PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Penguins' first-round playoff match-up with Columbus is probably as comfortable a series as they could have requested.
They're playing a just-happy-to-here low seed with very little playoff experience, one that also happens to be without one of its best players.
Still, Blue Jackets don't stir the postseason passion the way Capitals did and Flyers still might. Who hates a Blue Jacket? Despite the proximity of the two cities, there's never been anything approaching a hockey rivalry between Pittsburgh and Columbus.
But given the Penguins' wobbly finish to the regular season, the Blue Jackets might represent the ideal way to get back on track for tougher opponents.
Meanwhile, it seems curious that speedy but undersized Brian Gibbons wound up as one of Sidney Crosby's wingers in the first game of a playoff series.
Pascal Dupuis' season-ending knee injury had a big impact, but the injury occurred on Dec. 23. There's been time to formulate Plans B through Z.
It harkens back to the days when Mario Lemieux would get stuck with whatever wingers had just been claimed off the waiver wire. The theory was that Lemieux was good enough to make any slug better, so he got an over-the-hill Wayne Babych or Charlie Simmer on his wing.
The playoffs really shouldn't be a time for experimentation - not even against Columbus.
Take a number
The idea of honoring Jackie Robinson every year is fine, but the execution is terrible.
MLB remembers Robinson on April 15, the anniversary of his debut. Every MLB jersey used that day carries Robinson's No. 42.
The purpose of numbers is player identification, and that becomes impossible on April 15 because everyone is No. 42. Who's warming up in the bullpen? It's a righthander and a lefthander, No. 42 and No. 42.
Who is the pinch hitter on deck? It's No. 42, who will hit for No. 42. That's unless the other team brings in No. 42. In that case, No. 42 will be called back and No. 42 will pinch hit instead.
In the middle of a three-city, nine-game trip, the Pirates had to lug along an extra set of No. 42 jerseys.
How does total confusion honor Robinson's memory? Here's a better approach: Designate one player from each team to wear No. 42 on Robinson's day. Or have each manager wear the number. Or design a special (and marketable) cap that has No. 42 on it instead of the team logo. Do something that makes sense.
n Good to see that the Pirates quietly buried the pantomime gun-and-holster gimmick they were using to celebrate hits. It was intended to replace the two-year Zoltan "Z," but it struck a bad note from the start. The players were waving imaginary pistols, then miming stuffing them in imaginary holsters. Apparently someone convinced them that wasn't the best image, so they've switched off to the "yes" salute that's borrowed from a WWE character. There was a time when accomplishments were embellished with nothing more than a spontaneous hand clap or fist pump, but that ship sailed a while ago. That was back in the dark ages when players didn't even get to pick customized walk-up music for their plate appearances.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org