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Monday, April 7, 2014

Playoff Preview: @penguins v Blue Jackets by @polemiclicense

Breaking Down Playoff Opponents: the Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus hasn't had much post-season success since joining the NHL and their inclusion in the 2014 playoffs is far from a sure thing, but the Blue Jackets have a chance to play for the Stanley Cup while avoiding their long-time Western Conference nemesis, the Detroit Red Wings, if they faceoff against the

Penguins in Round 1.

Pittsburgh Penguins (#2 seed, Metropolitan Winner) vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets (#7 seed, Wild Card 1)

Injury Report:  The Penguins will enter the post-season sporting a hopeful  healthy  dose of Evgeni Malkin.  Kris Letang’s availability is and will likely remain an unknown due to his stroke uncertainties, but Paul Martin is back in the lineup and played over 24 minutes in his return.

The Blue Jackets are likely without Nick Foligno for the remainder of the regular season, and reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky seems to have avoided major injury despite a series of minor ailments.  The return of Fedor Tyutin helps Columbus on the blue line, and overall, the Jackets’ personnel losses aren’t as major as those potentially facing Pittsburgh.

Advantage:  Blue Jackets

Offense:  The Penguins, even with depleted offensive weapons, have superior goal scorers and playmakers.  The Blue Jackets could accurately be described as a grinding club that generates scoring opportunities from getting the puck to the net (compared to the Penguins’ strength of creating chances off of the rush).
Against any team, Columbus will have to hope that “Sergei Bob” can keep the Blue Jackets in the game in the face of an inevitably stronger offensive opponent.

Advantage:  Penguins

Defense:  The Penguins may be young on the blue line, but their overall talent and depth exceeds that of the Blue Jackets.

If Kris Letang is unable (or unwilling, which is perfectly understandable) to return for the playoffs, the Penguins still feature the veteran experience of Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Rob Scuderi and even Matt Niskanen.

The Blue Jackets have never been able to solve the playoff riddle of the Detroit Red Wings, and as a unit, lack the playoff resumes of their defensive counterparts. 

Expect Dan Bylsma to bring Paul Martin back into playing shape while resting Ollie Maata for the post-season.

Advantage: Penguins

Goaltending:  Even though Marc-Andre Fleury has enjoyed one of his best regular seasons, Sergei Bobrovsky was incredible last year and is once again arguably the Blue Jackets’ team MVP.
Bobrovsky lacks experience in the playoffs, but Fleury has struggled in the post-season since 2009.  When the puck drops, Fleury faces all the pressure of his previous failures (and weighty Penguin expectations) while Columbus will invariably feel as though they’re playing with house money.

Advantage:  Blue Jackets

Special Teams:  Columbus features powerplay and penalty kill units that are marginal at best, and present the Penguins with no real obstacles at either end of the ice.
The Penguins’ #2 power play should have little problem overwhelming the Blue Jackets, and the Penguins should not fear the Columbus  man-advantage, but must avoid taking too many unnecessary trips to the box.
Advantage:  Penguins

Series Prediction:  The Columbus Blue Jackets are a great story, and it’s easy to root for a franchise that has toiled in relative anonymity since their inception.

Unfortunately, there’s a reason why Penguins fans overwhelm the Blue Jackets in Columbus’s home arena, and that reason is Pittsburgh’s superior lineup.

Sergei Bobrovsky represents the potential great equalizer, but even at his best, Bobrovsky can’t provide the offense that will likely be necessary to oust the Penguins in a playoff series.

Penguins in five.

1 comment:

  1. Letang is back already... good article though.


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