Not many people like the Pittsburgh Penguins.
No, I mean "like" them for this series, that is. Alright, that's an exaggeration, but the number of people who aren't picking the Penguins to take this one easily might surprise you, given the history and standings of the two teams involved.
Pittsburgh had 109 points and a +42 goal differential, Columbus squeaked in via wild card with 93 points and a +15. The Blue Jackets are probably stronger than you think, have a rising star in Ryan Johansen, and a still-top-performing goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky (even if, as expected, he was unable to repeat last season's ridiculous Vezina numbers).
But the Penguins are the Penguins: They have two top-notch centers, an ugly bottom six, some play-pushing defensemen, and a bipolar goalie. If Marc-Andre Fleury plays like he has the last two playoff years, there is no Thomas Vokoun to fall back on this time. If he plays like he did during this regular season, however, the Penguins should win with home ice advantage.
|Game||Date||Time (ET)||Eastern Conference First Round||National TV|
|1||Wed, Apr 16||7:30 p.m.||Columbus at Pittsburgh||NBCSN, CBC|
|2||Sat, Apr 19||7 p.m.||Columbus at Pittsburgh||NBCSN, CBC|
|3||Mon, Apr 21||7 p.m.||Pittsburgh at Columbus||NBCSN, CBC|
|4||Wed, Apr 23||7 p.m.||Pittsburgh at Columbus||NBCSN, CBC|
|5*||Sat, Apr 26||TBD||Columbus at Pittsburgh||CBC|
|6*||Mon, Apr 28||TBD||Pittsburgh at Columbus||CBC|
|7*||Wed, Apr 30||TBD||Columbus at Pittsburgh||CBC|
SB Nation Hangouts
Variables, X-Factors and Other Cliches
- Which polarity will Marc-Andre Fleury occupy this month?
- Is this when the rest of the country discovers Ryan Johansen (another 4th overall pick the Isles were thiiiis close to getting back in 2010)?
- On a scale of 11 to 2 million, how obnoxious will Pittsburgh's TV announcing team be? For once, thank Bossy for NBC taking over all playoffs and preventing us from finding out.
- Will Columbus be overwhelmed in their first playoff appearance since Rebuild III?
- Hell, will they just be happy to actually win a playoff game finally?
- Does James Wisniewski keep his gestures in his pocket?
Anyway, for Islanders fans I imagine the rooting interest is pretty clear here. It's hard to hate the long-tortured Blue Jackets, unless you hate them in an "oppressed minority begrudges other oppressed minorities" kind of way.
But use the poll below for registering what you logically think will happen.