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JOHN STEIGERWALD: Pens needed an easy series

on May 26, 2013 3:00 AM

Right after the Penguins melted down in the last minute of Game 3 to let the Ottawa Senators back into their quarterfinal series and western Pennsylvania was in a panic, I had planned to predict that the Penguins would win the next two games by a combined score of 13-5, but I forgot.

Let’s remember that the Penguins scored those 13 goals against Craig Anderson, the goalie almost universally considered the hottest goalie in hockey going into the series.

It seemed as though at least half of the experts were predicting Ottawa would win the series because of him. If Game 5 hadn’t been the last game of the series, they would have chased Anderson for the third time.

Less than a week ago, Dan Bylsma’s job security with the Penguins was not looking all that strong.

He was being trashed throughout the hockey world for having the wrong players on the ice during a last-minute shorthanded goal that led to the overtime loss.

He was also being questioned, maybe even ridiculed, for insisting that Jerome Iginla, a future Hall of Fame player who has always been a right wing, play on Evgeni Malkin’s left side.

When your team averages 6.5 goals a game to close out a series, you must have done something right.

• There is always a chance that a superior team will lose a playoff series because of a hot goalie. It happened to the Penguins three years ago when they lost to Jaroslav Halak and the Montreal Canadiens in the second round.

But it’s hard to imagine a goalie doing it to this Penguins team. There’s just too much firepower.

That’s not to say that the Penguins are unbeatable. It’s just unlikely that a goaltender is going to be able to be the difference in four games.

• The Penguins needed an easy series. Twenty-four of the last 25 Stanley Cup winners have won at least one series that went five games or less.

• Add lacrosse to the list of sports that I’m sorry I missed.

When I was a kid growing up in the middle of the previous century, the only thing I knew about the sport was that Jimmy Brown, who’s widely recognized as the best pro football player of all time, was one of the best college lacrosse players ever.

I’ve been introduced to the sport the last two years by watching my 11 year-old grandson’s games. I still have no real idea of what’s going on out there and do have some questions about the defensemen doing a lot of standing around, but I have seen enough to know that if more kids are exposed to it, baseball participation will suffer.

I have said before in this space that I think baseball is dying a slow death, and I received protests from lots of people who were quick to point to major league baseball’s attendance figures.

Major league baseball games are still attended in great numbers by people who were not exposed to sports like soccer, hockey and lacrosse.

And they’re still bringing their kids to the games.

I’ll never get soccer, but, if I were a kid in 2013 and given the choice between playing baseball, lacrosse or hockey, baseball would finish a distant third. It would finish fifth if football and basketball were included.

And nobody loved playing baseball more than I did as a kid.

But I learned how to catch, throw and hit before I got my first baseball uniform. It doesn’t work that way anymore and, by being exposed to the other sports through my grandsons, it’s become obvious to me that, in an age when kids only play organized sports, baseball suffers the most.

A kid can have no idea what he’s doing in the other sports and still seem to be having fun.

Baseball, with all the strikeouts, walks and stolen bases, seems like drudgery.

Maybe that’s why three of my four grandsons no longer play baseball.

If my only exposure to baseball had been what I see my grandson playing now instead of the pickup games I played before I joined a team, I wouldn’t have lasted two seasons.

I know I would have chosen the action and contact of lacrosse (or, God forbid, soccer) over the excessive standing around and widespread ineptitude that I see in what passes for baseball now.

And fathers and grandfathers, with an interest in passing what I always thought was the best game down to future generations, better wake up and realize that kids today have a lot more choices than we had, and sports that we barely heard of when we were kids look like much better choices now than baseball.

• By the way, my exposure to youth lacrosse will have me making a point to watch the NCAA men’s lacrosse championship this weekend in Philadelphia.

In between the hockey, of course.

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