The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Columbus Blue Jackets met in the First Round of the playoffs. It ended up being a quick series for the Penguins as they beat the Blue Jackets in five games. Pittsburgh jumped out to a 3-0 series lead then lost Game Four in Columbus before closing the Jackets out at home in Game Five on Thursday night.
Many people thought this series was going to be a lot longer because of how good both of these teams are. But it didn’t happen as Pittsburgh had too much high-end talent.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs Pittsburgh Penguins First Round Series Recap
Did any of the top storylines in the preview of this series come to pass? Let’s take a look in the first round series recap.
Perhaps the biggest storyline going into the series was goaltending as it was likely going to be Sergei Bobrovsky against Matt Murray. Both goaltenders had outstanding seasons and Bobrovsky is the front-runner for the Vezina Trophy. But Marc-Andre Fleury ended up playing in the series as Murray got hurt during the warm-up in Game One.
Bobrovsky had to be dynamite if the Blue Jackets had a chance to beat the Penguins, but he was anything but that. He allowed 21 goals in five games and had a save percentage of .882. For his career total in the playoffs, he has a .887 save percentage and a 3.63 goals-against average. He wasn’t nearly good enough in goal for his team as he looked like he was fighting the puck many times throughout the series.
For Pittsburgh, Fleury had a spectacular first two games filling in for Murray as he saved 70 of 72 shots at home. Then he regressed a bit in games Three and Four despite the team being up in the series. He outplayed Bobrovsky by a wide margin, and was at his best in the series-clinching game as he stopped 49 out of 51 shots.
Special Teams Play
Special teams were also going to be a big factor going into this series as the Penguins had one of the best power plays in the league. In the preview, we talked about how the Penguins had the third-best power play in the league during the season, and it definitely looked that way for most of the series. Pittsburgh finished 5/15 on the power play this series. They scored two of those goals in the series clincher on Thursday night including Sidney Crosby‘s goal that ended up making it 4-2. Columbus just didn’t do enough against the Penguins power play, and it ended up costing them.
For Columbus, their power play struggled during the series as they only mustered two goals on 12 power-play opportunities despite the Penguins not having a very good penalty kill during the regular season. It didn’t help when Zach Werenski had to miss the final two games of the season because of a fractured facial bone. The Penguins penalty kill was able to have a very good series and they won the special teams battle by a large margin.
Scoring first usually isn’t a big talking point going into a series but it mattered in four of the five games this series. The team that scored first in four of the five games won with the exception of Game Three when the Blue Jackets scored 11 seconds into the game, but ended up losing 5-4 in overtime.
Columbus scored the second-most goals in the league this season, but it didn’t matter much because they only won one game in which they scored first, which was game four. All three of these big talking points discussed in the preview seemed to favor the Penguins as the series progressed.
This is definitely one of the more closer five-game series from the past few years as a couple bounces could’ve made this series a lot different. Columbus didn’t get the lucky bounce in overtime of Game Three when Brandon Dubinsky‘s shot hit the helmet of, and if that goes in, the series could be 3-2 in Pittsburgh’s favor right now.
The Penguins top talent was just too much for the Blue Jackets to overcome. Cam Atkinson and Brandon Saad are both amazing players but when the Penguins have Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel putting up a combined 26 points in five games, it’s a very tough task to beat them. Malkin had 11 of those points and leads the team in points after being out of the lineup for a few weeks.
It’s obvious but Bobrovsky was not nearly good enough for the Blue Jackets to have a chance in this series. He allowed five goals twice in this series and in the last 12 playoff games against the Penguins, he’s allowed three or more goals. The Blue Jackets as a team have given up more than three goals in all 15 playoff games that they’ve played in their history. If Bobrovsky was just average during the series, it likely would’ve looked a lot different.