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#BattleOn Playoff Preview: Game 1

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets


POST GAME AUDIO (CLICK NAME TO PLAY): Johnson | Johansen | Dubinsky | Richards

The second period started with a flurry (pardon the pun), with the Jackets and Penguins combining for three goals in the first 2:19 of the period. Derek MacKenzie got it started with a gorgeous shorthanded tally, picking Kris Letang's pocket at the blue line and bearing down on Fleury with a quick shot blocker side, a goal that made it 3-1 Columbus early in the second. But the Penguins roared back, tallying twice on the power play (Beau Bennett, Matt Niskanen) in the next minute to tie the game 3-3. Both teams had plenty of chances and the physicality definitely ramped up in the middle frame, with several scrums breaking out after whistles and extra jabs being tossed around. Shots are 25-22 in favor of the Jackets, and it's a 3-3 tie with 20 minutes left in regulation time. 

Derek MacKenzie 2nd period SH goal | CLICK TO PLAY

GAME AUDIO: Derek MacKenzie 2nd period SH goal | LISTEN

WATCH: Mark Letestu 1st period PP goal | CLICK TO WATCH

FIRST PERIOD ANALYSIS: Remember what James Wisniewski said this morning about playoff hockey being four levels about the regular season? He was pretty spot-on with that analysis, and it was a frantic, fast-paced opening period that ends with a 2-1 Columbus lead at CONSOL Energy Center. With 11 first-time playoff-ers in the lineup, the Blue Jackets played a composed and aggressive 20 minutes, getting pucks in deep and forcing the Penguins defense to make plays. They also capitalized on their first and only power play chance of the game so far, with Mark Letestu (the former Penguin) cashing a loose puck to make it 2-1 late in the frame. Shots were 13-12 in the first period, and Pittsburgh opens the second period with 1:45 remaining on the power play due to a Blake Comeau cross-checking penalty.

Mark Letestu 1st period PP goal | LISTEN

WATCH: Jack Johnson 1st period goal | CLICK TO WATCH

GAME AUDIO: Jack Johnson 1st period goal | LISTEN

WATCH: James Wisniewski pre-game from CONSOL Energy Center.

WATCH: Ryan Johansen looks ahead to Game 1 tonight in Pittsburgh.

WATCH: Todd Richards' pre-game press conference.

UPDATE (11:35 AM):
Here are the Jackets' lines and pairs from their morning skate today...

Jenner - Johansen - Skille
Calvert - Dubinsky - Atkinson
MacKenzie - Anisimov - Comeau
Tropp - Letestu - Boll

Tyutin - Johnson
Murray - Wisniewski
Nikitin - Savard

UPDATE (11:15 AM):
Some Penguins updates following theier morning skate at CONSOL Energy Center...

- Evgeni Malkin was a full participant in the skate, centering the second line with Jussi Jokinen and James Neal. He also quarterbacked the first power play unit with Kris Letang, which is a pretty good sign that he's playing tonight in Game 1.

- Marc-Andre Fleury is the starter for Pittsburgh. 

If you're attending tonight's #BattleOn Viewing Party at the Scioto Downs Racino, we've got great news...we'll be giving away tickets to Monday's Game 3 at Nationwide Arena! Get there early tonight, grab a seat and get ready for Game 1 with your CBJ family! 

The Blue Jackets have arrived in Pittsburgh and we're less than 24 hours away from the start of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. The team will hold a morning skate at 11:30 a.m. at CONSOL Energy Center, and we'll have complete coverage for you here at Game Day Central. Also, look for lineup changes, thoughts on the match-up against the Penguins, storylines from the other side and an interview with coach Todd Richards. Stay tuned to this page for the latest!

Still without forwards Nick Foligno and RJ Umberger for Game 1, the Blue Jackets and coach Todd Richards have had to shuffle the deck to find four balanced line combinations. They seemed to find the right mix (at least for the time being) during their 1-1-0 jaunt through Florida, but they'll be a much deeper team when they get those two veteran forwards back in the lineup. 

Richards said after Tuesday's practice that there is a possibility one or both could be ready in time for Game 2 on Saturday.

On defense, it appears Nikita Nikitin will get back in the lineup and play Game 1 alongside David Savard. The other defense pairings (Tyutin-Johnson, Murray-Wisniewski) are expected to remain intact.

Sergei Bobrovsky gets the call in Game 1 and he'll start opposite of Marc-Andre Fleury.

All the talk, hype and speculation can be laid to rest in a matter of hours. The Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins are gearing up to kick off their opening round series on Wednesday night at CONSOL Energy Center, and now, the focus finally shifts to the ice surface.

Everyone knows about the Penguins’ 5-0-0 record against Columbus this season - including the Blue Jackets - and as they’ll tell you, that can either be seen as omen or an as an opportunity. Whatever happened during the 82-game regular season is now wiped out, and all that matters is what happens when the puck drops on Game 1.

A wise man once said "it's what you do with the opportunity that matters." Or...something like that.

The Blue Jackets, who set a franchise record with 43 wins during the regular season, want their next win to be a series-opening win, one that sets the tone right off the bat. On the other hand, the Penguins have had all season to wait for these Stanley Cup playoffs to begin, and as great as their regular season was (51 wins and a convincing Metropolitan Division lead), they know that the true proving ground begins in the postseason.

Columbus can expect an especially-motivated group of Penguins, who unceremoniously bowed out of last year’s tournament in the Eastern Conference Final against Boston. They're champing at the bit to get this thing going, much like their opposition from just west down I-70.

But when it comes to the Blue Jackets, they’re doing what they can to keep their focus on themselves (sounds cliche enough, but hey, it’s the best approach).

They know how successful they can be when they’re on top of their game: all four lines rolling and contributing, a swarming forecheck and attention to detail in the defensive zone are the key aspects of Blue Jackets hockey.

Columbus will need that to be the centerpiece of its efforts this week, especially against a Penguins team that can score at will - but that’s at the expense of stating the obvious.

On top of everything we’ve just covered, there’s a stellar matchup between the pipes in Sergei Bobrovsky vs. Marc-Andre Fleury. At one end is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and a goaltender who’s eager to prove himself on hockey’s most pressurized stage, and opposing him is a Stanley Cup champion who has come under fire in recent years for lackluster performances in the postseason.


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