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Columbus Blue Jackets Vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Betting Analysis
By Angelo Montilla
Here’s a breakdown of the Penguins and Blue Jackets series, with odds courtesy of Bovada.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins are faced with a stiff challenge this week when they open their playoff schedule against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena.
No team has repeated as Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings accomplished the feat back in 1997 and 1998. Since then, there have been 11 different Stanley Cup champions.
“Everybody was writing articles about how repeating hasn’t been done at the start of the season,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan told reporters this week. “My very first comment was, ‘why not us?’ We believe we have a competitive team. We believe we have what it takes to win again.”
What Sullivan is saying is true, but first the defending champs must get past a surging Columbus Blue Jackets team that continues to shock the hockey world.
Not surprisingly, the Penguins enter the highly anticipated series as the favorites and are pegged at +350 to come out of the East. The Blue Jackets — playing like a club that has nothing to lose — are +500 underdogs to win the Eastern Conference title.
The Pens crawled to the finish line as the team is dealing with key injuries, most notably Evgeni Malkin, who’s missed the team’s last 12 games with an upper-body ailment. Malkin and the rest of the Pens should be good to go by Wednesday, when the series opens for Game 1 in Pittsburgh.
Games tend to tighten up come playoff time but it will be hard to determine if that will be the case when the Penguins and Blue Jackets lock horns. Pittsburgh and Columbus finished first and sixth, respectively, in offense.
The Penguins topped the league with a goals-per-game average of 3.39. The Jackets weren’t far from that mark, netting 3.01 goals per game, while allowing 2.35 — second fewest in the NHL only behind the Washington Capitals.
The key for the Blue Jackets will be staying out of the penalty box against a Penguins team that boasts the third best power-play percentage in the league. Led by captain Sidney Crosby, the Penguins have converted 23.1 percent of their chances on the man advantage.
Speaking of Crosby, there will be no shutting him down completely. However, watch for Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky to shadow the Pittsburgh star throughout the series, much like he’s done effectively in the past before.
If Crosby hits a scoring wall, which is highly unlikely, there are other weapons on the Penguins to pick up the pieces. Malkin — despite missing 20 games during the regular season — still scored 33 goals and record 72 points in 62 contests. Phil Kessel’s goals were down in 2016-17, but the sniper made up for it with his playmaking skills, posting 47 assists.
The loss of injured defenseman Kris Letang leaves a gaping hole on the blue-line heading into the series against the Blue Jackets. He’ll especially be missed on the power-play as 14 of Letang’s 34 points this season came on the man advantage.
Expect an exciting series that could go six or seven games. There’ll be end-to-end action and a lot of goals along the way. However, it’ll be the Penguins that come out on top to advance to the second round.
Pick: Pittsburgh Penguins (+350)
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