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Pens Points: The Defense Begins

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Pens begin quest for back-to-back titles tonight against rival Blue Jackets. Sully and Torts put friendship on hold. Young scoring flourishing in Pens system. Predictions are in and they look good for the black and gold.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images

On June 12, 2016 the Penguins won their 4th Stanley Cup in franchise history, defeating the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 to claim the crown.

Tonight, 10 months to the day since raising the Cup in San Jose, the Pens will begin their Stanley Cup defense hosting the division rival Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1 of their first round match-up.

Game 1 will be broadcast nationally on USA and locally on ROOT Sports. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 PM.

Stick with Pensburgh for full coverage of the series and check out our friends over at The Cannon for a Blue Jackets point of view on the match-up.

Here are some good stories to pass the day as we anxiously await puck drop...

Under former general manager Ray Shero the Penguins had an obvious lack of young scoring depth and it showed as the Pens farm system was ranked near the bottom of the league. Since Jim Rutherford took over the helm the Pens have thrived off young scoring talent. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

Long time friends and former coaching partners Mike Sullivan and John Tortorella will put their friendship on hold when they lead their respective sides against one another in the first round. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

Hooks dropped by The Cannon and did a Pens Q&A for Blue Jackets fans. Here’s what he had to say. [The Cannon]

Just in time for the playoffs the Pens are beginning to get some stars back from injury. Mike Sullivan announced Tuesday that Evgeni Malkin will return to the lineup for Game 1 and regular starter Matt Murray will also be ready to go. [Trib Live]

With Kris Letang out for the playoffs it will fall upon Justin Schultz to fill his skates and take over the leading role on the blue line. [Penguins]

Sportsnet has a nice write up on the series including a look at the advanced stats and an X-Factor for both sides that could decide the outcome. [Sportsnet]

If you’re a 111 point team and you lose to a 108 point team does that really count as an upset? [Washington Post]

Based on practice lines from Tuesday, it appears Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley will be the second defensive pairing when the Pens open the playoffs tonight. They struggled together at times this season but now their success will be more critical than ever if the Pens are to go deep. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

Here is a good look at what the playoffs would look like if the league used a 3 point system rather than the traditional 2 point system. Not much would change in the East but the match-ups could have been drastically different out West. [The Hockey News]

If you like predictions well do we have a list for you...

USA Today likes the Pens across the board.

The Sporting News likes the Pens in 6.

Craig Custance of ESPN says Pens in 7.

The Washington Post is not quite as high on the Pens advancing.

UPI believes the Pens injuries will be too much to overcome.

The Guardian is taking the Pens in 6 games.

Bleacher Report think the Blue Jackets will be tough but ultimately Pens in 6.

Sports Interaction likes the Pens experience in a 6 game series victory.

5 of 6 prognosticators from NBC Sports are going with the Pens.

The Hockey News has a nice breakdown on their site. Pens in 7.

Last but not least, the gang over at Puck Daddy has the Pens moving on in 7.

Here’s how some of our loyal readers think the series will play out...

Regardless of the outcome, at least one of these predictions is right.

Given his play before the injury, a Geno hat trick seems like a safe bet.

Pens have played well against Bob but he is the likely Vezina winner.

Bold.

This might be the safest bet of the bunch.