(2) PITTSBURGH PENGUINS v. (7) COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
SERIES TIED, 2-2
We’re back to square one, so to speak. After the first four games of the series were literally split down the middle — four 4-3 games with each team winning a home game and an away game — the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Pittsburgh Penguins are down to a best of three series for the right to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Two games (tonight and Wednesday) will be played in Pittsburgh, and one game (Monday night) will be in Columbus.
Things appear to be looking up for both sides on the injury front, as the injured Fedor Tyutin and Ryan Murray will be back on the CBJ blue line tonight, and forward Marcel Goc will make his 2014 playoffs debut tonight for Pittsburgh. At face value, I’d give the CBJ the advantage with the roster improvements…but both teams will benefit from their rosters shaking down to look more like what their coaches and general managers intended when they put their teams together for the season.
Putting their comparatively lethargic fans aside, the Pens really are experiencing a bit of a coach’s nightmare: The upstart, motivated, not-as-bad-as-anyone-thought Blue Jackets are giving them the business in a series where the team and community apparently thought was a gimme – a stepping stone toward the "inevitable" confrontation with the Boston Bruins. Never mind that there was another whole seven-game series to be played after this one before the Bruins would appear, of course. Point being, any thought that the Pens were taking the CBJ lightly have now vanished. Stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury and their coach, Dan Bylsma, are receiving unanticipated criticism, and that has to sting. I hope the CBJ are ready for a motivated Pittsburgh club tonight.
Which brings me to the quickie summary of Game Four. For one look at the Fenwick (shots as a proxy for puck possession) chart from Extra Skater, and all becomes clear:
The first 8-10 minutes were a horror show for Columbus fans, as indicated by the possession numbers being in the Penguins favor…and those three goals. But after that initial storm, take a look at how the Blue Jackets took the game over! The shots kept coming from Columbus, and the goals followed. Pittsburgh was trying to hold on for 50-plus minutes to their 3-0 lead, and the Blue Jackets weren’t going to let that happen. Yes, the awesome hometown fans had something to do with it. Yes, the 51-37 advantage on hits had something to do with it. But what won the game was the puck getting tossed at the Pittsburgh net 46 times (to the Penguins’ 26), and waiting for Fleury to crack as we all know he does.
Game Four represents the most complete game the CBJ have played in my estimation, and that includes the first half of the first period. I’m hoping that the team keeps it up tonight, because I can’t think of anything sweeter than going for the series clincher on home ice on Monday.
YOUR FOX SPORTS OHIO BROADCAST INFORMATION
NOTE THAT FOX SPORTS OHIO HAS BOTH THE BLUE JACKETS GAME AND THE CINCINNATI REDS BASEBALL GAME ON AT THE SAME TIME. CINCINNATI-AREA FANS, PLAN TO LOOK FOR THE CBJ GAME ON YOUR ALTERNATE FOX SPORTS OHIO CHANNEL. (For more on finding the game, click here)
– Brian Giesenschlag’s "Blue Jackets Slap Shots" magazine show kicks things off at 6PM.
– Brian and Dan Kamal then go live with "Blue Jackets Live Pregame" at 6:30PM, giving you all the pregame news, notes and analysis.
– The puck drops in the Steel City at 7:00PM, with Jeff Rimer and Bill Davidge on the call.
– Brian and Dan return immediately following for "Blue Jackets Live Postgame" with postgame interviews, insight and analysis.