NHL Playoffs: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Prediction.
The NHL Playoffs Start on Wednesday, A Few Teams Surprised Us All and Made it in the Big Show. But Who Will Finish as the Stanley Cup Champion? Follow This Prediction Series to Find Out!
BREAKDOWN OF THE TEAMS SEASON:
Pittsburgh had a rather odd season, that picked up really fast. Sidney Crosby missed a total of seven games to begin the season but stormed back and finished second in league scoring with 44 goals, good enough for the Maurice Richard trophy. But what else do you expect from the best player in the world? Evgeni Malkin also had himself a solid year putting up 72 points in 62 games. The biggest surprise has to be the Pens rookies, guys like Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl, Josh Archibald, Conor Sheary, Carter Rowney, and Cameron Gaunce really stepped into some big roles when needed and ran with it, and let’s not forget the pickup of Justin Schultz either. Another surprise has to be Marc-Andre Fleury‘s season, which has made him quite expendable on the verge of the expansion draft. But speaking of surprises, how about those Blue Jackets? A bottom feeder team last season to being in the playoffs this season is a huge accomplishment. And their success came in the hands of rookie defenseman Zach Werenski, $500,000 man Sam Gagner and the outstanding play from Sergei Bobrovsky. The team also got some depth scoring when needed from a few more rookies as well making for an exciting series in the NHL playoffs
Pittsburgh has probably one of the more deadly power plays in the NHL, they finished third on the season at 23.1 percent, but with units consisting of Hornqvist, Crosby, Malkin, Phil Kessel, Guentzel, Sheary, Schultz, and Trevor Daley, it’s not hard to see why they finished where they did. So if this series comes down to special teams since both clubs have tremendous goalies, Columbus may be in some trouble. And speaking of trouble, the Pens penalty kill definitely hurt them. They finished the season 20th in the league at 79.8 percent. Which is a huge cause for concern since the Jackets have a solid power play themselves? But with guys like Matt Cullen, Trevor Daley, Brian Dumoulin, Ian Cole, Ron Hainsey, Mark Streit and hopefully Olli Maatta soon, the Pens PK can see a significant increase in the playoffs, plus the running of Matthew Murray will help over Fleury.
Like I stated above, the Jackets have a solid power play as well, they finished the season 12th at 19.9 percent. With units consisting of Nick Foligno, Brandon Saad, Brandon Dubinsky, Alexander Wennberg, Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Boone Jenner, Sam Gagner, and Markus Nutivaara makes Columbus a scary team when on the power play, and lets not forget it will increase once Ryan Murray, Zach Werenski, and Lukas Sedlak return. Columbus also had a very solid PK finishing ninth in the league at 82.5 percent. Solid puck movers like Brandon Dubinsky, Sam Gagner, Boone Jenner, Scott Hartnell, Matt Calvert, Josh Anderson, Jack Johnson, and Kyle Quincey gives the Jackets a penalty kill that Pittsburgh is going to have a hard time getting past, but with their offensive prowess, they should be able to do it.
Pittsburgh has an amazing offensive core, Malkin, Crosby, Kessel, Sheary, Guentzel, Oskar Sundqvist, Tom Kuhnhackl, Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson, Josh Archibald, Dominik Simon, Carter Rowney, Carl Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist is just downright scary for any team, that’s probably why Pittsburgh scored 282 goals this season. Columbus wasn’t too far behind scoring 249 with guys like Foligno, Saad, Dubinsky, Wennberg, Atkinson, Matt Calvert, Jenner, Bjorkstrand, William Karlsson, Sedlak and Josh Anderson gives Columbus a forward core that can almost compete with the Pens.
Both of these teams are amazingly solid on the backend, Pittsburgh is more experienced with Olli Maatta, Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Brian Dumoulin, Ian Cole, Trevor Daley, Ron Hainsey, and Mark Streit will definitely help keep the puck out of the net. But Columbus isn’t slacking their either. Their d-core consists of Zach Werenski, Ryan Murray, Markus Nutivaara, Kyle Quincey, Jack Johnson, David Savard, Seth Jones, and Gabriel Carlsson. And while three of those defensemen have playoff experience, the rest have the talent and speed to not get caught out of position or be overwhelmed. But on sheer experience alone to handle the rigors of the NHL playoffs, Pittsburgh is the immediate favorite.
Pittsburgh had a solid one-two punch with Matthew Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury, but after Fleury’s regular season you got to think Murray is once again going to get the playoff nudge. And that’s not a bad thing since he did win the cup as a rookie starting in the playoffs last year. Now Columbus has a solid one-two punch as well with Sergei Bobrovsky having the best season of his career, and Joonas Korpisalo really stepping up his play. But if this series falls to the backups, Fleury has Korpisalo, again Pittsburgh pulls out ahead.
This is going to be a very close series that’s not going to see a lot of goal scoring. Both teams possess tremendous defensive cores to stop the puck while both also possess forward cores sufficient enough to get the job done. Another thing is both teams have top-notch goaltenders. So what will the series boil down to with all that in mind, in my opinion, special teams? Pittsburgh’s scary power play units may be too much for the Blue Jackets defense to handle on a consistent basis.
FINAL SERIES RECORD: Pittsburgh wins 4 games to 2
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