Pittsburgh Penguins

Pens Power Past Blue Jackets in Game 1

NiskanenPittsburgh’s Matt Niskanen QB’ed a powerful Pittsburgh power play in Game 1 vs. Columbus.

by Drew Sarver

The first rule of fight club is, don’t give the Penguins a Power Play

The Columbus Blue Jackets better learn rule #1 in a hurry after losing playoff series opener to the heavily favored Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-3

Mark Letestu had given the Blue Jackets a 2-1 lead after one period with a power play tally of his own. But Blake Comeau took an interference penalty with 16 seconds left the opening period. The Pens’ carry-over PP didn’t start well in the second period thanks to Derek MacKenzie’s breakaway short-handed goal.

Columbus was seemingly in control of the game, and then they weren’t. Still on the PP, Matt Niskanen shaved the lead in half with a blast from the right point that was deflected past Sergei Bobrovsky by Beau Bennett. Just 35 seconds, Jack Johnson went off for interference and the Pens were right back on the ice with 5 on 4 advantage.

Sidney Crosby sent a pass above the right circle to Evgeni Malkin at the right point. Malkin quickly found Niskanen in the left circle and the Pens’ defenseman whipped a wrist shot into the net to tie the game at three apiece.

Meanwhile, Marc-Andre Fleury shut down the Blue Jackets the rest of the way and Brandon Sutter notched the game winner in the third period. A turnover at the Pittsburgh blue line created a two-on-one opportunity with Sutter skating down the right side. With the passing lane to Ray Whitney blocked, Sutter kept the puck and fired it through Bobrosvsky at 8:08, for what proved to be the game-winner.

Notes

Sidney Crosby was held to one assist, but the Pens have so many weapons, losing Game 1 doesn’t bode well for Columbus.

The Blue Jackets will also need to improve on face-offs; the Pens won 56% ot those taken.

 

Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

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2014 NHL PLAYOFFS: PENGUINS VS. BLUE JACKETS

Sidney Crosby Penguins 2014 playoff preview

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.

Pittsburgh Penguins
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.

Sid the Kid Seeks Back to Back Gold

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Whether you watch hockey or not, you’ve probably heard the name Sidney Crosby and you probably know it belongs to the NHL’s poster child. Sidney Crosby is just about as good as it gets when it comes to hockey players these days. He’s been considered by many to be the next Wayne Gretzky and for the last eight years he has gotten as close to meeting to those expectations as anyone could when compared to “The Great One”. It’s no wonder that Team Canada selected the hero of the 2010 Games to be their captain at this year’s Olympics.

Crosby’s goal is to lead Team Canada to back to back Gold Medals, something that has not been accomplished in the Olympics since Russia captured the Gold in 1984 and 1988. “Sid the Kid” is used to coming through in the clutch. He emerged as a top notch prospect at 15 when he skated for Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Fairbault, Minnesota. In one season alone, Crosby scored 72 goals and led the school to a U18 AAA national championship. From there on, he only got better.

The 26-year old was drafted first overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005 and quickly became the face of the franchise. In his first six seasons in the NHL, Crosby won the Stanley Cup (2009), the Hart Trophy for league MVP, the Art Ross Trophy for points leader (first teenager since Gretzky in 1980), and twice garnered the Ted Lindsay Award for most outstanding player as voted on by the players’ association. He also captured the Rocket Richard and Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2010.  If not for a concussion that affected parts of two seasons and the strike shortened 2012-2013 campaign, Crosby career numbers would be even greater. (266 goals, 477 assists in 528 games.)

Crosby is no stranger to winning medals in international competition either. He won gold and silver in 2004 representing Canada at the World Junior Championships.1 To say the least, at twenty two years old, Sidney Crosby was already an extremely accomplished hockey player.

Outside of winning the Stanley Cup, Crosby’s finest moment was, arguably, the goal he scored goal in overtime of the 2010 Olympic Gold Medal game vs. the US. With Vancouver, British Columbia playing host to the international contest, there was extra pressure on Team Canada to succeed. Team USA’s Zach Parise sent the game to OT with a late third period goal, but Crosby beat goalie Ryan Miller seven minutes and 40 seconds into the extra session to set off a wild countrywide celebration.3

After being held pointless in the semi- and quarterfinal rounds Crosby, an assistant captain in his first Olympic appearance, scored four goals against Switzerland, Germany, and Team USA. His “Golden Goal” brought the Gold medal back to Canada for the first time since 2004. For most of Canada, the goal was almost too good to be true. For Sidney Crosby, it was just another goal. The always-humble Crosby later commented that “I don’t think about it that much.”4

After his performance in 2010, hockey fans around the world are watching closely to see what Captain Crosby has in store for Sochi in 2014. There’s no doubt that he’ll have an impact as the leader of the Canadian hockey squad; it’s only a matter of how memorable he’ll make the games for his home country and hockey team.

1. Penguins NHL site
2. sports-reference.com
3. Sports Illustrated
4. nbcsports.com

Alli Baker is a hockey fanatic and contributor for Designated for Assignment.  She can be reached at allibaker23@aol.com or followed on Twitter at @allibaker23