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Behind The Numbers

Penguins vs. Blue Jackets key statistics

Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky faces tough task against Sidney Crosby, Penguins

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com Correspondent

The most exciting series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs could be the Eastern Conference First Round matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets.

According to the underlying numbers, this should be a high-scoring series with a particular focus on shutting down Penguins center Sidney Crosby, and on finding ways to score against Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

Here are five interesting stats about this series:

 

High-scoring series

Regardless of how it is measured, Pittsburgh and Columbus are two of the strongest offensive teams in the NHL, which should make for a high-scoring series.

Pittsburgh scored a League-leading 278 goals this season; Columbus was sixth with 247.

In terms of shooting percentage, Pittsburgh ranked fourth at 10.1 percent, and had three players who scored on over 17 percent of their shots: rookie Jake Guentzel (19.8 percent), Evgeni Malkin (17.3 percent) and Crosby (17.3 percent). Columbus ranked seventh at 9.7 percent.

In terms of shots, Pittsburgh took a League-leading 2,745 shots this season, and Columbus was ninth with 2,540 shots. In this series, the Blue Jackets shot totals could be boosted by the Penguins defense, which allowed 2,671 shots, 27th in the League.

Video: PIT@CGY: Malkin finishes off give-and-go for PPG

 

First-period mayhem

The Blue Jackets outscored their opponents 78-49 in the first period this season for a goal differential of plus-29. That was second to the Washington Capitals, who outscored their opponents 80-38 (plus-42).

Against any other opponent that might prove to be a decisive advantage, but the Penguins were 13-10-1 when trailing after the first period, and 20-11-4 when their opponents scored first. In each situation, they are the only team with a record above .500.

 

[RELATED: Penguins-Blue Jackets coverage | Series preview]

 

The Crosby factor

The greatest challenge facing the Blue Jackets is shutting down Crosby, who leads the NHL with 155 points (74 goals, 81 assists) in 128 games since Mike Sullivan was named Penguins coach on Dec. 12, 2015.

On defense, David Savard and Jack Johnson have evolved into the Blue Jackets' top shutdown pair this season, and will be tasked with trying to shut Crosby down.

Up front, Columbus has primarily used Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson and Boone Jenner as its shutdown line, but those three were split up toward the end of the season. Spreading out the skill could work to the Blue Jackets' advantage, since focusing exclusively on Crosby would mean setting Malkin and Phil Kessel loose against secondary lines. This way, the Blue Jackets have the best chance of shutting down all of the Penguins' top scorers, not just Crosby.

Video: CBJ@PIT: Dubinsky shows patience and snaps in a SHG

 

Goaltending duel

Pittsburgh's greatest challenge will likely be finding ways to score on Bobrovsky, a favorite to win the Vezina Trophy for the second time in five seasons.

But when going back to March 1, 2016 and including last season's Stanley Cup Playoffs, Penguins goalie Matt Murray isn't that far behind Bobrovsky statistically.

In that time, Murray trails Bobrovsky .927 to .924 in save percentage 2.19 to 2.29 in goals-against average, 7 to 6 in shutouts, 60.3 percent to 58.4 percent in quality start percentage, and his 54-17-4 record bests Bobrovsky's (45-23-5).

Based on these numbers, Murray and Bobrovsky will be putting the great opposing offense to the test.

 

Third-period security

Given the confidence the Penguins have built up with their success, it will be critical for the Blue Jackets to avoid chasing games in the third period.

In the regular season, Pittsburgh outscored its opponents 103-76 in the third, which ranked first in goals scored, and a goal differential of plus-27 that ranked second to Washington, which outscored its opponents 98-68 (plus-30). As a result, the Penguins were 37-1-1 when leading after two periods.

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