On Saturday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins looked like the team that was supposed to dominate the inexperienced Columbus Blue Jackets from start to finish. They were down 1-0 after the first period, but played their two best periods of the series in the second and third in order to come back and win 3-1. The 3-1 curse had finally been broken. When the final buzzer sounded, the shots were 51-24 in favor of the Penguins and every person at Consol Energy Center knew that the better team had won.
With the Penguins only needing one more win to close out the series, they must do so in Game 6 in order to establish success away from home. All season long, the Penguins played inconsistently away from the Steel City, which can’t happen in the playoffs. Not to mention, a Game 6 loss would force a single game with their season on the line and anything can happen during a seventh game.
If the Penguins do get past the Blue Jackets, they could eventually run into the Boston Bruins, who recently eliminated the Detroit Red Wings in five games and have been a thorn in the Pens’ side over the last couple of years. The Bruins are one of the best teams in the NHL and are even better when they’re in their own building. A Game 6 victory would give the Penguins some needed confidence away from Pittsburgh.
The last thing the Penguins can do is overlook the Blue Jackets and believe that this series is over already, but they need to have a must-win mentality heading into Game 6 and treat it like it’s already Game 7. Anyone can win in their own building, but winning on the road in the playoffs is what separates the champions from those who are on the golf course.
Look for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to step up their game and carry the Penguins into the second round.