The Pittsburgh Penguins start the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs against a Columbus Blue Jackets team who have played in the NHL for 14 years and have yet to win a playoff game. Should be a slam dunk right?
We’ve put together an incredible group of writers to predict how the series will pan out and at the same time throw a little insight into what the Penguins will have to do to win. Most of us predicted the Penguins will win it in 5-6 games but one predicted the Pens may not win. A few of us have also tossed in how we think the Penguins will do the entire 2014 playoffs…
Six of our writers have followed the Penguins since the 1970’s, two of them have been season ticket holders since then. The writers here at PenguinPoop have been to more Penguins games than any other group of writers on the internet.
Rick Buker – PenguinPoop writer who has also written a couple of books – —Total Penguins & 100 Things Penguins Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die.
Entering each of the past two postseasons I worried that the Penguins had peaked too soon. This year I’m concerned the black and gold may not find the “on” switch following a lackluster stretch run. Fortunately, the Pens drew a favorable first-round opponent in Columbus, who they swept during the regular season. Too, they should get a huge lift from having everyone healthy for the first time in eons. Still, I don’t expect a blowout. The hungry young Blue Jackets are precisely the type of team that gives the Penguins fits. If they pressure our defense and keep the heat on Marc-Andre Fleury, it could be a long series. But I think our talent and experience will prevail. Penguins in six.
I wish I were as optimistic about our Cup chances. The Pens potential second-round opponents — the Flyers and the Rangers — are major stumbling blocks. Philly, in particular, seems to have our number. We’ll need to be at the top of our game to advance to the Conference Finals. I don’t see us beating Boston. However, should the Bruins get bumped off in an earlier round, the road to the Finals could be wide open.
Ultimately, I think a lack of scoring depth and wobbly team defense will prevent us from winning the Cup.
Horse – Season ticket holder since the 1970’s also a longtime PenguinPoop writer & radio host.
After six weeks of playing games that had very little meaning, the Pens are about to start playing games that mean everything. Wednesday night they get the opportunity to see if they can make that adjustment. I believe that they will.
The Pens have more healthy bodies than at any time this season. With everyone available to Coach Bylsma, he should be able to put together a solid line-up. The top six defensemen and the best third and fourth lines that they have had all year are all healthy and ready to play.
On the other hand the Blue Jackets will be missing their top three players – Horton, Umbarger, and Foligno. With this being the case, the Pens will have no problems with the Blue Jackets and will win the series in five games. The Penguins’ ability to win the Stanley Cup will depend on who they play in subsequent rounds as much as how they play.
Phil Krundle – Head cheese at PenguinPoop – Pens fan since 1976, blah blah hockey stuff blah blah…
The Blue Jackets are an injured team, the Penguins are back to being healthy. It all comes down, as it will the entire playoffs, to Marc-Andre Fleury playing well and a tiny bit of James Neal & Evgeni Malkin controlling their tempers. The Pens will win this series in series in 5.
As for the rest of the playoffs… The Penguins have a better playoff team this year than they did last year. Are you done laughing yet? It’s true. Last year the Pens brought in 4 quality players that played the entire playoffs like they didn’t want to get injured so they could sign big contracts at the end of the season. This year the Penguins have the skill guys & Bylsma type role players. I predicted after the Pens lost to the Bruins last year that Ray Shero would not be able to make crazy moves come the Trade Deadline this year and that they would be better for the team because of it.
One big thing that gives me hope for this playoff run is that twice in the last few games I have seen Sidney Crosby switching into “Crosby Gear”. A gear only Crosby and Crosby alone possesses. This is also the first time I can remember a healthy Crosby going into the playoffs in a long time.
All the talk about the job Bylsma has done this season is insane. He should be a coach of the year candidate with the record man games the Penguins lost. They still coasted into first place. Ask Edmonton how they are doing with all their stars, how the Capitals are doing or even how the Columbus Blue Jackets 14 years have been? Bylsma lost to the super powered Canadian team in the Olympics by one goal and everyone is considering it a Penguins loss just like Rick Buker said. It’s as simple as this: Bylsma is one of the few NHL coaches out there that has won a cup.
Disco Stu – Followed the Penguins since 1971. Frequent PenguinPoop writer & radio host.
It was a long, grinding, injury filled season, but at long last, the playoffs are here. Despite missing the most man games to injury out of any team in the league this year, the Penguins finished second in the Eastern Conference standings and will begin the playoffs tonight against the seventh seeded Columbus Blue Jackets. This will be the first time that the Penguins have faced the Blue Jackets in the playoffs because 1. It is the first year that Columbus is in the Eastern Conference due to last year’s realignment and 2. It is only the second time the Blue Jackets have made the playoffs.
On paper, this series should be a total mismatch with the Penguins winning easily in four games. Unfortunately, they don’t play the games on paper, they are played inside your TV set.
The big question mark for this series is where will Columbus’ scoring come from. At the trade deadline, they traded away Marion Gaborik, Nathan Horton is out injured and most likely will not be back in time for this series, RJ Umberger is currently injured and might make it back at some point in the series and Nick Foligno will probably miss the beginning of the series as well. Other than Ryan Johansen, I just don’t think the BJ’s have anyone capable of scoring a big goal at a crucial time.
Of course, like all playoff series, it comes down to goaltending, and we all know how Marc Andre Fleury tends to perform during the second season. Since 2009, of the 25 goalies who have played at least 10 playoff games, MAF has the worst stats of all of them, and Columbus will be showing up with last year’s Vezina winner, Sergei Bobrovsky. And while everyone is quick to point out that the Pens went 5 – 0 against Columbus this year during which Columbus lead for an entire 56 seconds, four and two thirds of those games were played without Bobrovsky in net.
The Penguins have been pretty much in cruise control mode since Boston ran away with the number one seed back in mid March and they have spent the last four weeks making sure everyone was healthy for the playoff run which it appears, they are.
I look for this series to turn on special teams with Columbus’ stats not being in the same neighborhood as the Penguins, and as long as the Penguins do not take the kind of stupid penalties that seem to dog them whenever a team tries poking them(The Flyers do this to perfection), I can see the flightless birds really making Columbus pay every time they go to the box.
I’ve debated long and hard on this one as to which way it could go series length wise, and in the end, I kept coming back to the Pens in 5.
Southside Shultzie – Long time PenguinPoop writer & Pens fan. Born in Cleveland but hey, so was Stan Savaran.
*yawn* Columbus is it? I hope this series is done and over with before there is a chance it becomes interesting. No playoff history and zero sense of animosity which usually comes with preparing for a playoff series could work in favor for the Blue Jackets. If they steal a game or 2 from Consol Energy by boring the Pens (and fans) to sleep, it could mean an early exit for a soon to be healthy Pens squad. If the Pens are awake and intend of taking care of business it’s going to take more than showing up well rested to win this series. Sure, most of the stars will be returning to the lineup but I’ve always been a huge fan of chemistry and with record breaking man games lost due to injury, it’s going to take a series for the stars to properly align. Listed below are points that might help the Pens make the second round of the playoffs.
Southside Shultzie’s Keys to the game(s):
Pens quick breakout system was developed in part by Jackets coach (and former Bylsma assistant) Todd Richards. Look for the BJ’s to attempt to stifle the pens offensive attack.
Pens stars will be healthy and playing but don’t expect magic right away. It make take a few games or even the series for the guys to rediscover the chemistry that helped them dominate the first half of the season.
Ugly is good! The Pens NEED to understand that ugly goals count as much as highlight reel goals! I hope they decide to clog the slot and a score a couple off of their back sides. These are the goals that win games. These are the goals that reward hard work and determination. Perhaps if Sid reads this post he will use the front of his blade a little more than he has in the recent past in propelling the puck forward instead of making dangerous, no look, drop passes. Look for goals from Gibbons, Stempniak, Sutter, and some other 3 liners once the Pens trade pretty play for some gritty play!
Mark Andre Fleury needs to come up big! More importantly the team needs to HELP him out by clearing people and pucks out of the slot. I’d also recommend that the Pens establish quite early on that no BJ’s stick or man will come near our goaltender. Many times throughout the season M.A.F. has been left out to dry and has been on the stinky end of liberties taken almost at will by aggressive and sometimes dirty opponents.
Also, M.A.F. should NEVER handle the puck! I love the guy but I’d rather see him hold a bouquet of flowers than a goalie stick!
Look for PP chances to develop from speedy gritty play of guys like Gibbons and Megna. I think these guys and their amazing speed and nose for the puck will continue to fly under the radar and result in PP and scoring chances.
I’d like to see the Pens continue to be a hard hitting team. That said, I hope they do so with discipline. PP chances are more often dolled out the aggressor and NOT those who retaliate!
Well here it comes! My favorite time of the year! NHL Playoffs! I got chills just typing this! Let’s get that cup and bring it back home! My prediction: Buckle Up Baby! Pens answer wake up call and win it in 6!
Doug MacRay – Penguins fan who started with Mario, PenguinPoop video guy.
First Round: I love this matchup. The Penguins are finally healthy and seem rested this time of year. Columbus, on the other hand, has some key injuries (Foligno and Umberger) that will limit their secondary scoring. The Pens swept the regular season series, and I think they will cruise through to the second round in 5 games. on talent alone.
Unlike previous years, the Penguins are healthy and rested. The stars seemed to have aligned for them this year in regards to the playoff bracket. Boston and Philly have tough first round matchups that can result in an early exit. I think Boston might have peaked too early, like the Penguins last year. I can see the Pens comfortably make the Conference Finals and more than likely the Stanley Cup. It’s been five years since the Pens have won the cup and I think this year is the year that they end it.
Last and definitely not least:
I’ve been called a lot of names for my opinions on the Pens lately and told that I’m not a real fan. That’s until I talk to people who knew the team existed before Sid, who waited for the first two Cups and through a lot of painful years for the third. Then I feel like I’m amongst like-minded people. Being a realist, in my opinion, makes you a true fan. You evaluate the team objectively, you pay attention to what is going on around the league, you recognize the team’s strengths and weaknesses and compare them to other teams. That is the approach that I am taking when I give my prediction for the first round.
Two major things I think are key to this series: History and the play going into the post-season.
You can’t ignore the elephant in the room. We’re now coming off of four seasons of post-season underachievement in whatever round we were eliminated in. We’ve got the same coach who doesn’t adapt to the other team’s play on the fly and gets out-coached. And, in each of those seasons, the team was playing like gangbusters going into the playoffs. This season, the team has played sub-par since the Olympics. We led the league in special teams, by the end of the season it seemed like we couldn’t buy power play points. Both our offense and defense were failing. Most nights it looked as if there wasn’t even an effort, like the team forgot to show up. I don’t mind losing if the teams plays with heart and simply gets some bad bounces. But, a lot of nights, the other team didn’t have to do much…we beat ourselves. Remember that team that was the first in the league to reach 40 wins? Where did they go? The other big question is Fleury. He is always an amazing regular season goalie and fans get very defensive of him because of that. But, when the pressure of the playoffs is on, he can let a bad game get to his head. With Vokoun not ready to go, the clean-up could fall to Zatkoff. While Zatkoff has proven to be a perfectly capable and reliable back-up, that’s a lot to ask of a rookie goalie making his first NHL playoff appearance.
Now for the series against Columbus. I think that many fans are underestimating the Blue Jackets and how tough this series could be for the Pens. Granted, Columbus doesn’t have the talent the Pens have, but their scoring is spread out a little more throughout the team. On paper, the Pens should easily beat the Blue Jackets. But, if there’s something that we’ve learned in the past few post-seasons and the latter part of this season, it’s that it doesn’t matter what a team looks like on paper. All that matters is what they look like on the ice.
Kunitz has had another career season, Niskanen and Jokinen have been fantastic, Maatta has had a great year (still hard to believe that he’s only 19!). Sutter has found his groove and, of course, not enough can be said about Sid. There are other key contributors though who have been very inconsistent or have hurt the team by taking major penalties. Discipline will be a key for the whole team, no stupid penalties out of frustration. The Pens will have to keep the puck in Columbus’ zone and take a lot of shots. Sergei Bobrovsky’s numbers are very similar to Fleury’s from this season. The defense will have to tighten up and special teams will need to improve. We’ve been turning the puck over way too much. Sloppy play in the neutral zone, especially drop passes to no one, has to stop. And the excessive passing on the power play is a waste of precious time and an opportunity for more turnovers.
I’m calling that this series will go six games. But, it’s a toss-up for me on the winner. Because of that, I’m not making any predictions further out. There are just way too many variables at play. The most important being which team shows up to play: The team that we saw pre- or post-Olympics. I’m hoping for the former, but if momentum is any indicator, I fear the latter.
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