By Shane Darrow on April 15, 2014
The Pittsburgh Penguins are 5-0-0 this season against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but that doesn't mean that the Blue Jackets are going to roll over and play dead in the first round. Here are five ways the Penguins can be sure to avoid being upset.
The Penguins led the NHL in total man-games lost to injury this season, but they are finally getting healthy at the right time. Evgeni Malkin, Joe Vitale, Kris Letang and Beau Bennett are just a handful of guys who appear to be getting over injuries right before the postseason begins. If the Pens can stay healthy, they'll most likely survive their first round meeting with Columbus.
Marc-Andre Fleury has once again had a solid regular season, but the past two seasons he has been a main reason for the Penguins' demise. Two years ago, he allowed 26 goals in only six games, and last year he was replaced by Tomas Vokoun for the remainder of the playoffs after struggling through the first five games of the postseason.
All the pressure in this series is on the Penguins. The fact that they're supposed to win adds even more pressure than what's already on the table during playoff hockey. If they drop Game 1 or are struggling to score goals early, they cannot get frustrated with themselves. If they keep their cool and roll with the punches, the Penguins will be fine.
Now that the Penguins are healthy, their power play, which is still statistically the best in the NHL, can get back to producing around 25 percent of the time. Their first unit looks like an All-Star team, which gives them no excuse if they can't find a way to convert against a Blue Jackets penalty kill unit that was ranked 14th in the NHL during the regular season.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin need to be great throughout the playoffs if they want to go on to win it all, but that isn't going to be enough. The Penguins have struggled to find secondary scoring all season and that could lead to problems quickly. Brandon Sutter, Lee Stempniak and Tanner Glass need to find a way to get into the mix if the Penguins want to be successful.
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