NHL Playoffs: Columbus Blue Jackets vs Pittsburgh Penguins Preview

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

The Stats

Columbus Blue Jackets Pittsburgh Penguins
Record 43-32-7 13th 51-24-7 6th
GF/Game 2.76 12th 2.95 5th
GA/Game 2.61 13th 2.49 10th
5-on-5 Close SF/60 28.8 19th 29.1 17th
5-on-5 Close SA/60 28.2 11th 27.5 7th
Fenwick Close 50.80 12th 50.20 15th
5-on-5 Close Save % .929 9th .925 16th
5-on-4 GF/60 6.1 16th 8.3 3rd
# of PP's/Gm 3.41 10th 3.39 12th
4-on-5 GA/60 5.9 12th 5.2 7th
# of PK's/Gm 3.41 21st 3.10 9th

Background

The Columbus Blue Jackets have gotten their Eastern Conference life off to a good start, making only their second ever playoff appearance this season (they were swept by the Red Wings back in 2009). Sergei Bobrovsky has followed up his 2013 Vezina Trophy with a strong followup season while young forward Ryan Johansen has enjoyed a breakout campaign, scoring 33 goals to lead Columbus into their new, post-Rick Nash era.

Interestingly, the Blue Jackets face a team which could play Detroit to their Nashville in the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team with Stanley Cup aspirations led by two all-world talents in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins have their vulnerabilities, however, both on the depth lines and in goal, where Marc-Andre Fleury remains one of the least-convincing #1 goalie in the NHL. The story line to watch here is that former Nashville Predator Tomas Vokoun was recently called up from the minors, and could step in if Fleury falter again. This, despite the fact that a blood condition had Vokoun on the shelf for most of the season.

During the regular season, Pittsburgh swept the five games between these two teams by a combined 16-7 score.

OTF Staff Picks

Dirk: I can't imagine a better time for the Blue Jackets to shock the world than in this series, as they have an edge in goal and the overall possession game as well. Especially if they try to ugly things up and not try to trade scoring chances with Crosby & Malkin, I like Columbus to pull off the upset in 6.

Jon: Blue Jackets in 6. I've been waiting for a Penguins playoff collapse all year. Their top-six may overpower any in the league, but beyond that they are Kate Moss thin. The loss of Horton will hurt, but they have the personnel to make up for him. In Bobrovsky We Trust.

Jason: Penguins in 6. Thanks for coming out, Columbus.

George: Pittsburgh in 5. Poor Blue Jackets: they finally get out of hockey's toughest division (the Central), and now they face Sid the Kid in the first round of the playoffs. Everybody knows how good the Penguins are, and everyone's about to find out how much more ugly stepsister Columbus is than Cinderella.

Jeremy: Penguins in 4. I feel bad for Columbus for drawing the perennial Cup favorite Penguins. Pittsburgh is too dominant and if Bobrovsky falters even a little the Penguins will smell blood and attack.

Blue Jackets vs Penguins Schedule

Game Date Time (ET) Eastern Conference First Round National TV
1 Wed, Apr 16 7:30 p.m. Columbus at Pittsburgh NBCSN, CBC
2 Sat, Apr 19 7 p.m. Columbus at Pittsburgh NBCSN, CBC
3 Mon, Apr 21 7 p.m. Pittsburgh at Columbus NBCSN, CBC
4 Wed, Apr 23 7 p.m. Pittsburgh at Columbus NBCSN, CBC
5* Sat, Apr 26 TBD Columbus at Pittsburgh CBC
6* Mon, Apr 28 TBD Pittsburgh at Columbus CBC
7* Wed, Apr 30 TBD Columbus at Pittsburgh CBC
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