Columbus Blue Jackets (43-32-7) at Pittsburgh Penguins (51-24-7)
|Date & Time||Wednesday April 16, 2014, 7:30 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Pittsburgh Penguins -195 / Columbus Blue Jackets +177 --- Over/Under: 5.5
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+ for only $4.99 a month. Sign up now!|
The Penguins begin their quest at the Cup on home ice against the Blue Jackets on Wednesday night at the Consol Energy Center.
The Columbus Blue Jackets met preseason expectations by qualifying for the postseason but still aren’t get a lot of respect as massive underdogs against the high flying Penguins in this series. The Jackets made some moves in the offseason to suggest they are in a “win-now” mentality but then come trade deadline time they moved out their best offensive piece in Marian Gaborik leading people to think they’re reloading for a run next season. Nevertheless, the Jackets are back in the playoffs and have the opportunity to shock the world and take down Sidney Crosby and the Penguins who are looking to avenge three straight premature exits in the postseason. If Columbus is to have success in this series they need to get a ton of pucks on Marc-Andre Fleury who has been shaky in his last two playoff efforts as well get great goaltending from reigning Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky. Whether the Jackets can do so remains to be seen but they get their first shot on Wednesday night.
The Penguins coasted through the regular season and finished atop the Metropolitan division by a comfortable mile and now they have the luxury of squaring off against the Blue Jackets, the first wild card team in the East. Pittsburgh was led by Sidney Crosby who registered his fifth 100-point season and is a shoe in to win the Hart Trophy but you can bet he would trade it all in to hoist his second Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh has gone relatively unnoticed in the last couple of weeks due to the overwhelming play of the Boston Bruins and the handful of contenders in the West but they are certainly a legitimate Stanley Cup threat and if they can get all of their pieces back and healthy they’ll be very tough to stop. Kris Letang is back from the injured reserve and their forward units are clicking and to me this series should be a cakewalk. A lot of people question Pittsburgh’s tenacity in the playoffs as well as Fleury’s resolve in big games but I think the whole team bounces back this year and makes quick work of the Jackets in the process.