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Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Series Preview
*view all NHL Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series lines here
- Game 1: April 12, 7:30 PM ET, at Pittsburgh
- Game 2: April 14, 7:00 PM ET, at Pittsburgh
- Game 3: April 16, 6:00 PM ET, at Columbus
- Game 4: April 18, 7:30 PM ET, at Columbus
- Game 5: April 20, TBD, at Pittsburgh*
- Game 6: April 23, TBD, at Columbus*
- Game 7: April 25, TBD, at Pittsburgh*
Regular Season Head-to-Head
The teams both went 1-1-2 in their four regular season matchups, although the Jackets had the slight edge in scoring over those four games, 13-10.
Why the Blue Jackets Will Win the Series (+150)
The Jackets will have soon-to-be two-time Vezina winning goalie Sergei Bobrovsky between the sticks. Bob has been excellent all season long, leading the league with a .933 save percentage. If any goalie can get hot enough to singlehandedly stop Sidney Crosby and the Pens’ outstanding forwards, it’s got to be Bob.
The Jackets’ offense didn’t end the season on a particularly high note – which was a big reason why they lost six of their last seven regular season games – but they will get to go up against a Pens blue line that will be riddled by injury. The biggest one is obviously to Kris Letang, and Olli Maata is also banged up with a hand injury.
Brandon Saad is a proven playoff performer, and he will relish getting back to this stage as the wise vet leading the Blue Jackets’ mostly young group. He and the other members of Columbus’ hardworking forward group will work like hell to get Crosby and co. out of their game.
Why the Penguins Will Win the Series (-180)
Even with their banged-up blue line and injuries to forwards Carl Hagelin and Chris Kunitz, the defending champs still have a couple of things going for them.
First, of course, is the fact that they have the runner-up for the Art Ross and the best player in the world in Crosby leading their attack. His old pal Evgeni Malkin hasn’t played since March 15 due to an upper-body injury, but he’s coming back and should be fairly well rested. The other guys on their forward group – Phil Kessel, Conor Sheary, Patric Hornqvist – are also pretty good, and will be going up against a similarly banged-up Blue Jackets blue line that could be without Zach Werenski.
Second, they have a proven playoff performer in goalie Matt Murray, who had a legitimate claim for the Conn Smythe after his excellent .923 save percentage in last season’s Cup run. He posted an identical .923 save percentage in his first full season in the NHL as well. Despite Bobrovsky’s growing hardware collection, he hasn’t been as great in the playoffs (.890 save percentage in 13 playoff games), so the Jackets’ apparent edge in goalie might not be as significant after all.
And third, they will get to play Game 7 at home. The Pens had the second-best home win percentage in the entire league this season, as they went 31-6-4.
The Penguins (-195) will be pushed all the way by the upstart Jackets, but Crosby and the champs survive after seven grueling games.
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