First call: Previewing Penguins-Rangers; support for Tom Izzo |
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Tim Benz

In Monday’s “First Call,” we give you a preview of Monday’s Penguins-Rangers game, a look at the weekend’s impact on the NHL’s Eastern Conference standings, some support for Tom Izzo and some height perspective on UCF’s Tacko Fall.

Wrecked Rangers

The Penguins get back into action Monday night against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

New York managed to squeak out a 2-1 victory against the Maple Leafs on Saturday in overtime.

The Rangers have 71 points, the second-lowest point total in the Metropolitan Division.

New York has lost 11 of 13. But five of those games have been in overtime or shootouts, and seven of them have been one-goal decisions.

The Rangers are allowing 3.26 goals against per game. That’s the eighth-highest total in hockey. And their penalty kill of 78.8 is 26th in the NHL out of 31 teams.

No help

While the Penguins were idle Sunday, they got no help in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

The Flyers lost in Washington, 3-1. The Islanders shut out the Coyotes, 2-0. Columbus blanked Vancouver, 5-0. And the Hurricanes got a 2-1 overtime win at home against the Canadiens.

So, with the exception of Montreal, that means all the teams around the Penguins in the conference picked up two points on them in the standings.

For now, the Penguins are three points behind the Capitals for the Metro Division lead and two points behind the Islanders for second place.

The team’s 93 points are still two better than wild-card-leading Carolina’s 91 and five better than the Canadiens for the final playoff slot. The Blue Jackets are currently in ninth place, on the outside of the bracket, with 86 points.

Bravo, Scott

You might have seen the finger-wagging or read the pearl-clutching over the weekend about how Michigan State coach Tom Izzo yelled at one of his players too much during his team’s opening-round NCAA Tournament win against Bradley.

Well thank goodness for ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt who balanced things out.

ESPN isn’t exactly known for this kind of commentary often. Usually the network drifts to the touchy-feely, holier-than-thou side of these debates.

I was glad to see Van Pelt bring some common sense to the discussion.

Who’s this little guy?

The talk of the NCAA Tournament has been UCF center Tacko Fall. He’s 7 feet, 6 inches tall. His team lost to Duke, 77-76, Sunday in what is largely being called the game of the tournament.

Fall is so big, he makes Blue Devils star Zion Williamson look tiny.

Let me take that back. He even made Kareem-Abdul Jabbar look tiny.

Fall ended up with 15 points, six rebounds, and three blocks.

I don’t have much. Give me this.

With my alma mater, Syracuse, getting bounced from the NCAA Tournament in the first round, it’s a sad time for me.

So I’m going to cling to this: The Orange have recruited a Lemieux!

I can’t seem to find a family connection to Mario, but I’m just going to assume championships will follow his name. Kevin is a 2020 recruit. And he’s a defensive lineman. Usually, offensive linemen have No. 66. But, in this case, I think an exception should be made.

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