Each team was 1-1-2 in the season series, so they both can claim a winning record. It's NHL math, thanks to the point awarded for an overtime loss.The Blue Jackets do enjoy one advantage, outscoring the Penguins 13-10 in head-to-head action without relying too heavily on the power play, an important distinction because the power play limped down the stretch for Columbus. The Blue Jackets were pretty dominant in the faceoff circle against the Penguins, winning 58.7 percent. Both the Penguins and Blue Jackets were under 50 percent on faceoffs on the season. The Penguins and Blue Jackets http://www.officialbluejacketsproshop.c ... ray_Jersey
have consistently been two of the top five teams in the league -regardless of division, regardless of conference. One of them is going home after the first round, which is a shame and an indictment of the current division-heavy playoff format. This series will be like the Eastern Conference finals in the first round. On one hand, it's disappointing it has to happen so soon. On the other, it should be awesome hockey. Injuries loom large in this series. The biggest is to Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, who is out four to six months after surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. "Letang is a huge loss," one Western Conference scout texted. The list of recent Stanley Cup winners without a dominant No. 1 defenseman is short. It's hard to see the Penguins repeating without Letang because he was so key to their win last spring. The potential return of defenseman Olli Maatta (hand) would boost a banged-up Penguins defense. Left winger Carl Hagelin, who gave the Penguins such a speed edge in the playoffs last year, is out with a foot injury. The Penguins injuries are Exhibit A as to why it's so hard to repeat as Cup champs -- all those extra games in a winning season can make players more susceptible to injuries the following season. The injury to watch for Columbus is defenseman Zach Werenski, who suffered an apparent shoulder injury against the Washington Capitals. So much of the Blue Jackets' offense and transition game runs through Werenski, if he's not 100 percent, that slows things down considerably.Defenseman Ryan Murray (hand) is also a long shot to play, meaning both teams have pretty banged-up blue lines. Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who leads the league with a .933 save percentage, is going to win the Vezina for the second time. He's the great equalizer for the Blue Jackets. That said, if I had to pick between Bobrovsky and Penguins goalie Matt Murray in a playoff series, I would pick Murray. He won a Stanley Cup last spring; his postseason save percentage is .923. He followed that up by posting exactly the save percentage (.923) during his first full season in the NHL.Bobrovsky has an .890 save percentage in 13 career postseason games. That's not a large sample size but just concerning enough that there might be an edge in goal for the Penguins, which is surprising considering the Blue Jackets will be starting a Vezina winner. Maybe, but the way the Penguins pulled away in their final home game of the regular season — quick passing, production from unexpected places and Murray’s steady hand — could go a long way toward escaping what could be the best first-round series of the postseason. The Pittsburgh Penguins downplayed the idea they tried to send a message during a decisive 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night, a win that gave the defending Stanley Cup champions the inside track on home-ice advantage when the teams meet in the playoffs next week. “I mean at the end of the day it’s just another win http://www.officialcapitalsauthentic.co ... lov_Jersey
,” goaltender Matt Murray said after stopping 38 shots. “Everything resets moving forward.” “I like the way our team is tracking,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think we’re really starting to establish the playoff mindset you need to win this time of year.” Patric Hornqvist picked up his 20th goal of the season for Pittsburgh. Rookie Jake Guentzel added his 14th, Carter Rowney his second and Brian Dumoulin his first in more than two years as the Penguins moved three points ahead of Columbus in the race for second-place in the Metropolitan Division with three games remaining. The Penguins have won three straight to sprint ahead of the slumping Blue Jackets, who are winless in their last four and have dropped three consecutive regulation games for the first time this season. Brandon Dubinsky scored a short-handed goal midway through the third period to avoid the shutout. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 23 shots but the Blue Jackets struggled to get anything going around the Pittsburgh net, settling for long-range shots that either sailed wide of the net or were gobbled up by Murray. “We’re just simply in a funk offensively and tonight didn’t get any better,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “We have to continue to work at all parts of our game, but the offensive part starting with our top guys, we’ve got to get some sort of situation where we’re making plays.” The teams are almost assured of facing each other when the playoffs begin next week, a rematch from a 2014 first-round series the Penguins won in six taut games and seemed to signal Columbus’ arrival as a legitimate contender. The Penguins’ fourth line helped bolster a largely lifeless performance in a victory over Carolina on Sunday and the momentum carried over. Rowney put Pittsburgh in front with 1:09 left in the first period when he planted himself in front of Bobrovsky and redirected a feed from Scott Wilson over Bobrovsky’s shoulder. Three years later, Columbus has officially arrived, though the team that spent the better part of 60 minutes chasing the Penguins around sold-out PPG Paints Arena hardly looked like the one that came in 2-0-1 over its first three meetings of the season. The Blue Jackets Pierre-Luc Dubois Authentic Jersey tried to push Pittsburgh around, rattling the boards in the process but not the Penguins. Penguins C Sidney Crosby finished with two assists to give him 86 points on the season.Columbus rookie D Zack Werenski did not play while dealing with an upper-body injured suffered in a loss to Washington on Sunday. Penguins D Trevor Daley skated on Tuesday morning and is hopeful to return before the postseason begins. Daley hasn’t played since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on Feb. 23.The Penguins went 0 for 3 on the power play. The Blue Jackets were 0 for 1.Pittsburgh’s 109 points tied the 2013-14 team for the second-highest total in club history. Penguins Fs Bryan Rust and Matt Cullen left with injuries and did not return. Hornqvist doubled Pittsburgh’s lead just before the game’s midway point off a pretty feed from Tom Kuhnhackl. Dumoulin, who scored a pair of goals during last year’s run to the Cup, reached the back of the net in the regular season for the first time since Dec. 15, 2014, when he saved a clear at the edge of the blue line, carried the puck behind the Columbus net then saw his wraparound smack off Cam Atkinson and in 12:30 into the second, ending a 151-game regular season goalless drought. This should be a tight series between two powerhouses, but the Blue Jackets are limping into the postseason, with a power play that has dried up. Columbus is a young team, meaning it has a major playoff experience disadvantage in this series, so give the slight edge to Pittsburgh. Penguins in 7. This might be the most fun subplot of the playoffs. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan and Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella are best friends. They talk a lot. Sullivan often leaned on Tortorella during the Penguins' Stanley Cup run last spring and won't have that voice on his side this spring. Both have Stanley Cups http://www.officialcapitalsauthentic.co ... ruk_Jersey
(Tortorella won with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004), but Tortorella would be the first to tell you that Sullivan is the more progressive thinker. Tortorella has said he's learned more from Sullivan in his career than Sullivan has learned from him.Sullivan was masterful in making adjustments over the course of the playoffs last spring, but Tortorella knows his tendencies. This matchup will be fascinating.