STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS:
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Columbus Blue Jackets Series
The Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins meet in game 1 of the 1st Round Series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs tonight at PPG Paints Arena. With Pittsburgh leading the Regular season with 278 goals while the Blue Jackets was 6th with 247, this promises to be an offensively charged series. While the Blue Jackets have proven that they are an offensive juggernaut on the 1st period with a goal differential of plus-29, the Penguins have not been deterred by that. With the most come from behind wins in the league, the Penguins were 13-10-1 when down after the first period, and 20-11-4 when their opponents scored the first goal.
Many speculate that the first game will set the tone for the series and ultimately the pace will be dictated by Columbus. This notion comes from the question: Will the Blue Jackets look to involve the referees in this game? The time Columbus spends in the penalty box will give the Penguins time on the Power Play, their PP Percentage of 23.1% and 3.17 opportunities on the PP the Penguins finished fourth in the league making dangerous in this aspect.
Tips to win this series.
Columbus Blue Jackets:
-Getting the Penguins Involved:
The Columbus Blue Jackets need to get the Penguins into the aggressive state of mind. With Dubinsky a shoe-in for the match-up against the Pittsburgh Captain Sidney Crosby, it will be crucial to get him or any other Penguin to retaliate. Often when the Penguins get involved in the aggressive aspect of the game their skill and speed suffer letting the other team capitalize.
-Werenski returning to the ice:
The rookie set Columbus records for most assists (36) and points (47) in a season by a rookie, with only 19 years old his speed and intensity will boost their lineup. Getting him back with Seth Jones will probably be in the best interest for Columbus against the NHL’s highest-scoring offense Penguins during the regular season.
-The cavalry arrives in Pittsburgh:
Evgeni Malkin will be in the lineup tonight for the Pittsburgh Penguins. With 33 goals in 62 games played adding to 39 assists and 72 points, it’s easy to see the addition of Malkin will mark quite a difference for the Penguins.
-Pittsburgh’s Young Roster is up to the task:
The 1st line comprised of Guentzel-Crosby-Sheary has played 11 games together and in those 11 they have scored 19 goals with 25 assists and 44 points. Adding the fact that defensively Justin Schultz has filled a huge gap left by Letang with 51 pts, 12 goals, and 39 assists in 78 games played is a big factor in the younger core.
Fun Fact: It took Ron Hainsey 15 seasons, 6 teams, 907 games but tonight, he’s in his FIRST playoff appearance.
“Geno is one of the best players in the world. Whenever he is in the lineup we’re a better team…He’s special. You watch what he does. He’s a top-tier player and he’ll be ready to go tomorrow night.” –Phil Kessel on Evgeni Malkin’s return to the lineup.
“I have learned a ton from him… When we got out last year, I was living through him as he was going for his run.” -Columbus Coach Tortorella on Pens coach Mike Sullivan