First call: Blue Jackets jump Penguins; Carolina fans mad about Antonio Brown |
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Tim Benz

In “First Call” Friday, the Penguins are back outside of the playoff bracket again. Pitt has a huge road challenge. A little perspective on the Bryce Harper signing. Carolina fans are mad at me.

Back outside

Columbus’ 4-3 win over the Flyers caused some shuffling in the Eastern Conference standings. That vaults them back into a playoff slot as the third-place team in the Metropolitan Division with 75 points.

The Penguins have 74 points, tied with Carolina for the second wild-card position. As of now, the Hurricanes hold that playoff spot by virtue of having one more win than the Penguins.

Meanwhile, the Islanders won 6-1 over Toronto to get back into first place in the Metro with 81.

Well, when you put it that way!

The Phillies have landed Bryce Harper for a record 13 years and $330 million.

Reaction is coming from all over the place. Many in Philadelphia seem happy to have won the sweepstakes, getting a former MVP such as Harper.

Others think the Phillies spent too much. Those in that camp have this tweet from Darren Rovell of The Action Network to back their argument.

Wow. Thirteen more years at that price. Harper will have plenty of money as he waits to watch the Flyers win the Stanley Cup.

Wrong Panthers

It’s not rare for me to make Panthers fans mad.

Usually it’s Pitt Panthers fans, though. Not Carolina Panthers fans.

I’ve gotten a few emails from Carolina in response to my story suggesting Charlotte may be a good fit for Antonio Brown because I said Newton could use the help with a “dearth” of receiving options and a “shaky” offensive line.

That second complaint is valid. That was too broad of a brush by me. I wasn’t referring to run blocking, where the Panthers had the fourth-best rush offense. And when it comes to sacks allowed (26) and hits allowed (78), the Panthers actually did well.

But down the stretch, Newton was sacked five times by the Steelers, four times each by Tampa and New Orleans and three times by Detroit before he sat out the last two games.

As far as his wide receivers go, Devin Funchess is a free agent. DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel are up-and-coming. But Moore’s 157-yard receiving game in Detroit in November was the only receiving effort over 100 yards cashed in by a Panthers wide receiver all year.

Brown had 104 catches, 10 more than those two combined. He had 15 more yards than those two combined and 15 touchdowns to their seven combined.

The Panthers could use Antonio Brown.

Plus, it’s a day late for “U mad, bro?” anyway.

College calendar

When it comes to college basketball, Pitt looks to break its 11-game losing streak at No. 2-ranked Virginia at 2 p.m. Saturday.

UMass comes to Palumbo Center to play Duquesne at 2 p.m. Saturday, as well. The Dukes are coming off a conference-schedule-worst 21-point loss to St. Bonaventure on Wednesday. But they are 9-6 in conference play. The Minutemen come in at 3-12.

The Robert Morris men’s basketball team lost to Sacred Heart, 87-63, on Thursday night. The Colonials (10-7 NEC) have their regular season finale at Wagner (8-9) at 4 p.m. Saturday. RMU and Sacred Heart are now tied for third in the conference

As for the Robert Morris hockey team, Derrick Schooley’s club has senior night Saturday. Those Colonials conclude their regular season with a home-and-home against Mercyhurst. The teams play in Erie tonight, and the return game is at the Island Sports Center at 7:05 p.m. Saturday.

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