Congratulations to former Pirates pitcher Don Schwall. I talked to him by phone on Saturday while he was on his way from Texas to Norman, Oklahoma to enjoy a day that was 57 years in the making. Schwall is 82. He was a star at Oklahoma in the 1950s, but when the Red Sox came calling, he left for pro baseball. He won the American League Rookie of the Year. He was traded to the Pirates in a deal for Dick Stuart and played in Pittsburgh from 1963-1966. Schwall worked in the off-season and earned enough credits to graduate, but he never received his diploma, which brings us to this weekend.
Nearly 60 years after he should’ve received it, Schwall donned a cap and gown and officially graduated from the University of Oklahoma. He still lives in the Pittsburgh area. Great story and congrats to Don Schwall.

Advertisements

The pain lingers for the Penguins. That’s the best way to describe what we found in the Pens locker room today as they cleared out and went their separate ways. Some are coming to terms with the loss to Washington quicker than others, but all of them feel they should still be playing. Here’s a sample:

Justin Schultz: “It’s weird not playing when there’s teams still there.”

Olli Maatta: “You’re gonna go all the way again that’s what you’re planning for. You haven’t really planned for anything else.”

Brian Dumoulin: “It’s tough and it’s difficult but I know that we can be there again next year.”

Matt Murray: “It’s not easy but after a few days the main feeling I have is just pride.”

Sidney Crosby: “We haven’t felt for a while so doesn’t make it any easier I can tell you that.”

Mike Sullivan: “When you fall short of your ultimate goal, it stings.”

It didn’t take long. IN fact, it was over in an instant. About 5-1/2 minutes into overtime last night, the series-winning shot slid past Matt Murray to end the Penguins’ quest for a 3-peat. So for the first time in 3 years, the Pens were on the wrong end of the congratulatory handshake line. Their streak of 9 straight playoff series wins has ended.
And for the first time since 2015, the pens are headed for the offseason without the Cup. Sidney Crosby was classy, and insightful, in defeat, “there’s great opportunities when you’re in the playoffs and it’s hard to get there…and regardless of getting there two years prior…i know everyone talked about that but just getting in there and how hard it is especially with you know the group that we have a lot of the same guys have been together for a couple of them and you just that’s what you play for it’s the best time of the year and unfortunately we just couldn’t get it done.”

Ben Roethlisberger had a lot to say about the drafting of quarterback Mason Rudolph, and Rudolph is responding. Among other things, Ben said that Rudolph wouldn’t be the man for 3 to 5 years until Ben decides to hang it up. Roethlisberger also questioned why the Steelers would draft a quarterback at all, believing they should have gone with some of their more immediate needs. Rudolph is taking all of it in stride, “you know if I was Ben I’d probably say the same thing, he’s a competitor, obviously he has a lot of confidence in himself like I do, and yeah he’s gonna be a future hall of famer. I would expect him to say that. I’m just looking forward to going in there learning the system competing raising my level of play preparing like I’m the starter even though I won’t be starting.”

 

On Monday night, the Penguins will either force a game 7 with the Capitals, or their season will be over. The Pens face elimination at PPG Paints Arena, but Mike Sullivan likes where his team is mentally going into this game, “I think it’s all about an attitude going in, and I believe our guys have the right attitude. They believe in themselves, they know they’re capable, and really what we’re looking at is going out and winning one hockey game.”

 

Sidney Crosby needs only one point to tie Mario Lemieux’s team-record 172 playoff points. Crosby was asked about it, and I love this quote:

“when you’re in that company it’s great, and it’s not why you play, but when it comes up it’s cool to be involved in that, and like you say being one point away, I had no idea, but I would take being close with Mario. The day I came into the league, if someone told me I could be close, I would take it.”

It’s been almost 40 years since a team has won three Stanley Cups in a row. Some Penguins might shy away from talk of a “three-peat.” But Bryan Rust told me today they’re very much aware of the historical significance, “I think it’s in the back of everyone’s mind. I think that gives everyone that much more motivation because it would be such an accomplishment, something that a lot of teams can’t say they can do, or have done, and it’s something that would put this team down, kinda put this team down…in history.”

The Penguins taking the ice today in Cranberry, the first steps toward a three-peat performance as Stanley Cup champion. I asked Olli Maatta about whether he’s able to soak in the moments as they’re happening, “I think you realize over the last couple of years how much fun it is to be part of something something like this–a good team like this, just being part of that run, we’re working toward something bigger than us, and I think you’ve just got to take every moment in.”

Game 1: Wednesday, April 11, 7:00pm, PPG Paints Arena
Game 2: Friday, April 13, 7:00pm, PPG Paints Arena
Game 3: Sunday, April 15, 3:00pm, Wells Fargo Center
Game 4: Wednesday, April 18, 7:00pm, Wells Fargo Center
*Game 5: Friday, April 20, TBD, PPG Paints Arena
*Game 6: Sunday, April 22, TBD, Wells Fargo Center
*Game 7: Tuesday, April 24, TBD, PPG Paints Arena

*If necessary

The Pitt basketball Panthers have found their coach, and his is a familiar name to fans of college basketball. Jeff Capel, a two-time head coach at VCU and Oklahoma, and most recently the associate head coach under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, will be introduced at a news conference tomorrow. Capel’s a lifelong Steelers fan. I spoke with Pitt broadcaster and former Duke All-American Dick Groat, and he says he couldn’t be happier with the hire, especially with a coach who learned under Krzyzewski for the last seven years, “Coach K is a marvelous coach, you don’t win that number of games he’s won without having a tremendous reputation and being in a system of his–a major league plus. This young man, having worked under Coach K, will obviously know how to recruit, he’s a class young man, and I’m very happy to see him coming to the University of Pittsburgh.”

 

Advertisements