Know Thy Enemy

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

The Penguins and the Blue Jackets are set to face off against one another in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Penguins and Blue Jackets. The two teams we always expected to become rivals, right? Ha. Not so much. But this series could change that.

Notables

Season Series

  • 5 games played, 5 Penguins victories
  • 1 start for Sergei Bobrovsky, who was chased from the net in his only appearance against the Penguins.
  • 16 goals in the 5 wins, one shutout

Puck Possession

The Penguins started out well, trended downwards heavily, but have made a swing upwards in the right direction since the trade deadline. Columbus had a rough start, but have played well as of late and have become a good possession team

Screen_shot_2014-04-14_at_7

Goaltending

It's no argument (at least in my opinion) that Bobrovsky is the better goaltender than Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury is good enough at 5v5 to be the goalie that the Penguins need. Limiting special teams will be integral to keeping him in the right mindset and gaining confidence. (Note: this is team save percentage, not individual goaltenders.)

Screen_shot_2014-04-14_at_7

Depth

Anyone who has watched the Penguins know that they are a very top heavy team, and things fall off the wagon as you go down the depth chart. This here shows the Corsi Relative Percentages of each line for the Penguins and the Blue Jackets. The Penguins first two lines are worlds better in terms of possession than Columbus. But the Blue Jackets' having depth and four even lines could be a challenge for Penguins bottom six which is lacking.

Screen_shot_2014-04-13_at_8

Line combinations used:
Kunitz-Crosby-Bennett, Jokinen-Malkin-Neal, Glass-Sutter-Stempniak, Pyatt-Adams-Engelland
Jenner-Johansen-Comeau, Calvert-Dubinsky-Atkinson, MacKenzie-Anisimov-Skille, Tropp-Letestu-Boll

Expectations

If the Penguins indeed are able to get Evgeni Malkin back for the first round, it will be a weight lifted off of the bottom six to put in a heavy workload. If they are able to get Marcel Goc back from injury, the depth issues are fixed a *little* bit.

I have no expectation of the Blue Jackets rolling over, but as pointed out to me by a friend last night, this series seems like it could have the potential to go the way that last year's Penguins-Senators 2nd Round Matchup went, where the Blue Jackets are a good team, but the Penguins have the extra talent to be able to overcome their swells.

My prediction? Penguins in 6.

(Chart data and stats courtesy of Extra Skater)

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