Pittsburgh Penguins vs Columbus Blue Jackets: Stanley Cup 2014 first-round preview

Sidney Crosby, Penguins

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are five years removed from winning the Stanley Cup with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin as young superstars leading the charge. The future looked so promising then, like by now they’d have won a couple more championships. But defence became the standard in the East, and tighter defensive teams have since found a way to nullify the Penguins high-powered offence in the postseason.

For the Columbus Blue Jackets, the recent playoff history isn’t so complicated – there isn’t any. The Jackets qualified for the postseason in 2009 for the first and only time in franchise history. They were swept by the Detroit Red Wings. The end.

But this current edition of the Columbus Blue Jackets has a lot of heart, and some young talent that is poised to become the best core the franchise has ever known. Plus, veterans Jack Johnson, Fedor Tyutin and James Wisniewski backbone a defence corps that doesn’t get enough credit and between the pipes goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. Columbus could surprise the Penguins in the first-round.

But the Penguins are the Penguins. Their lineup features a one-two punch at centre – Crosby and Malkin – that should by all accounts be able to destroy any competition. And I guess you could say they’re due to make the Finals again with the current core.

Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins netminder has been terrible in recent postseasons. In fact, he hasn’t posted a Stanley Cup playoffs save percentage above .900 since the Pens won the Mug in 2009. I can buy that Fleury isn’t entirely to blame for his recent playoff problems because the Penguins can play a loose brand of defensive hockey that would leave any goalie susceptible to trouble, but it’s partly on him, as well.

Penguins injuries: G Tomas Vokoun (blood clot), RW Pascal Dupuis (knee), C Marcel Goc (lower body), C Evgeni Malkin (sprained foot).

Blue Jackets injuries: C R. J. Umberger (lower body), RW Nathan Horton (abdominal), D Ryan Murray (knee), F Nick Foligno (lower body).

*Injuries courtesy of TSN.

Sal’s Prediction: Penguins in 7.

I’d like to say the Jackets will beat the Penguins, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they do, but it’s hard to bet against a team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin down the middle. The Jackets have nothing to lose, and I suspect that will allow them to play to their fullest potential and give the Penguins a good run. But in the end: Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Kunitz, etc. will come through for Pittsburgh.

Brett’s Prediction: Penguins in 5.

5-0 against the Jackets this year for Dan Bylsma’s team so there should be no surprises as to what they expect to see. Malkin is returning for game one, and will mark the first time all season essentially, that the full Penguins roster will be together. That’s enough for me, too much firepower.