuesday to try to build on that.

Overall, it was a miserable trip.  We were out-played for most of it.  We got some good and some bad goaltending.  The power play is still a mess, though we did try some new line combinations.  But there were some bright spots: Malkin broke his scoreless streak…..kinda.  Sid found some new people to give restraining orders to.  Fleury did have a good game in Calgary.  So, when all is said and done, getting 4 of 6 points out of this swing is not too bad.  It could have been much worse.  The Islanders are in town on Tuesday.  We’re not in bad shape in the conference standings, but it would be nice to get some things back working again against a bad team if we could.

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Pens 3 Wild 4

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Game Recap

Well, I had a bad feeling about this game, and it was well grounded, but not the way I expected.  I thought that the Wild had some great defensive specialists still on the team despite a change in philosophy.  Well, the Wild didn’t play a good defensive game at all.  I guess the game plan made much more of a difference than I thought.  But, that’s what you get from a western conference team I don’t see very often.  We certainly had our chances, but Nik Backstrom came up huge for the Wild tonight.  Any time you out-shoot a team by 14 and still lose, you have to tip your cap to the opposing goalie.

But more specifically than not just cashing in on chances, the power play was the biggest reason we lost today.  We went 0-6.  0.  For.  6.  That’s just inexcusable.  Now, the power play is a well documented problem this year, and everyone seems to be chipping in their ideas as to how to fix it.  That’s why I’ve been keeping a little mum with suggestions.  But something has to change.  I haven’t noticed any kind of mix-ups to try to fix this problem, and it’s beginning to be a gaping achilles heel.  The only other major complaint I have from this game in Gonchar’s major penalty in the third period.  Cal Clutterbuck gave him a nasty hit that he didn’t like.  So, Sarge took a run at him and of course got caught for a major penalty and possibly a suspension for a hit to the head.  Now, I’m aware of the hockey code, but that’s just dumb.  He really hurt his team doing that.  Luckily, the Wild couldn’t put it in the net on the ensuing 5 minute penalty, but it was still 5 minutes in the third period of a one goal hockey game that we weren’t able to really attack.  Not to mention that a suspension is probably forthcoming which will hurt us even more.  I know you can’t let stuff like that go or else it will keep happening to you, however, you have to pick your spots better.  One last downer is that Malkin continues to disappear (he’s on a huge scoring drought if you’ve been living under a rock), but I’m not too worried.  He’s always been hot and cold.  He’ll be back eventually.  Hopefully it’s in time for the playoffs.

Overall, it wasn’t a great result, but I liked the effort.  We got a decent amount of pucks on net.  We probably deserved the W.  We just got some bad breaks, and the power play deserted us.  That happens.  Malkin will get better.  That I’m sure of.  The power play has no reason to be playing  as bad as it is.  I’d like to see some experimentation just for the sake of trying, but I haven’t the first clue of what to try.  Just a bad day in general.  It happens.  But there was one bright spot.  At least I could smile picturing how the Wild looked minty fresh in their alternate jerseys.

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Pens 4 Maple Leafs 1

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Game Recap

To tell you the truth, I was nervous about this one before it started.  Not because I don’t think we can beat the Maple Leafs, but because this was an enormous game.  We’re heading out on a big 5 game road trip.  Seeing the way this team has played, especially on the road, as of late made me nervous.  Toronto is the only game on the trip besides Edmonton that should be a gimmie (the others are Minnesota, Calgary and Vancouver).  If we started out the trip with a loss here, it could be a long slide.  But we didn’t.  We took care of a team that’s not very good.  That’s what teams like the Pens should do.

I think the biggest difference in this game was goaltending.  Fleury played extremely well and Gustavsson didn’t.  That’s the game right there.  I like the fact that Fleury hasn’t been playing his best lately and had a horrible game against the Flyers, but was able to shake it off and come up big for us.  That shows a lot of mental strength which is half the battle for goaltenders.  Gustavsson gave up some bunnies, but he hasn’t played well all year.  He doesn’t have much of a defense in front of him, but he’s been playing poorly reguardless.

This wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, however.  Toronto out-shot us yesterday.  If they hadn’t been so inept as to consistently turn the puck over, it could have been a problem.  To be honest, that kind of surprised me.  From what I was watching it seemed like we were a lot more dominant than the shots total said.  Maybe it was all the bad shots that the Leafs were taking.  Whatever the reason, I’ll take it.  But I’m sticking it in the back of my mind as a red flag that may be a sign of things to come.  Overall, however, it’s hard to complain.  Sarge had a pair of goals and I learned a new hockey rule: you can’t have 2 goals on the same play.  Good to know.  I saw a lot more hustle yesterday than I have in a couple of weeks.  I loved seeing that the most of all.  Next up is the Wild.  They’re not the really boring trap team that they have been in past years, but they still have the defensive game that could throw us for a loop.  I know they’re down in the standings, but I wouldn’t be surprised at a loss here.

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Pens 4 Flyers 7

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Game Recap

Man, I hate losing to the Flyers.  And we didn’t just lose to them tonight, we went down hard.  I’m extremely disappointed in the effort that was put out there by a lot of guys.  We had a terrible first period.  We fell in an early hole, and just couldn’t get out of it all night.  As soon as they got the lead, the Flyers turtled (as they should have).  They were leaving multiple guys in front of the net to clear pucks at the expense of the rush going the other way.  As a result, the rest of the game was predictable: we were taking some chances to get a goal, and those were backfiring in some goals going the other way.  Every time we got a goal in, the Flyers put one in on top of it.  We just couldn’t draw any closer than 2 goals from the second period on.  We absolutely lost this game in the first period.  We were battling along the boards, which is great, but we weren’t out-smarting the Flyers and that’s our best asset.  There were a lot of stupid passes and giveaways that are very uncharacteristic for us.  We were also very very lazy on defense.  We were slow to break up the odd man rushes.  We were slow to pinch off some passes.  It just looked like we had no desire out there in general.  Maybe we have some guys that are already thinking about Vancouver?  I don’t know.  All I know is that we can’t continue to play like this.  It won’t work.

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Big ‘Ole Catch Up

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Well, it’s been quite a while since I got off my duff and wrote a post, and every team I follow had at least one game.  So to get on with things quickly, here are some thoughts I’ve had on each.

Steelers

Well, the hail mary pass to end the season was complete so to speak.  We won each of the last 3 games and held up our end of the bargain.  But, alas, the hole we dug was just a little bit too deep and there’s no one to look at but the man in the mirror.  When you lose to Oakland, Kansas City and Cleveland in the same season there’s no way you deserve to be in the postseason.  So the attention turns to just what went wrong and how do we move forward?

Well, what went wrong was fairly obvious.  You can blame the offense for their red zone failures this year, but we had a fourth quarter lead in almost every single game.  To me, its obvious that the finger should get pointed squarely at the defense.  Not just the defense, but the secondary.  I’ve said this in prior posts, but the biggest reason we lost so many games this year is that when we had a lead in the fourth quarter, teams were forced to throw on us and many of them had a lot of success.  Now, that’s not to say to say that the offense is blameless.  As previously mentioned, the red zone numbers for this team are ugly, and that doesn’t bode well for the future of the team.  I’d say that the main reason for this is the lack of a run game.  When you get in the red zone, there’s less room to work with, and it’s much easier for a team to cover you in a passing play.  I’ve said this as well in previous posts: the Steelers second biggest problem is the lack of balance in the offense.  Mendenhall has been pretty good, but we need to use him a lot more than we are.  And the only way we can do that is to get some 3 or 4 yard runs with consistency.  Right now its pretty much 20 yards or -2 yards.  That won’t work.

So what needs to be done in the offseason?  Well, first and foremost, we need to decide on which free agents to keep.  We have a lot of them: Ryan Clark, Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, Justin Hartwig, Jeff Reed, Willie Colon and Willie Parker are the big ones.  Besides Willie Parker being an obvious release, you’ve got a lot of tough decisions.  Whomever is left will decide where we then go in the draft.  I’m not an expert on these kinds of things.  I haven’t the foggiest clue what the money or cap hit or anything will be.  I’ll leave that up to the Steelers.  What I will say is that for us to be a better team when we take the field next year, it will have to be a great effort by the front office.  We’re also going to have to revamp the secondary.  Not to be a pessimist, but things are not looking good for the Steelers as a franchise right now.

Pitt Basketball

Well, as opposed to the Steelers disappointment right now, the Pitt hoops team has been a very pleasant surprise.  DePaul at home was expected, but road wins against Syracuse and Cincinnati were big upsets and will look very nice come March.  All year I’ve been talking about how this team needs to keep improving and that has continued.  You see a lot less turnovers and the defensive lapses are becoming much more rare.  We’re also being much stronger with rebounds.  Those kinds of little things are what’s making this team play at a higher level (not to mention the return of some seniors).  Now, the big complaint I’ve had with this team is the interior scoring.  We’ve got no one who can post up.  Well you only saw it a little bit against Syracuse and Cincinnati, but Taylor and McGhee made a few moves down low.  They weren’t very good moves, and they didn’t score on any of them, but I’m encouraged that they’re trying.  Also, once again, I’m not talking about the wide open dunks and layups off rebounds.  I’m talking starting with your back to the basket and making a move.  They at least showed the potential so that maybe the guards will start backing off the perimeter a bit which will open things up for our backcourt.  I’d like to see them try some more.  Taylor especially has shown a lot of improvement.  He’s getting much stronger around the hoop, but he can still be even more aggressive.  Especially when he has the ball.  I haven’t seen any kind of hunger out of him yet.  When he shows some aggression down in the paint, he’ll be a phenomenal player.  I hear he’s on the verge of taking Gary McGhee in the depth chart.  I couldn’t agree more.  Especially because he’s got a much higher ceiling.  Gary’s just not a smart player at all, and he can’t seem to hold on to the ball.  I don’t see that changing at all.  He showed some flashes against some weaker opponents, but now that we’re picking on some teams that are our own size he’s disappeared again, and worse yet become a liability in a lot of cases.  Going into the season, I said that if Gary was a major contributor, we would be in trouble.  He’s done nothing to quell my fears.  If you look at the past two games, we’ve won because we can score a lot easier than we’ve been able to at any other point in the season.  That’s because we have multiple guards who can shoot and drive the lane.  Well, that’s fine.  But I’m scared of the time when more than one of them has an off night.  Or when a team doesn’t shoot 7% from beyond the arc like Syracuse.  But, overall, you have to be pleased with the progress of this team.  If we can continue this curve for the rest of the season we’ll be in fine shape.

Penguins

It’s been a big disappointment for the Penguins of late as well.  They tore off a 4 game losing streak complete with a pair of collapses and loses to inferior teams like Toronto, Tampa Bay and Florida.  The other loss was to New Jersey which is understandable.  I think it’s definitely reason to worry a bit, but you have to keep the long season in perspective.  The good news is that this is a long season, and just tonight we ended the losing streak against Atlanta.  The bad news is that it took the worst team in the NHL to break the streak and the style of the losses is troubling.  Besides the choke jobs, there are some other troubling patterns that are shaping up.  This team is getting smoked in the puck possession battle.  That’s because of two main reasons.  First of all, a lot of teams have noticed that we’re weak against the trapping defenses.  Now, the trap isn’t something you can implement overnight, but I’ve noticed a lot more pressure at the blue line in the past 5 games or so.  More troubling is that we’re still trying to dance into the zone and take too much on the individual.  We’re not learning.  It’s creating a lot of turnovers before we even get a chance to set up a play.  Second of all, and probably more troubling, we’re getting out-hustled.  I’m not sure if it’s just me, but it seems like we’re getting beat to loose pucks more now than we ever have before.  Just a lot of mental errors.  It’s very troubling, but it can be easily corrected.  Not by the coaching staff, but by individuals taking it upon themselves.  Maybe it’s just me that’s seeing this.  Maybe a lot of guys are looking forward to Vancouver,  but that’s got to stop.  But, like I said before, it’s a little 4 game stretch.  In the course of a season, that’s nothing.  It’s not time to panic yet.

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Huge Recap

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Well well.  My computer picked an awful bad week to just decide to crap out.  Every team I talk about had at least one game.  So I’m just going to run down my current thoughts on each, and then I can move forward like nothing happened.  Sound good?  Alright.  Let’s go.

Steelers

I’ll lead off with ‘dem Stillers cuz I know that’s what yinz guys like to hear about.  Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that the world is ending for the Steelers.  We’ve lost 3 in a row for the first time in years.  We’ve got our quarterback and star receiver arguing.  We’re on the verge of missing out on the playoffs.  There is no doubt that the world is going to end tomorrow.  So.  Now that you’re caught up, how do we save the world (or just the Steelers)?  Well, first things first.  How do we get everyone to just get along?  I mean its bad enough that the Bengals took our division lead…did they have to give us their drama on the way?  C’mon!  For those that aren’t in Pittsburgh and/or haven’t been paying attention, Hines Ward said in an interview that he’s played hurt and insinuated that Ben should too.  Ben allegedly went through the locker room saying ‘good luck without me guys’ in a sarcastic tone.  That’s a very high level recap, but the actual details don’t matter.  What matters is  what happens on the field.  How do we cut this beef between Ben and Hines up, grill it up and eat it so that we can play better?  Well, the short answer is win.  There is no drama in a winning locker room because there is no blame in a winning locker room.  The long answer is that Ben and Hines need to sit down and talk about this.  It was an obvious misunderstanding.  Both were frustrated at the time of their incidents.  In fact, I’m fairly sure that they’ve already talked (being that they’re grown men and this is an obvious step to take for two people striving towards a common goal).  So, in short, I’m not worried and you shouldn’t be either.  So with that cleared up, what is wrong with this team on the field?  Well, besides the obvious injuries I mean.  The defense seems to be giving up a lot more ground (especially in the fourth quarter) than they ever have before.  I’m just stumped as to why.  It could be because they’re getting old and tired at the end of games.  It could be because we really miss Troy.  My personal guess is that it’s the cornerbacks.  These have been come from behind fourth quarter wins in the past 3 weeks.    That means the other team has been throwing a lot.  If a team is most successful coming back in the 4th because they’re throwing, and we usually step up our blitz when we’re ahead, the only thing left is the corners that need to step up.  Maybe if they just jam their receivers a bit more at the line to buy some time it would help.  But I really don’t know.  That’s just a guess.  The special teams has also been awful.  If it’s not a kickoff being returned for a touchdown, it was awful punt coverage against Baltimore.  We just can’t win.  But, unfortunately, you can’t do much with special teams beside get guys in who really want to be there.  The one thing you can’t say much about is the offense.  They’ve been fine.  The loss of Ben hurt last week, but hey, it happens.  We’re much more balanced lately which I love.  So, in conclusion, the secondary will hopefully improve with Troy coming back soon which I hope will shore up the defense, the offense looks good already, and we just have to cross our fingers and hope the special teams don’t cost us too many games.  Oakland comes into town next week, so that should be a great opportunity to get back on track (though I said the same thing about Kansas City a couple of weeks ago.  Gulp).

Pitt Football

Hmmm……well that was a fairly depressing recap I just finished, and it isn’t going to get much better here.  The loss to WVU was ugly.  We didn’t just play poorly.  WVU played poorly and we played even worse.  I hate to say it, but this one goes on Billy Stull.  Now, as Mike Tomlin would say: ‘he’s got some money in my emotional bank account’, so I’m going to dismiss this as one bad game and not get on him too bad.  However, he played awful and he’d admit it.  He was overthrowing and underthrowing everybody.  It makes me wonder if he just gets tired at the end of a season (remember: he was alright leading up to the Rutgers game last year, though not as good as this season).  His inability to pass made us completely one-dimensional.  That will lose you a game every time.  Now, usually, when a quarterback is struggling, he’ll go with a lot of dump-offs.  Just to get back in a rhythm.  I saw a couple of passes to Dickerson (which he dropped.  He also had a terrible game).  But I only saw 2 passes to Dion Lewis.  You’ve got to dump off to him a bit more in that situation just to get some completions.  It seemed like he was chucking it to Baldwin every time.  I understand that Baldwin probably had a mismatch, but you can’t keep trying something that doesn’t work (well, it finally did in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t worth the total effort and wasted downs).  But, lucky for us, this game didn’t matter.  We still win the Big East with a win on Saturday.  And no matter what people will tell you, there was no way the Gator Bowl was taking us even if we won.  Especially with Bowden crying for one last gasp of attention (he wants to play his last bowl game in Florida and furthermore against WVU if he can because he used to coach there).  This loss probably just dropped us from Charlotte to Birmingham/Toronto if we lose on Saturday.  So crappy bowl to crappier bowl.  Hmmm…..  Not that big of a loss.  But this is still a huge game on Saturday.  Who would have thought that the River City Rivalry would ever mean anything?

Penguins

The Pens have been the most busy of any team.  Since I last left you, they’ve gone 3-1 including a home and home sweep of the Rangers.  Now that we’ve got some guys returning from injury we’re really playing at a high level.  Sid really seems to be on a role, but I think that may have more to do with the Rangers opening the ice to the coast to coast game that he really excels at.  The power play is still my biggest concern, by far.  I have no idea why this team struggles so much, except to say that we look for the perfect shot way to much.  The power play is a time for decent shots, not great shots.  But, overall, you have to be pleased with the play of this team.  Overlooking a hickup on Long Island, we’ve really been controlling the puck well and doing an excellent job being physical and checking teams.  It’s a return to that great play we started the season off with, and I’m going to run out of ways to say ‘we’re awesome’ before too long.  But Colorado will be a tough test on Thursday.

Pitt Basketball

Pitt only had one game over the long weekend: a fairly easy one against Youngstown State.  The game story was that it was a close game for the first 30 minutes before Pitt finally out-lasted them in the final 10.  I think the general assumption is that we had superior depth compared to YSU, and that’s what eventually won us the game.  I noticed something, but I haven’t read it in any recaps yet, so here it goes: we finally figured out their zone with about 10 minutes left and that’s what lead to the turnaround.  YSU played a classic 2-3 zone from start to finish.  It was fairly obvious that Coach Dixon thought it was very slow on the rotation.  He was having the team do a lot of perimeter passing trying to pass the ball faster than the defense could react.  Either it will open up an open 3-point shot or it will open up a lane to pass the ball into the post.  Well, the defense was slow to rotate alright, but when we saw the open space we didn’t take the jumper, our eyes light up and we drove the lane…..right into the teeth of the defense.  We had a ton of turnovers that way.  The only reason we stayed in the game was that Youngstown had a horrible offense and absolutely no frontcourt presence.  We also crushed them on the glass which didn’t hurt.  With about 10 minutes left, we finally started to attack the zone the right way and take what the defense gave us.  It was like the light bulb finally went on that ‘Hey!  Coach Dixon might know what he’s talking about.  Maybe we should try his advice’.  And, what do you know?  It worked.  I hope that’s the last of our struggles against the 2-3 zone, because as I said before, that’s something we’ll see a lot this year.  Duquesne is up next in the city game and the last college b-ball game in the Mellon Civic Arena.  I think this will be a really hard test for Pitt.  Much harder than most people think.  I wouldn’t even be surprised to come out with a loss in this one.  But I sure hope I’m wrong.

Pirates

….still suck.  Actually, they signed some guys this week, but no one of consequence.  We’re going to trot out a AAA team again next year.

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