2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Previewing the Blue Jackets and Penguins Forwards
Two of the top scoring teams go to battle
In the second of our series of positional previews, we take a look at the forward corps of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins. Pittsburgh led the league in scoring with 3.29 goals per game, while Columbus finished sixth with 3.01. While Pittsburgh features multiple superstars, Columbus has scoring depth and much young talent.
@BlueJacketsNHL lines this morning in preparation of tomorrow's playoff game with @penguins pic.twitter.com/8A1Mt8sDzi— jody shelley (@shelleyhawk45) April 11, 2017
There’s a lot to like about these lines for the Jackets. Three of the lines match what were used during the 16 game win streak. The only change is subbing Oliver BJORKSTRAND for Lukas Sedlak, who is still day-to-day with an upper body injury. The Great Dane has been a much needed shot-in-the-arm for the Columbus offense and he should fit well with the experience of Scott Hartnell and the passing skill of Sam Gagner.
#Pens lines at practice:— Sam Werner (@SWernerPG) April 11, 2017
The big news for the Penguins yesterday was the return of Evgeni Malkin. He has missed almost a month with a shoulder injury. He is an elite forward and a weapon that the Pens must have if they expect to repeat as champions. Our friends at Pensburgh are as happy about this as we are by the return of Zach Werenski. Missing from this lineup are Chris Kunitz and Carl Hagelin, who each have lower body injuries, likely broken feet. Hagelin may return yet this series, while Kunitz is expected to be out longer.
- Dubinsky vs. Crosby - In 2014, Brandon Dubinsky was Sidney Crosby’s shadow, and kept Crosby from scoring a goal in six games. Since then, they have continued to clash, including one fight, and a dirty crosscheck. Not only must Dubinsky continue to limit Crosby’s scoring (he led the league with 44 goals, after all), he will also have to produce on offense, setting up linemates Boone Jenner (18 goals) and Cam Atkinson (35 goals).
- Skill vs. Depth - Pittsburgh has three bona fide stars in Crosby, Malkin, and Phil Kessel. Each one has had big games against Columbus in the past. What Columbus lacks in starpower (only 3 players with 20+ goals), they make up with depth (10 of 12 forwards have 10+goals). With scoring balance on all lines, the minutes have been balanced as well, allowing all forwards to remain fresher. Will Torts keep that rotation in the playoffs, or will he ride one or two lines harder than usual?
- Wild Card: BJORKSTRAND - Since his return to the lineup in February, Torts has compared BJORKSTRAND to a deadline acquisition. In 17 games prior to being boarded by Roman Polak, “The Maestro” scored 6 goals and 4 assists, and electrified the offense. He has had success with both Wennberg and Gagner as his center.
- When we need a goal, who will step up? - Every successful playoff team has a player get red hot Who will that be for Columbus? Will it be Brandon Saad, who won two Cups with Chicago? Will it be Scott Hartnell, the grizzled veteran who was acquired in large part for his playoff experience? Will it be Cam Atkinson, the team’s leading scorer and a breakout star this season? Will it be Alexander Wennberg, who is developing into a true 1C?
What do you think?
Which CBJ forward will lead the team in points in this series?