2014 NHL Playoffs: Analyzing The Pittsburgh Penguins’ Potential 1st Round Matchups

Sidney Crosby

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins have won the Metropolitan Division for the first time in the new division’s existence, and they have clinched the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs which are due to start in a little over a week.

One thing that is still up in the air for the Penguins is who their opponent will be. At this point and time, it could be one of three teams. Those teams are the Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings and the Philadelphia Flyers. The interesting thing about this race for positioning in the playoff race is that all three of those teams currently have 91 points with two games remaining.

Plain and simple, these final two games of the regular season will decide the Penguins’ matchup for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

So of the three teams listed above, which matchup would be the best possible matchup? That is the ultimate question for fans that will be watching hockey this weekend awaiting this muddy mess to clear itself up.

Anyone who watches NHL hockey and follows the Penguins knows that the Pens’ worst matchup would be the Flyers. There is something about the Flyers that completely takes the Penguins out of their game. Superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin seem to try and alter their game to adjust to the Flyers, and that equals problems for Pittsburgh. A Penguins vs. Flyers opening round might end poorly for Pittsburgh.

Between the Blue Jackets and Red Wings, you would have to think the best potential matchup would be the Blue Jackets. Not only did the Penguins sweep the season series against the Blue Jackets, but Columbus lacks the playoff experience that the Red Wings carry with them into the playoffs.

The Red Wings and Flyers would certainly make for great television for the NHL and their viewing audience, but in terms of analyzing the Penguins’ potential matchups, they should be looking for the team that they best matchup against which would be the Blue Jackets.

Regardless of opponent, if the Penguins are able to play smart and physical hockey and protect the puck, there is a chance that any potential first-round matchup would be a success for Pittsburgh. Nonetheless, I believe all Penguins fans will be pulling for a Pittsburgh vs. Columbus first-round matchup as the regular season comes to a conclusion this weekend.

Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for RantSports.com and also contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on  Twitter @BnGBlitz and add him on Google+.

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