Another team who are suddenly good, John Tortorella seems to have worked some kind of voodoo on the Jackets this year, and rather than lucking in to the show, or getting enough one-point nights, they’re here on merit. They’ve been pretty fun to watch.
That said, they’ve had a pretty rough time of late, and they start their third post-season campaign against last year’s defending champions. So good luck.
That said, the Penguins have been struggling with injuries for quite a while. Kris Letang, Carl Hagelin and Chris Kunitz are still out, and Geno Malkin is just about fit to go. Having said that, they’ve still been winning. The Pens are pretty good.
|Eastern Conference Round One|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||Vs||Pittsburgh Penguins|
|3rd Metropolitan||Seeding||2nd Metropolitan|
Best offence in the league meets second-best defence. The Jackets know how to find the back of the net too, so this could be fun. The Penguins only lost ten times at home all year, too, so home ice could be a big advantage.
|Record versus opponent|
As suggested by their proximity in the table, these two sides have been pretty close all year, splitting the regular season series.
The one playoff series between the two was back in 2014, with the Pens winning in six.
|Cam Atkinson||35||Goals||44||Sidney Crosby|
|Alexander Wennberg||46||Assists||47||Phil Kessel|
|Cam Atkinson||62||Points||89||Sidney Crosby|
|Cam Atkinson||240||Shots||255||Sidney Crosby|
|Cam Atkinson||14.6||Shot %||19.8||Jake Guentzel|
The Pens have ten players who have ten or more goals, five of whom have more than 20. They also have three players who have more than 70 points – Crosby, Kessel and Malkin.
The Jackets’ scoring runs a little deeper, with 12 in double figures, although only three have broken 20. They do have eight players with more than 40 points, though Cam Atkinson is the only one to break 60.
|Even Strength Team Possession (via corsica.hockey)|
|Unadjusted Possession Leaders (ES, min 200 minutes)|
|Columbus||Zach Werenski (53.40)||Oliver Bjorkstrand (54.68)||Zach Werenski (53.04)||Sam Gagner (55.25)|
|Pittsburgh||Kris Letang (53.38)||Carl Hagelin (53.92)||Kris Letang (53.25)||Patric Hornqvist (56.23)|
The Pens are an adjusted negative possession team, oddly enough. They barely break even in Corsi unadjusted, and their Fenwick is 1% better, but the Jackets come into this tie as a better possession team. Fair play, Torts. That said, more Pens players are positive possession players than Jackets – 12 against 10. Lower troughs, presumably.
|Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|PPG For||SHG Against||PPG Against||SHG For|
Third-best powerplay in the league against a top-ten penalty kill. Pittburgh’s PK is surprisingly low, so that could be an opportunity for the Jackets to exploit. Out of the teams in the playoffs, only two teams have conceded less powerplay goals then the Jackets, so special teams could pay off for them.
|Sergei Bobrovsky||Joonas Korpisalo||Matt Murray||Marc-Andre Fleury|
|All Sits Sv%||93.15||90.52||92.32||90.94|
|All Sits HDSv%||85.41||80.85||82.23||81.61|
We can talk all day about how good Bob has been this year. It’s not that the Jackets have ridden him, but he’s been a very good foundation for their success this year. Calls for him to win the Vezina have lots of merit.
As for the Pens, you know the story. Matt Murray emerges just at the right time to take over from a slumping MAF to lead the team to a Stanley Cup. This year, he’s made the net his own, posting much better numbers than Fleury and leaving the Pens in the situation where they need to convince Fleury to waive his NMC so they can protect Murray from Vegas.
In a previous article I’ve suggested Murray should be in the discussion for the Calder, and it upset some Leafs fans. I’ll say it again – he should be, because without him, the Pens are a much worse team.
I’d like to see the Jackets progress, just so we have a chance at a new name on the trophy. But, they’ve only beaten two playoff teams since the start of March – the Leafs and the Wild – and Sidney & co usually fancy the postseason. Pens in 6.
The winner faces the Capitals or the Leafs. So, the Caps.