LAS VEGAS -- I wish there was some way to write a classic Chuck Berry intro to these refreshing sports notes. Dancing and humming a rock 'n' roll melody...
*Matt Murray has allowed 15 goals in his last five games. Marc-Andre Fleury has conceded eight times in his last five games. Just sayin'...
*Phil Kessel never goes down to block a shot. Kessel has played 599 consecutive games. Evgeni Malkin hurt his shoulder blocking a shot at Calgary last Monday. Malkin has missed the Penguins' last two games. Kessel has got it right. Memo to Malkin: Let your goalie make the save, or somebody else block the shot. Don't put premium talent at risk doing generic work.
*Coach Mike Sullivan is experimenting with Kessel at left wing. Perhaps that finally makes room for Jarome Iginla at right wing. Some wingers can switch easily from side to side. Kessel isn't likely one of those, if only because he's so rarely tried.
*The Sidney Crosby-Conor Sheary-Jake Guentzel line clicks on so many levels. But most amazing is its ability to control play down low despite nobody being taller than 5-foot-11. Kenny the Kangaroo must be smiling. Sheary and Guentzel have high hockey IQs, allowing them to think the game at Crosby's level. Close enough, anyway.
*Nobody has ever played better below the hash marks than Crosby. Nobody has ever played better on his backhand than Crosby. Sunday's hat trick serves notice to the other participants in the NHL points, goals and MVP races.
*Friday's Penguins-New Jersey game provided a microcosm of the inconsistency so consistently displayed by NHL referees: Kessel and the Devils' Taylor Hall were fouled in almost identical fashion on second-period breakaways. Kessel got a penalty shot. Hall did not; a minor penalty was awarded instead. Watch the replays. It's inconceivable that differing calls were made. But they did.
*I'm sorry I missed the Jaromir Jagr tribute video and subsequent standing ovation at yesterday's game. All-time great player. Good man. But I know, in my heart, that Jagr would want me to be in Las Vegas.
*GM Jim Rutherford made deals for two legit NHL defensemen before the trade deadline, yet the Penguins' tidal wave of injuries had Derrick Pouliot and Chad Ruhwedel in yesterday's lineup. "Spumoni! Spumoni! How many times do I gotta say spumoni?"
*Watching NCAA men's tournament games in Las Vegas is unique. Eighty percent of those watching react to the spread, not the actual score. That produces unique reactions that would be non sequiturs anywhere else.
*Northwestern University making the NCAA men's tournament for the first time was a great story. We know that because the plentiful amount of Northwestern grads working in sports media reminded us over and over. It was the most sustained instance ever of rooting in the press box. Northwestern lost in the second round, and thank God.
*In 2012, Duquesne University fired men's basketball coach Ron Everhart, who went 99-89 in six seasons (89-70 over his last five). His replacement, Jim Ferry, went 60-97 in five years before getting sacked. It's a prime example of not understanding your program's ceiling, and sabotaging it via indulging pie-in-the-sky optimism. Duquesne won't get a better coach than Everhart, and can't do appreciably better than he did. (Pitt athletics didn't invent this scenario, but have certainly perfected it.)
*Such is the state of college basketball in Western Pennsylvania that the Pittsburgh region is rallying around West Virginia University.
*UConn won, 116-55, in the first round of the NCAA women's tournament. That is a grotesque parody of competition, and has zero entertainment value. You'd have to be a moron to watch that for more than 10 seconds. At least the Harlem Globetrotters toss a bucket of confetti once in a while.
*The Baylor women won, 119-30. From bad to worse.
*NBA fans and media are outraged because Cleveland and Golden State aren't using their stars for select road games by way of resting them for the playoff grind. But there's absolutely no way to legislate against that. League administration can't dictate lineups. If the NBA doesn't want LeBron James, Steph Curry, etc. disappointing some kid in wherever and/or ruining a nationally-televised game by sitting out, make the schedule less debilitating. Perhaps 72 games, not 82. But no sports league will ever protect the players at expense of revenue.
*The Penguins would be wise to follow that lead, but won't. Hockey players and coaches aren't wired that way. Also, NBA stats are compiled on a per-game basis, while hockey uses the raw numbers. Missed games equal lower digits.
*Linebacker Dont'a Hightower used the Steelers and New York Jets to up the ante at New England. He never intended to leave the Patriots. It was a dog-and-pony show. Vintage NFL free agency. The Steelers have zero to be embarrassed about, though cornerback Davon House re-signing with Green Bay in the middle of his visit with the Steelers certainly made eyes roll.
*Those criticizing the Steelers for re-upping backup quarterback Landry Jones have no grip on the dire nature of the QB position in the NFL. Who should the Steelers have replaced Jones with? As backups go, Jones is OK, and he knows the Steelers' system. Most NFL teams don't have quality starters, let alone good backups. Life without Ben Roethlisberger looms in the not-too-distant future, and it will be a cold, hard slap to the face of Pittsburgh football fans.
*How could the New York Giants give defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul a deal worth $62 million? After blowing off part of his right hand via fireworks idiocy in 2015, Pierre-Paul has missed 14 of 33 games. He had seven sacks in 11 games last year, but 5 1/2 of those came in two games against jabronis Cleveland and Chicago. It's insane to believe somebody with 7 1/2 fingers can maintain any level of excellence when his job is tackling, let alone $62 million worth.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).