Bob Smizik: Rangers up next for Penguins

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Nobody asked me, but ...

• Home ice, which often means little in the hockey postseason, prevailed last night and the not-so-detested New York Rangers will be the Penguins' opponent instead of the fiercely hated Philadelphia Flyers in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Rangers won, 2-1, at Madison Square Garden.

• Remember that feel-good story about Mike Adams driving to Pittsburgh to plead his case with the Steelers to draft him in 2012. Well, the Steelers did and probably are deeply regretting that move based on Adams' play on the field and his actions off it. Three men accused of stabbing Adams on the South Side last June were found not guilty Wednesday and the testimony at the trial does not make Adams look like a solid citizen.

• The Pirates' schedule for May is difficult and does not bode well for success. The opponents are Baltimore, Toronto, San Francisco, St. Louis, Milwaukee, New York Yankees, Washington, New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers. Going into the games of Wednesday, only Toronto had a losing record. The opponents were a combined 133-104 -- a 91-win pace.

• This is not to suggest there is anything to the latest allegations against Penn State football coach James Franklin. But the report that he had what would be an improper discussion with a woman who allegedly had been raped by Vanderbilt football players at a time when Franklin was the coach likely would not go away easily or quietly in any circumstance. That becomes tenfold in Penn State’s circumstances.

• People keep saying the Milwaukee Brewers can’t continue to play at their current level or even close to it. Some people were saying the same thing about the Pirates last year.

• Against what was the No. 4 defense in the NHL and veteran standout goalie Henrik Lundqvist, the Penguins are going to need something approaching their best game against the Rangers. And that means goal production from Sidney Crosby, who is now in 11 postseason games without a score.

• Steelers selections in the latest mock drafts -- Don Banks, SI. com: Justin Gilbert, cornerback, Oklahoma State; Mel Kiper, ESPN.com: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU; Todd McShay, ESPN.com: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State; Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan.

• Dept. of The Complete and Total Unimportance of Complete Games in Modern Baseball: Max Scherzer, the AL Cy Young winner last season, not only has never pitched a complete game, he has appeared in the ninth inning only once in 170 MLB starts. He averaged 6.7 innings per start last year -- a career high.

• The state of higher education: Disgraced Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel is a candidate to be president at both Akron and Youngstown State.

• Good viewing for any Pirates fan is the Ralph Kiner special currently running on Root Sports.

• Zach Duke has a 1.35 ERA and an 0.90 WHIP pitching in relief with the Milwaukee Brewers. Duke, who regularly threw batting practice -- in real games -- for the Pirates, has a BAA of .188. What is truly remarkable about the rejuvenation of Duke, the quintessential soft-tossing lefty, is that his K/9 is 12.15. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

• How the game has changed: Tony Gwynn had 10,232 career at-bats and struck out 434 times. Andrew McCutchen has 2,849 career at-bats and has struck out 551 times.

• Just when you think the NCAA can’t get more petty and more ridiculous comes this: Michigan’s Mitch McGary was suspended for the entire 2014-15 season because he tested positive for marijuana in March. McGary hadn’t played, due to injury, since Dec. 14. McGary will enter the NBA draft rather than face the suspension.

• So far the Cincinnati Reds are paying the price for going with rookie center fielder Billy Hamilton, who might be the fastest man in baseball but who had this batting line in Class AAA last year: .256/.308/.343 -- .651. Not surprisingly, his 2014 line going into last night’s game was: .245/.280/.330 -- .610. He was tied for second in the NL with 10 stolen bases and was first in caught-stealing with five.

• The Cradle of First Basemen: These first basemen, all former Pirates, are starting in MLB this season: Brandon Moss (Oakland), Adam LaRoche (Washington), Garrett Jones (Miami), Justin Morneau (Colorado), Casey McGehee (Miami, at 3B). Lyle Overbay is a part-time starter at Milwaukee, and Steve Pearce is a backup in Baltimore.

• The Pirates have 132 at-bats against left-handed pitching this season, which is the fewest in the National League. Eleven teams have more than 200 and one, San Francisco, has 315. Last year the Pirates has 1,101 ABs vs. lefties. That was 288 fewer than the next lowest team and 598 fewer than the leader. How important is that? Last season, Jordy Mercer, Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen ranked first, second and fourth in the NL in batting average against left-handers.


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