It’s a shame that either the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Columbus Blue Jackets will be ousted from the NHL playoffs after the first round. These two teams will finish with two of the top five records in the NHL but must face each other in the first round because of the eccentricities of the NHL playoff format. However, their loss is our gain as we have one of the most captivating opening round series in years. Who will win this battle between two of the beasts in the East?
Log on to BookMaker online for all the latest NHL puck-lines, totals, moneylines, and props. BookMaker Sportsbook provides the earliest NHL odds and is your one stop shop for all your betting needs. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets will clash with a trip to the Eastern Conference semis on the line. You can watch all the action on the NBC family of networks.
Stanley Cup Playoff Odds at BookMaker.eu
Game 1: Columbus at Pittsburgh (4/12, 7:30 p.m. ET, USA)
Game 2: Columbus at Pittsburgh (4/14, 7 p.m. ET, NHLN)
Game 3: Pittsburgh at Columbus (4/16, 6 p.m. ET, CNBC)
Game 4: Pittsburgh at Columbus (4/18, 7:30 p.m. ET, CNBC)
Game 5: Columbus at Pittsburgh (If necessary 4/20, TBD)
Game 6: Pittsburgh at Columbus (If necessary 4/23, TBD)
Game 7: Columbus at Pittsburgh (If necessary 4/25, TBD)
With the announcement that Kris Letang will be out for the rest of the season, Pittsburgh suffered a huge blow to its hopes of repeating as Stanley Cup Champions and are reeling defensively. That makes the potential return of Olli Maatta all the more important. He has been out with a broken hand since February 16, but the Pens seem confident that he will be able to go at some point in the series. Maatta was averaging 18 minutes of ice time a game and having him back would be great for a defense that is banged up.
Without Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus would have never gotten this far. The man that is surely to win the Vezina Trophy for being the best goaltender in hockey has been fantastic in net for the Blue Jackets this season. However, he has had his issues in Pittsburgh this season, allowing four goals in both games the Blue Jackets played in the Steel City.
As good as Bobrovsky has been in the regular season, he has yet to get it done in the playoffs. The 28-year old Russian has made it to the postseason three times in his seven-year NHL career, but has yet to make it out of the first round. Through 13 playoff games, Bobrovsky has a record of just 2-6 with a 3.49 GAA and a .890 save percentage.
He will be put to the test by the team that puts more shots on net and scores more goals than anyone in the NHL. Although the Penguins have been banged up, they are still able to produce on offense thanks to talents like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel. How these three perform during the series, especially on the power play, will go a long way to determining who wins this series.
Free NHL Series ATS Pick
These two sides split the series on the season with each team winning two games, but the Penguins won the most recent meeting and in doing so locked up home ice advantage in this series. That looms very large as the home team won every game in the regular season.
Columbus and Pittsburgh enter the postseason going different directions. The Blue Jackets have lost six straight and eight of their last ten overall with the two wins coming at home against non-playoff teams, while the Penguins have won four of their last five. Over their last ten, Columbus has found the back of the net just 18 times and hasn’t been effective on the power play either creating cause for concern.
That inability to score is going to haunt this team as that is how you have to beat Pittsburgh in the postseason. The Penguins know they are limited defensively and will crank up on the heat on offense and dare the Blue Jackets to beat them. That isn’t the type of game Columbus can play and why it will falter.
NHL Playoff Series Odds: Penguins win the series 4-2
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