Watching the Boston Bruins collapse in the final two minutes of the sixth and deciding game of the Stanley Cup Finals Monday night, two thoughts came to mind.
1. Tuukka Rask, the Bruins goaltender who stonewalled the Penguins in the previous round, looked, well, ordinary.
2. The Penguins feeble offensive display while getting swept by the Bruins in the previous playoff round – two goals in 15 periods – might be more a problem from within than a byproduct of a “hot” goaltender.
It’s not out of the question that Boston had the Penguins’ offensive game plan figured out in that series. How else to describe holding the game’s two best goal scorers in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin without so much as a point.
So far, general manager Ray Shero does not appear to favor making major changes. Head coach Dan Bylsma is back with a two-year extension; Marc-Andre Fleury is again entrenched as the “franchise” goalie, despite two incredibly underwhelming postseasons; negotiations are under way to extend the contract of Kris Letang; and Malkin was given an extension.
The Penguins will never be a strong defensive team because they aren’t built that way. They are built to score. That doesn’t mean they can’t be an adequate defensive team, maybe even above average. That point should be driven home to Malkin and, especially, Letang, whose defensive lapses were so maddening.
Crosby, Malkin and Letang combined for 47 points in the three playoff series. And they were a combined minus-3.
Improve on that number, and the chances of winning a Stanley Cup improve.
• The U.S. Supreme Court put a lid on the cauldron of Affirmative Action this week, sending the test case back to appellate court. But the issue should come around again next year.
Whether you support Affirmative Action, there is no denying that discrimination – academia calls it preferential treatment – exists at nearly every college and university.
Students with lower grades and test scores routinely get into many schools with athletic scholarships. Others do because they play an instrument or have an interest in entering a specific program that is not overrun with applicants.
Maybe the most heinous type of discrimination/preferential treatment is the process where students who happen to live inside a specific school’s state line pay less tuition. Individuals who live out of state might be charged twice the amount of instate students simply because of where they live.
No word on whether the Supreme Court will look into that situation.
• At the beginning of the Major League Baseball season, I made the bold prediction that the Pirates would win 75 games. And they will, some time in early September at the rate they are going now.
With the strongest and deepest pitching staff in memory and a great bullpen, it’s difficult to see these Pirates crumbling in the second half of the season. Only a rash of injuries can devastate their chances of snapping 20 years of sub-.500 baseball.
Still, these are the Pirates and, as their long-suffering fans have seen, anything is possible.
• Pitt made the right move in not allowing star running back Rushel Shell to return to the football program.
It had to be a hard call for head coach Paul Chryst, but it was the right one for the program. Shell would have been the starting tailback for the Panthers as they make their initial venture into the ACC. Talent was never an issue with Shell. Work ethic? Well, that was a problem.
There also were reports Shell had an acrimonious breakup with Pitt when he announced his intentions to transfer in April.
Chryst might have lost a talented player, but he gained the respect of the locker room.
Assistant sports editor Joe Tuscano can be reached at email@example.com