Sam Kasan gives his three impressions from the press box of the Penguins’ 3-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Playing the Columbus Blue Jackets is as much a mental battle as it is a physical battle. The games are always emotional, intense and can be sometimes downright ugly. The Pens didn’t get dragged down into the extracurriculars. Instead, they stuck to their game, fought through checks, ignored the chirps and focused on playing hockey. When the Pens show that kind of mental focus, it plays to their strengths.
The Pens knew entering the game that the Blue Jackets were going to play them physical. Maybe even overly physical. And they did just that. Columbus, who ranks 8th in the NHL in hits, took the body on the Pens at every opportunity, outchecking the Pens 26-12. They tried their best to outmuscle Pittsburgh. At times it was effective. But mostly, the Pens shrugged them off and skated through the hits. There weren’t many ugly scrums or a lot of post-whistle action. Columbus wanted to win on toughness. The Pens wanted to win on skill. Advantage: Pens.
3. One Step Forward; Two Steps Back
The Pens’ roster was a little healthier against the Blue Jackets with the return of forwards Carl Hagelin (2 games missed, illness) and Eric Fehr (17, lower-body). The additions were certainly welcomed. However, with addition came subtraction. The Pens lost center Evgeni Malkin, who left in the second period after colliding with Dalton Prout. The team also lost Scott Wilson in the third period after he fell into the boards. Brian Dumoulin left the game briefly, but did return to finish the contest.