Experts not talking about the Pens

PITTSBURGH — The Penguins opened the season last week, and there was no need to stage a banner-raising ceremony.

The Stanley Cup currently belongs to the Washington Capitals, and it doesn’t seem like many people outside of Pittsburgh expect the Penguins to repossess it this spring.

The Penguins appear to be waddling under the radar in discussions of possible Cup winners, which raises the question:

n Was last season a bump along the way or was it the beginning of the end?

Sports Illustrated, which cares as much about the NHL as your cat does, has them losing to Florida in the first round of the playoffs. (Hey, at least SI has them making the playoffs, right?)

They’re still loaded with talent, especially at the center position. Sidney Crosby is 31, which means his peak years are nearing an end. However, he’s not finished.

Same for Evgeni Malkin, now 32. The two sides of Malkin were on display in the opener — an egregious turnover that led to a Washington goal, followed by an impressive play to set up a Penguins goal.

Kris Letang and Phil Kessel are both 31. When a team’s core of stars is all on the wrong side of 30, there’s reason to doubt. It’s a young man’s league, and speed rules.

Letang has a dubious injury history, and Crosby is always a concussion away from having his career in jeopardy. There will come a time when the Penguins’ stars exit, which is what the Steelers experienced after their Super Bowl run of the 1970s ended.

There were a lot of wistful press conferences, followed by the acquisition of replacements who weren’t nearly as good. After that incredible run, the Steelers sank into mediocrity for a decade.

Sometimes the end comes without much advance notice. Jack Lambert, one of the toughest guys to ever play in the NFL, was done in by turf toe. The Steelers were convinced that Terry Bradshaw was good for another three seasons, but he blew out his elbow and was finished without warning.

It doesn’t appear the Penguins are yet at that precipice, but it’s coming one of these days. It seems unlikely that will happen during the current season, though.

It’s reasonable to think the Penguins won’t win the Cup this year, but foolish to exclude them from the discussion.

Must win?

The Steelers need to get in gear, and 1 o’clock this afternoon would be a good time to start.

The Atlanta Falcons visit, and they’re a team with great offensive potential and a very questionable defense.

Kind of sounds like the Steelers, doesn’t it?

Get ready. This could light up the scoreboard.

Remember that the Steelers have already had a game in which they scored 37 points and didn’t win.

Showing off

Baseball has changed, and players tend to be much more demonstrative on the field than previous generations were.

Still, it’s jarring to see players in high-stakes postseason games taking the time to look at their dugout and pump their fists as they run to first base.

Showing off is so ingrained now that it doesn’t even take a break in the postseason.

One other completely pointless observation: If there’s that much Gatorade left to spill on the star of the game, the staff is mixing up entirely too much Gatorade.

Making an entrance

How long until some baseball team stages individual entrances at the start of a game so the players can come out WWE style instead of taking the field as a group?

You know it’s coming, complete with a tunnel, music, smoke machines and fireworks.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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