NHL Playoffs 2014: Round 1 Preview – Pittsburgh Penguins vs Columbus Blue Jackets

Ice Nation UK’s playoff coverage soldiers on, taking a look at this intriguing series between the superstar-laden Metropolitan champions Pittsburgh and wildcard underdogs Columbus.

SERIES BEGINS: 16th April 2014

PUCK DROP: 19:00 CT (20.00 ET / 0100 GMT)

BY THE NUMBERS

PITTSBURGH COLUMBUS
SEASON RECORD 51-24-7 43-32-7
POINTS 109 93
GOALS FOR/AGAINST 

(DIFFERENTIAL)

249 / 207

(+42)

231 / 216

(+15)

LAST 10 GAMES 5-3-2 6-3-1
TOP POINT SCORER

 

104 PTS

(S. CROSBY)

63 PTS

(R. JOHANSEN)

TOP GOAL SCORER 

 

36 G

(S. CROSBY)

33 G

(R. JOHANSEN)

MOST TOI/G

 

24:34

(P. MARTIN)

24:40

(J. JOHNSON)

TOTAL 5v5 SV%

 

91.8%

(22nd in NHL)

92.8%

(8th in NHL)

 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS SEASON LOWDOWN:

The Pittsburgh Penguins have had an emotional season, seeing some of their big names out with injuries, a few of which have been life threatening. The Curse of the Pens started pre-season, with Tomas Vokoun being diagnosed with a blood clot, and continued on with the shocking news that defenceman Kris Letang had suffered a stroke.

However, the Pens battled through the injuries to win the Metroplitan Division. Sidney Crosby, of course, was the big gun for the Pens, leading the league in points, with a final tally of 104. With the top line of Crosby-Kunitz-and A.N OTHER the team have fought hard and won some tough games.

The Pens have some big names in their roster, and are expected to do well, but the question with this team will always be will the mental pressure be too much to handle. Do the Penguins want it just too much?

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PLAYER TO WATCH:

With all the huge names on this team it would be easy to suggest Crosby, Malkin, Kuntiz and Neal could be the one to watch, but I’m going to go with the quiet and hard working Jussi Jokinen. This Finnish forward is unassuming but gets the job done. Look out for some big goals from Jussi.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS SEASON LOWDOWN:

Again, this is a team you could argue had been hit with the same injury curse as the Pens, with some big names out. Notably for them, Nathan Horton seems to be the unluckiest, with twice having surgery but despite this the Blue-Jackets have fought hard despite a rough start to their season.

Finishing fourth in the Met Division, and 7th in the conference seemed out of reach for them, but good coaching and some roster changes perked the team up and going into this series they could be a surprise obstruction for the Penguins.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS PLAYER TO WATCH:

Again, the Blue-jackets have some good players, and it’s hard to pick just one to stick out, but for me the one to watch will be 21 year old Ryan Johansen. Ryan has a 33 goal season for the Blue-Jackets, and has often saved the day for the team, scoring the winning goal in 5 games for them. The boy seems on the edge of super-stardom so this series may be his big chance to shine!

PREDICTION:

The Pens on paper have the strongest team, no denying that. But, the Penguins are a top heavy team and this could be their downfall in this series. The Blue jackets have a depth that may allow them to dominate where the Pens fall, but the goal-tending of the teams will be the big issue here. The word from Captain Crosby is that Marc-Andre Fleury has fought his playoff demons, and so will once again be the rock that the Pens lean on. Having said that, Bobrovsky is a decent enough goal tender who has kept the Blue Jackets alive.

Despite all of this, the Pens will win this series, I think. With the lethal combination of Evgeni Malkin and James Neal back together, there should be some magic moves from the Pens, if Neal can keep his cool. The Blue-Jackets certainly won’t roll over and let the Pens win without a fight, so I go for Pens in 6.

STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF ICE NATION UK’S NHL PLAYOFF PREVIEWS.

Follow Kat on Twitter, and while you’re at it follow Ice Nation UK for all the best hockey talk throughout the playoffs!

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