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NHL Pittsburgh Penguins

2014 NHL Playoffs: It’s Gut Check Time For Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins

Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

I am not one to say “I told you so.”, but if you read my 2014 NHL Playoff preview of the first-round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Columbus Blue Jackets, I outlined how the series would be much closer than anyone was anticipating. I predicted the Penguins to win in six games, and that could still happen, but there is nothing to say this series isn’t going to go the distance.

There is nothing more to say other than that the Penguins desperately need a gut check. To be completely honest, there is no reason the Blue Jackets are still in this series.

However, give credit where credit is due, and the Blue Jackets are playing desperately. That is something Penguins fans haven’t seen from their favorite team since 2007 when the team embarked on a postseason run that was abruptly ended by the seasoned Ottawa Senators.

Now the Penguins are that seasoned team with all the playoff experience anyone could hope for, and if you watched this series, there is no way of knowing that the Penguins are the team that has been there and done that. Rather, the Blue Jackets are the team that has shown poise in hostile situations, that hasn’t been caught in the stupid retaliatory penalties and doesn’t get fazed by a quick burst of offense by the opponent.

The Penguins are playing two periods of hockey and one period of something that barely resembles hockey. The team doesn’t even seem focused or engaged in any way. The amount of hubris that is shown from Sidney Crosby on down the line is almost embarrassing.

With as poorly as the Penguins have played this series, they now find themselves in a best-of-three series where it is a race to win two games and advance to the next round. One thing is for certain: if the Penguins are going to be that team that advances, it is time for a serious gut check about where they are as a team, because it is nowhere near where they need to be for a legitimate Stanley Cup run.

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+.