NHL First Round Playoff Preview: Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Sam Blazer
April 12 2017 04:44PM

Two teams that just plain old don't like one another face-off tonight. 

The Blue Jackets and the Penguins are Metro division rivals who both finished with above 100 points on the season. What do they get for their troubles? A rough and tumble first round match up against one another.

Who emerges victorious?

Season Series

The game that everyone remembers and the first face-off of the season series was when the Blue Jackets defeated the Penguins 7-1 at home. It was an odd, odd affair that saw Scott Hartnell score a hat trick and Brandon Saad pitch in a goal. It was one of the signature game during the Blue Jackets sixteen game winning streak as well.

The next game of the series, the Blue Jackets fell to the Penguins in overtime by a score of 4-3. The Penguins jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and eventually surrendered it. In the extra frame, Phil Kessel put the dagger in the Jackets for his second goal of the game and the overtime winner. 

The third game of the series ended with a Brandon Dubinsky overtime winner and a couple of questionable calls. Nonetheless, the 2-1 win seemed like a good omen for the streaky Jackets.

The last and most recent game of the series, the Penguins beat the Blue Jackets by the score of 4-1. Almost every puck that the Penguins threw on net went past Bobrovsky. It was definitely one of his least impressive showings and it raises some questions about what his expectations might be come playoff time.

What the numbers say

Columbus: 55.9 5v5 GF% 50.3 5v5 CF% 50.4 5v5 FF% 8.13 5v5 sh% 93.32 5v5 sv% 19.9 PP% 82.5 PK%

Pittsburgh: 55.2 5v5 GF% 50.1 5v5 CF% 51.1 5v5 FF% 8.56 5v5 sh% 92.66 5v5 sv% 23.1 PP% 79.8 PK%

It's a close battle across the board. The Penguins obviously have great players all throughout their lineup that can take over a game at any time. Kessel, Malkin and Crosby could be the best players on multiple teams in the league but instead they are all on one team. One lethal offense that could tilt the series.

On the other side, the Blue Jackets have a bottom six that adds more punch than most rosters. Scott Hartnell, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Sam Gagner score points in bunches and if they are facing a third pairing that is weakened due to injury, they could feast on the Penguins.

Which leads me to my next point, the Penguins defense has been decimated by injury and they just found out they won't be playing with Kris Letang these playoffs. While the return of Olli Maata will help, the return of Trevor Daley could end up being a net loss. How they cope and react in this series could turn the tide in their favor. On the other side, despite missing Ryan Murray, the Jackets defense is nearly at 100%. They'll be getting back Zach Werenski who missed some time due to injury and if he remains the difference maker he has been, this could make for an interesting series.

In net, both Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Murray are the leagues best. If anything this could end up being a coin flip. Bobrovsky has a sub .900sv% in the playoffs and if he plays similarly like that, it could end up being a short series. Murray has a Stanley Cup on his resume and a .923sv% in the playoffs. Tough to beat in this league and this is all before his 25th birthday.

Why you should cheer for the Blue Jackets?

If you like seeing history being made and underdogs coming through against a better foe.

Why you should cheer for the Penguins?

If you're a big fan of dynasties and really good players, this should be the team for you.

Schedule:

Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 6.07.28 PM

Prediction:

Penguins in 7. Almost everything in this series is going the Blue Jackets way but I don't think there is a way for them to overcome the star power the Penguins have. Malkin, Kessel and Crosby are going to overwhelm and take over the series.

OTHER PREVIEWS

New York Rangers vs. Montreal Canadiens 

Boston Bruins vs. Ottawa Senators 

Edmonton Oilers vs. San Jose Sharks 

Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues

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Sam is a self proclaimed chess prodigy. He once placed seventh in the state of Ohio in Chess when he was in kindergarten. He will rarely if ever mention though that only eight people were entered in this tournament.

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