By my count, this is three disappointing weekends in a row in the world of Pittsburgh sports. Two weekends ago, we had the Super Bowl, which we will speak no more of. Last weekend, it was two Penguin losses (one making a mockery of the sport) and the death of Fam-a-Lee skipper Chuck Tanner, the last Pirate manager to win a World Series. This weekend, wins were elusive to both of the Pittsburgh teams in action. A recap after the jump:
1. Tough, controversial loss for the Pitt Panthers on Saturday afternoon, falling to St. John's 60-59 on a Dwight Hardy basket with 1.2 seconds in the game. I feel bad that Pitt lost to an inferior team, but as I always say, when you put yourself in a position where one play or call can change the outcome, you can't complain if it does. The Panthers played sloppy basketball, turning the ball over 16 times and shooting just 55% from the charity stripe, and they paid the ultimate price: they lost. To make matters worse, they blew a career-high 26 from Ashton Gibbs, who hit as many threes (six) as Pitt did as a team in the three games his missed due to a knee injury.
2. As I warned earlier in the week, St. John's has become a legitimate giant-killer, beating four top-13 teams prior to their upset of Pitt. The Red Storm might have had nine losses on the season entering the game, but they were 4-1 against ranked teams on their turf, a record that now sits at an even more impressive 5-1 as I write this. I know it was an upset, but I can't say it was a surprise.
3. Maybe I was too pessimistic about the Penguins game for the reason that they failed to come away with a victory. In reality, it was probably just bitterness on my part, because like Pitt, the Pens were within a gnat's eyelash of coming home with a quality road win. The Blackhawks may be on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned, but for the shorthanded Penguins to take the defending champs to a shootout on the road and snag a point, that's a job well done.
Marc-Andre Fleury played a relatively strong game between the pipes, Matt Cooke had a very productive afternoon, and Brett Sterling scored his third goal in five games. If only the team had any kind of firepower available in the shootout, the Pens might have nabbed that extra point after all. Now let's just hope Jordan Staal is OK after taking a shot to the cheek in overtime (for whatever it's worth, he gave Coach Disco the "thumbs up" in the locker room).
4. The Pens are currently 36-19-5, in spite of all their injuries and a franchise goalie whose future was being questioned by many in the early part of the season. The Steelers advanced to the Super Bowl with a QB who missed the first four games and an offensive line that defined the word "patchwork". The Pitt Panthers won in a place where no one wins (Villanova) without their leading scorer, and have lost just three games while playing in the nation's toughest conference. Has the city of Pittsburgh ever seen coaching like what's going on over the course of the last few months?
5. As for the Pirates, they're keeping themselves in the news with headlines such as "Pirates evaluating general manager Huntington's status". Of course, those statements were made by Frank Coonelly, Huntington's boss, who I would deem equally, if not more responsible for the team's lack of improvement since their arrival. It sets up quite the interesting dynamic going into the 2011 season. But long story short, if you were banking on good news from the Pirates to lift the city out of their sports doldrums this weekend, once again, you're out of luck...unless hearing more promises about future greatness and shaky management positions rocks your boat.