Does the NHL’s preseason really matter? Surprisingly yes

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins

Thousands of Pittsburgh Penguins fans piled into the CONSOL Energy Center to see the Pens face the Detroit Red Wings in Pittsburgh’s first glimpse of hockey since May. Nothing was at stake besides pride and rosters spots. The crowd hoped this preseason opener would be the first step in washing the bitter taste from last season’s disastrous finish, when the New York Rangers overcame a three-game deficit to eliminate the Penguins from the postseason. Prospects hoped to show the front office they belong in the franchise’s plans. Veterans hoped to get into a groove they could carry into the regular season.

Despite the excitement for this exhibition, Detroit center Pavel Datsyuk scored a pair of goals to hand the Pens a 2-1 loss. Pittsburgh suffered the same fate against Columbus the following night, losing 2-0.

Not much credit is given to a strong preseason record, and little concern is formed from a poor one. Considering three of Pittsburgh’s top offensive weapons — Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Chris Kunitz — missed those games with injuries, it makes sense. What does the preseason say of a team’s chances for success in the regular season, though?

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Big 12 Conference reigns supreme in parity

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A little more than two weeks ago, Baylor unveiled their new on-campus palace, McLane Stadium, in a celebration full of pomp, circumstance, and a bronze Robert Griffin III statue. The opening of the $266 million stadium on the Brazos River, and the subsequent, 45-point beatdown of Southern Methodist University, symbolized the new era in Baylor Bears football.

Five years earlier in 2009, the program finished 4-8 with a 1-7 record in the Big 12. When rumors of conference realignment began to circulate in 2010 and 2011, Bayor was one of four Big 12 schools on the outside of any proposed plans (the others being Iowa State, Kansas, and Kansas State). They were unwanted, with little to offer to another conference.

But on the field, head coach Art Briles began to turn the program around, thanks in large part to RG3. The team went 7-6 in 2010 and 10-3 in 2011, with Griffin winning the first Heisman Trophy in school history.

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