Mark Madden: Teddy Blueger belongs on Penguins, not in minors
The NFL has no offseason. Maybe that’s why the Super Bowl drew its lowest TV rating in a decade: The citizens are tiring of football, or weary of New England winning, or maybe America just hates Maroon 5. But everybody loves refreshing sports notes.
• When the Penguins get healthy, Teddy Blueger shouldn’t automatically go back to the minors. The 24-year-old rookie scored twice in 20 minutes of ice during Friday and Saturday’s games, and adds energy reminiscent of when kids like Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary provided a needed injection thereof in the Stanley Cup years of 2016 and ’17. Let Blueger play until he proves he can’t. Give him a chance at third-line center if Nick Bjugstad gets a shot on Sidney Crosby’s right wing.
• Bjugstad probably will, by the way. General manager Jim Rutherford and coach Mike Sullivan are reportedly intrigued with the notion of Bjugstad on Crosby’s line. But has anybody asked Crosby? Bjugstad did some top-six duty in Florida on Aleksander Barkov’s wing.
• Derrick Brassard wouldn’t accept being third-line center in Pittsburgh behind Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Now, in Florida, Brassard is third-line center behind Barkov and Vince Trocheck, unless he’s moved to wing. But Brassard won’t be there long. Brassard’s failure with the Penguins is totally on Brassard. He just wouldn’t adjust.
• Rust scored one goal in his first 29 games this season. He has 13 goals in his past 22 games. Roll over, Mike Bossy, and tell Rocket Richard the news. It’s a deserved reward for a player denied a comfort zone because versatility and necessity bounce him all over the depth chart. Rust isn’t netting garbage, either. Bar, down and in.
• Did Malkin get hurt fighting Tampa Bay’s Steve Stamkos on Wednesday? No one will say, so he likely did. Stars shouldn’t fight. They don’t know how, and there’s too much risk. Here’s betting Malkin was injured when he and Stamkos fell to the ice.
• Defenseman Justin Schultz is due back from injury soon. The main beneficiary from that will be Malkin, once he returns. Kris Letang often plays behind Crosby, getting him the puck with speed and precision through the neutral zone. Schultz will do the same for Malkin.
• Rutherford was on my radio program Monday. He dispelled the notion that the Penguins need a wing. (They don’t. They rank fifth among NHL teams in goals.) He also said he’s trying to not trade this year’s first-round pick because it’s a good draft. He also said the Penguins remain committed to speed despite trading for size in the form of the 6-foot-6 Bjugstad (who doesn’t necessarily play big).
• In their last three games, the Penguins have blown a 2-o lead and lost 3-2 at Toronto, watched a 4-1 advantage dwindle to 4-3 in the last seven minutes at home against Ottawa, and seen a 4-0 edge shrink to 4-2 in the last five minutes at home vs. Tampa Bay. The Penguins just keep trying to score. They refuse to wisely manage leads.
• The Steelers may use the transition tag on Le’Veon Bell. They might mend fences with Antonio Brown if no team offers more than a second-round pick for him. The Steelers are like a boyfriend who gets dumped but keeps calling and leaves messages despite the calls not being answered or returned. (Brown definitely isn’t answering or returning calls.) The Steelers are stalkers. Why won’t they cut ties with the Toxic Twins?
• Diminishing New England’s accomplishments because the Patriots “cheated” is pitiful and petty. Each instance of the Patriots “cheating” was addressed and disciplined. None of the punishments prohibited winning. Julian Edelman’s four-game suspension for PED use did not ban him from being open constantly in Sunday’s Super Bowl. Winning six Super Bowls since 2001 in a league using a salary cap defies logic.
• Suddenly thinking of Edelman as a Pro Football Hall of Famer after he got Super Bowl MVP also defies logic. Edelman has 499 catches in nine seasons. Isaac Bruce has 1,024 receptions and Hines Ward has 1,000. They can’t get in. You can’t induct Edelman merely because he won a Super Bowl MVP. That’s silly. Ward won one of those, too.
• I’d rather have Edelman than Brown. Edelman knows how to win, cares about winning, and wins.
• The Super Bowl was a good game despite the low score. But fantasy culture has us convinced the scoreboard should be akin to a pinball machine. Los Angeles receiver Brandin Cooks had his hands on two balls in the end zone. They weren’t easy catches, but what happens if he holds onto one? That game was on a knife’s edge.
• The millionaire who runs Barstool Sports got thrown out of the Super Bowl, and then ejected from the Patriots’ after-party. That’s a unique way to cover sports: Get the boot from everything. By unique, I mean pathetic. What’s accomplished?
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM 105.9.