The Penguins were undoubtedly surprised by the fight displayed by the Columbus Blue Jackets in their Game One 4-3 win. The Penguins rallied from two goals down in the second period and won on a third period goal by Brandon Sutter. Although Pittsburgh came away with a win in Game One, the play of the Blue Jackets has given their team a new found confidence moving forward in this series.
The Blue Jackets in the first period did exactly what they had planned on doing. They scored fast and early on a goaltender that has been severely lacking confidence in the playoffs- Marc-Andre Fleury. However, the Penguins responded beautifully throughout the game, especially after the Jackets scored on a short-handed goal by Blake Comeau just 43 seconds into the second period. The Penguins scored on that very same power play to cut the Jackets lead to one and then on another power play just a short time after to tie it up at three. The response by the Pens was a good indication of a team with a lot of fight moving forward, but they cannot continue to build confidence in this Blue Jackets team by digging themselves into two goal holes.
If the Penguins keep digging again in this game, do not expect the Blue Jackets to give up another two-plus-goal lead in Game Two. The Penguins have to do what the Jackets did in Game One: attack early and fast on a goaltender that is struggling mightily in the postseason. Fleury proved to be able to weather the storm in Game One, but the same could not be said about his counterpart. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky will continue to be another big storyline moving forward in this series as he let in some very uncharacteristic goals in on Thursday Night. In the third and final period, Bobrovsky let in a weak wrister on a two-on-one breakaway that sealed the deal for the Pens. But nine-times-out-of-ten, the Vezina Trophy winner would have stonewalled that shot.
Another worry that the Pens have to account for before Game Two begins is how many chances the Jackets were not able to capitalize on in order to steal an early Game One. Marc-Andre Fleury practically stood on his head to make incredible save after save last game, but given his track-record, the Penguins better not dwell on that to happen over and over again. The Penguins need to reduce the defensive mistakes and turnovers that led to so many breakaways and odd-man breaks for the Jackets if they want to win Game Two.
Also, the Jackets are a very strong defensive unit that does not usually give up two goal leads. But in Game One, after amassing a two goal lead half way into the game, the wheels fell off on their penalty kill unit as the Penguins scored back-to-back power play goals to tie the game at three. The Jackets defense did a great job of pouncing on Captain Sidney Crosby whenever he had the puck and was on him all night long. If the Penguins cannot spring Crosby free from the grips of the Jackets defense, the Penguins could be in a world of hurt in this series.
The Blue Jackets expect a bounce back game from Bobrovsky, are a team playing with new playoff confidence and also have their big forward, R. J. Umberger (a Pittsburgh native), back for Game Two. If the Penguins cannot score early on Bobrovsky, this game and confidence could remain instilled in Columbus. However, if the Penguins can win Game Two and make it seven-straight-wins against the Blue Jackets, any confidence that had been accumulated by the Jackets in Game One will all but be forgotten.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles