Over the first two decades of the franchise, the Columbus Blue Jackets have struggled to establish one clear rival. Such rivalries are built on years of back-and-forth competition, high stakes, and some bad blood. Since the Jackets have been part of the Metropolitan Division, one match-up comes closest to these factors: the Pittsburgh Penguins.
I hate them so much.
Blue Jackets record vs. Penguins
Regular Season: 14-20-8
At Nationwide Arena: 10-7-4
At Mellon Arena: 1-4-0
At PPG Paints Arena: 3-9-4
Record as Metropolitan Division opponents: 9-14-5
Unfortunately, these two teams were in separate divisions when both were bad. Each had equal odds at the first overall pick in the 2005 draft (following the lockout). Pittsburgh won, drafted Sidney Crosby, and the rest is history (Columbus “won” the sixth pick and drafted Gilbert Brule).
The league wanted to create some new rivalries when it realigned in 2013. The playoff format paired up these teams twice, which succeeded in intensifying the subsequent regular season games. Over the last four seasons, those regular season games have had playoff seeding implications.
The Jackets won one of three matchups this season (the fourth and final was scheduled for the night that the league suspended play), and won the last meeting last season - which ended an eight game losing streak.
The Opposite Bench
Does Pittsburgh think of Columbus as a rival? Short answer: no. Longer answer: No, but they recognize the Jackets as a tough team to play. They don’t hate us much as the Flyers, but we’re nearly as annoying.
Pensburgh considers the Flyers and Capitals to be their top rivals, but came up with a list of contenders for the #3 spot. The Jackets made the cut. I thought this comment summed up their feelings well:
I hate to give it to CBJ but they’ve forced their way into that position. To me, it’s the most contrived rivalry in sports and you know what… it worked because I can’t stand that team.
Inferiority complex is well earned. By far, the most significant thing the organization has ever done was a first round play off sweep.
It’s a second rate team in a college football town with an inferiority complex that has never won a thing that glorifies scum bags like Dubinsky. O yea, and the jersey is hideous.
Jack Johnson, D, 2012-2018
The current Penguin defenseman stepped up big time in the postseason. He leads his teammates in playoff points against Pittsburgh, with four goals and five assists. He scored another ten points against them in the regular season.
Nick Foligno, LW, 2013-present
The Captain leads the team in regular season points, with seven goals and eight assists. This includes a memorable hat trick in 2015:
Brandon Dubinsky, C, 2013-present
Dubi scored his share of points against the Pens (5/9/14 in the regular season and 2/6/8 in the playoffs) but he also became the face of the “bad blood” aspect of the rivalry. He made it his job to get under Crosby’s skin at every available opportunity. This eventually led to the two dropping gloves on national TV:
Boone Jenner, LW/C, 2013-present
Boone has the second most regular season goals for Columbus in the series, with six, and most playoff goals with five.
Cam Atkinson, RW, 2011-present
Cam leads all Jackets in regular season goals with nine, and another three in the playoffs.
Sidney Crosby, C
Let’s be honest, we hate him because he’s too damn good. He leads his franchise in points against the Jackets, with 35. He added another 13 in the playoffs.
Phil Kessel, RW
Fat Phil scored 17 points in 16 regular season games as a Penguin, then another eight points in the five games of the 2017 playoff series. Oh, and he broke Zach Werenski’s face:
Jake Guentzel, LW
It seems like the young forward always finds a way to punish the Jackets. He has 16 points in 14 regular season games, and scored an absurd five goals in five games in that 2017 series.
It’s just a three hour drive between cities, so the black-and-yellow clad horde often makes their presence felt in Nationwide Arena. If you’re a Columbus native who roots for the Pens over the Jackets, please reconsider all of your life choices.
After trailing 3-0 in the first period of Game 4 in the 2014 playoffs, Dubinsky manages to tie the game in the waning seconds thanks to a poorly-advised expedition out of the crease by goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury:
In overtime, Foligno lets fly from downtown (props to R.J. Umberger and James Wisniewski for sacrificing their bodies for the assist) for the first home playoff victory in franchise history. I’ve never heard Nationwide so loud.
In earlier overtime magic, Matt Calvert scored in the second overtime period of Game 2 for the franchise’s first postseason victory.
Scott Hartnell’s hat trick paced a 7-1 blowout victory in the midst of 16 game win streak in 2016
What are your favorite moments of this series? Do you think this counts as a rivalry?