Still just 26-years of age, Sidney Crosby has 105 points in 82 career playoff games.
by Christopher Wenrich
The Pittsburgh Penguins will showcase their offensive talent as they face the Columbus Blue Jackets in the National Hockey League playoffs. Led by Sidney Crosby, the Penguins were one of the top offensive teams in the league this season. Crosby racked up an NHL-best 104 points in 80 games to win the scoring title (nobody else even reached 90 points) and reached 100-plus points for the fifth time in his career. Crosby led the league in assists (68) and points while finishing third in faceoff wins.
242 goals for (5th)
204 goals against (10th)
23.4 PP% (1st)
85.0 PK% (5th)
Despite losing Pascal Dupuis to a season-ending injury, Evgeni Malkin missing 22 games andKris Letang missing 10 weeks due to a stroke, the Penguins were still among league leaders in goals scored. Malkin notched 72 points in only 60 games, but may be unavailable for the start of the series. After Letang suffered a stroke, there were fears as to whether or not he would ever play again. Fortunately for Letang, he played the final games of the regular season without incident.
Although Malkin may be unavailable for the start of the series, the Penguins still possess plenty of firepower up front. Chris Kunitz scored 35 goals and 68 points in 78 games this season. James Neal scored 27 goals and 61 points in 59 games and Jussi Jokinen scored 21 goals and 57 points in 81 games. During Malkin’s absence, Brandon Sutter showed the ability to chip in offensively. Letang – 22 points – was limited to 37 games this season, but Matt Niskanenpicked up the slack offensively, posting 10 goals and 46 points in 81 games. A healthy Letang will only add to the Penguins’ great firepower.
Marc-Andre Fleury went 39-18-5 with a 2.37 GAA, .915 SV% and five shutouts this season. This is the fourth consecutive season in which he posted a sub-2.40 GAA. Fleury is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL when he is on top of his game. However, he suffered through postseason struggles in recent years. If the Penguins are to make a deep run, Fleury will have to be sharp.
Columbus Blue Jackets
226 goals for (12th)
214 goals against (13th)
19.3 PP% (11th)
82.1 PK% (14th)
Blue Jackets fans had to be thrilled to finally witness the breakout year of Ryan Johansen. He led the team in goals (33) and points (63) in 82 games. Johansen is an excellent puck handler who is unafraid to drive to the net and he possesses a good shot. This long-awaited breakout may be just the beginning. In terms of talent, the Blue Jackets simply do not match up with the Penguins; however, if they are able to limit the production of the Crosby line and get an excellent performance from Johansen, they may have a chance.
Defenseman James Wisniewski had another strong season for the Jackets, scoring 51 points in 75 games. Johansen and Wisniewski were the only Blue Jackets to post 50-plus points. Brandon Dubinsky and Cam Atkinson were the only others to reach 40-plus. Sergei Bobrovsky went 32-20-5 this season with a 2.38 GAA, .923 SV% and five shutouts. Bobrovsky has been nothing short of spectacular in his time with the Blue Jackets, and he must continue to play that well for his team to have any chance to upset the Penguins.
General expectations for this series favor a victory by the Penguins. The reality is that the Blue Jackets do not possess the collective star power the Penguins have up front. This will likely be a very short series, unless the Blue Jackets can grind out 1-0 or 2-1 victories. The Blue Jackets will not be scoring four or five goals in a game unless Fleury struggles as he has in recent years.