Fleury is making Crosby's absence seem like NBD.

Fleury is making Crosby's absence seem like NBD.

USA Today Sports/The Incline Illustration

So about that Sidney Crosby conspiracy theory: Pittsburgh Sports Power Rankings

Crosby joins Marc-Andre Fleury, Ivan Nova James Conner and…T.J. Oshie’s high stick that wasn’t.

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The Penguins have the Washington Capitals on the brink of another early playoff exit. But if it’s any consolation to the Capitals, their continued struggles made this week’s edition of the Pittsburgh Sports Power Rankings very fun and easy to write. I thank them for their service.

10. Matt Niskanen

Marc-Andre Fleury is one of the nicest people alive. In fact, the hardest part of playing goalie for him is probably fighting the urge to apologize to opponents for stopping their shots. So when someone as nice as Fleury tapes over your name, you’ve really messed up.

And let this also be a warning to James Neal, who the Penguins could face down the road in the playoffs: Take out a Penguins star and you will face the wrath of Fleury’s tape (if not any punishment at all from the league office).

9. Pace of play

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at Pittsburgh Pirates
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is trying to speed up baseball and it’s a difficult task. If you have watched any of this game of baseball over the past 150 years, it’s kind of slow endeavor by design. But not when Ivan Nova pitches. The Pirates … ace? is he the ace now? … and National League Pitcher of the Month for April will get you in and out of the stadium in well under three hours.

In five starts this season, Nova has allowed only one walk in 36 innings. Last season he walked just three batters in 64.2 innings with the Pirates. Thanks to Nova’s ability to efficiently dispatch opposing batters, his average start clocks in well under three hours and his last three games have wrapped up in just 2 hours, 14 minutes, 2:39 and 2:31, respectively.

Unfortunately, Nova isn’t scheduled to pitch again in Pittsburgh until May 20th, so you’ll have to wait until then for your next quickie.

8. The NHL conspiracy to protect Sidney Crosby

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

If you have spent any time in life conversing with hockey fans who live outside of the Pittsburgh metro region, you have no doubt heard about how there is a league-wide conspiracy to protect Sidney Crosby at all costs. “Imagine if [mean hockey thing] was done to Sidney Crosby!” they cry. “[Guy who did the mean hockey thing] would be suspended for life!”

Yet despite this clear conspiracy that you can no doubt read more about on InfoWars’ NHL page, players who have done things to Crosby have received a total of one game of suspension in his 12-year NHL career. One. One game in 12 years. Gary Bettman is very bad at running a conspiracy. I guess that’s why everyone boos him.

7. T.J. Oshie

T.J. Oshie has never struck anyone as one of the brightest minds in sports, and that was on display again in Game 4 when the Capitals winger was sent to the box for the final minutes of the game for high-sticking Nick Bonino. Only Oshie didn’t actually high stick Bonino.

His stick never contacted Bonino’s face, yet Oshie skated right off to the penalty box without complaint, having completely bought his opponent’s acting job. Even after the game he was still blaming himself, calling his penalty an “amateur play by me.” Thank you for your big contribution to the Penguins win, T.J. Thank you for not being smart. Thank you for teaching Nick Bonino the art of selling a high stick.

6. Juju Smith-Schuster

Juju Smith-Schuster

Juju Smith-Schuster

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It can definitely be debated if the Steelers should have selected a wide receiver in the second round of the draft over a defensive back. But Juju Smith-Schuster is doing all the right things to endear himself to Pittsburgh fans and show he was worth the pick:

5. National Portrait Gallery

Believe it or not, the Washington Capitals are a tough out in the playoffs (but only specifically when facing playoff elimination in Game 5 and at home):

But if the Capitals do get bounced in D.C. on Saturday? The post-game celebration on the National Portrait Gallery steps will be the greatest — and funniest — ever.

Speaking of great art, this photo should be inside the Portrait Gallery.

4. You happily being $99.99 poorer

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Pittsburgh
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

James Conner Steelers jerseys are now officially for sale. 

3. Gift Ngoepe

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Miami Marlins
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates infielder became the first African-born player in modern MLB history last week. But in a sport that will celebrate someone for being the first 27-year old left-handed DH to hit for the cycle during a day game on August 11th after a rain delay, Ngoepe’s accomplishment actually doesn’t seem to be getting the coverage it deserves. He is the first player in baseball history from a content that has more than 1 billion people. That’s a huge deal. Historic. And to make it even better: the Pirates don’t have to play in Boston anymore this year.

2. Marc-Andre Fleury

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Outside of the fact that Fleury is probably playing the best hockey of his life and that without him, it’s very likely the Penguins would have been swept out of the second round instead of being up 3-1, it’s impossible to not love this man even if he was giving up five goals a game.

1. Sidney Crosby

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

To quote Joni Mitchell: “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”

Oh, and she also has a good lyric about the Civic Arena, too: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

Big Penguins fan, Joni Mitchell.



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