2014 NHL Playoffs: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Preview & Prediction

By Jeff Hartman
Kris Letang
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Many fans of the NHL have already penciled in the Pittsburgh Penguins into the second round of the NHL Playoffs due to them drawing the Columbus Blue Jackets in round one. After all, the Blue Jackets have only made the playoffs twice in the team’s brief history and the Penguins won all five meetings between the two in the regular season series between Metropolitan Division foes.

So why in the world would anyone pick the Blue Jackets to win this series? It’s simple, actually.

Look at the recent playoff failures of the Penguins, and the blind youth of the Blue Jackets, for one. That equation alone nearly ended the Penguins’ playoff run last year at the hands of the youthful exuberance and speed of the New York Islanders. Throw in an inconsistent postseason goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury and a reigning Vezina Trophy winner in Sergei Bobrovsky, and you have a recipe for an upset.

The Penguins should win this series. They are by far and away the more talented team, but if you follow this team from Pittsburgh, you’ve seen those lapses in play that lead to horrible losses and stretches of subpar play. Hit one of those stretches in the playoffs, and the Penguins will be hitting the golf course sooner rather than later.

If you ask me, this series hinges on goaltending. Heck, the entire Penguins postseason will rest solely on Fleury’s fragile shoulders. Will he be able to get over the past two postseason flops and return to the form that won the Penguins a Stanley Cup in 2009? Will Bobrovsky be able to keep the Blue Jackets in these games while holding off the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin?

Those are all questions that only time will tell, but if you are a fan thinking this series will be a cakewalk for the Penguins, you might want to think again.

Prediction: Penguins in six.

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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