Key Observations Heading Into Game 6 Between the Penguins and Blue Jackets

The Pens Nation Gameday Report

 

This series between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins has been really weird, to say the least. For the first time this postseason, the Penguins will be able to end this weird series with a win tonight at Nationwide Arena. Pittsburgh was 2-0 last year when presented an opportunity to close out a series. The Penguins hope to make it 3 straight in the past 2 years and more importantly, avoid hosting a Game 7 at CONSOL Energy Center on Wednesday night. Pittsburgh is 2-6 in Game 7’s at home and has not won one since 1995. The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Penguins in 2011 in the only Game 7 hosted at CONSOL Energy Center. Pittsburgh will need to bring the same work ethic they brought in Game 5 on Saturday night in order to end Columbus’ season.

How weird has this series been? Well, pretty weird. More times than not, the team that scores the first goal of the game wins the game. That has not happened once in this series. Therefore, the team that has scored the first goal in this series has an 0-5 record. In addition, the first 4 games of the series ended with a 4-3 score AND saw one of the teams blow a 3-1 lead. That changed on Saturday night when the Penguins won Game 5 by the score of 3-1. Surprisingly, Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky played his best game of the series in Game 5, stopping 50 shots in the loss. That performance could give the young goaltender some confidence heading into a must-win game in his home building tonight. However, they will be without forward R.J. Umberger (shoulder) and defenseman Nikita Nikitin (undisclosed). Forward Jared Boll and defenseman Nick Schultz will fill in for Umberger and Nikitin, respectively. In order for the Blue Jackets to extend the series, they will need to get more pucks to the net and continue to be physical with the Penguins.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, hopes to continue what they were doing in Game 5. The Penguins played arguably their best game of the series. They recorded 51 shots and played great defensively with the lead. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had a great bounce back game as well, stopping 23 shots. Dan Bylsma had nothing but good things to say about defenseman Kris Letang‘s play in Game 5 and who can blame him? Letang made several great defensive plays and added an empty net goal to give the Penguins a 2 goal lead in the 3rd period. Letang is now 1 goal away from tying Larry Murphy for the most playoff goals by a defenseman in team history. Another player who was tremendous in Game 5 was center Brandon Sutter. After an up-and-down regular season this year for Sutter, he has really stepped up his game in the 2014 playoffs. Sutter’s 4 points (2 goals and 2 assists) in 5 postseason games this year already has surpassed his point total in the 2013 postseason (3 points in 15 games). Sutter’s linemate Jussi Jokinen has a 3-game point streak in the playoffs, which is a career high for him. Jokinen has 2 goals and an assist in that span. Both goals are game winners. Secondary scoring has been one of Pittsburgh’s biggest strengths this postseason. Even forward Craig Adams has point in two straight playoff games, which hasn’t happened since May 2009. Defenseman Brooks Orpik, who did not play in Game 5 because of an injury, did not participate in this morning’s skate, which could mean he will miss a second straight game. Bylsma added center Evgeni Malkin to center Sidney Crosby‘s right wing in Game 5 to switch things up offensively and we could see that again tonight. Malkin did not skate there this morning, but that does not mean we will not see him and Crosby together tonight. Malkin and Crosby are still looking to score their first goal of the postseason. If one or both superstars explode tonight, the series will probably get wrapped up. The winner of this series will take on the winner of the series between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers lead that series 3-2 and will continue the series tomorrow night in Philadelphia.