In our look at the playoff series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets, one detail emerged: experience was going to be a factor.
Now that the Penguins are up two games to none on the Blue Jackets, that experience factor has been showing itself.
Pittsburgh has outscored Columbus 7-2 so far across two games and the top line really came into form in Game Two on Friday. Sidney Crosby had three points, including a goal and two assists. Jake Guentzel had a goal and an assist. Conor Sheary had an assist.
Crosby’s goal was the 50th playoff goal of his career and it came at a time that the Blue Jackets were outshooting their opponents 8-0. The Penguins weathered the first period storm and then it was business as usual.
“It just comes down to execution,” Crosby said. “If you execute, you make that little pass or that 10-foot pass or you’re able to beat that guy, then there’s a chance to be had. So, I thought we did a better job as a group of doing that.”
Indeed, it does come down to execution and the Penguins have been proving it night after night.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has done his part as well, allowing one goal in each of his two starts with Matt Murray on the shelf. He seems to benefit from the underdog status. Despite holding 55 playoff wins, Fleury hasn’t won consecutive post-season starts since 2014.
So, what can the Blue Jackets do when the Penguins are running on all cylinders? Good question.
They’ll have to limit Pittsburgh’s opportunities, but that’s easier said than done. The Penguins know how to make good on their chances, but Columbus has been struggling to put the puck away when it matters. That, at least for now, is the difference between these two clubs.
If there’s something that is going right for the Blue Jackets, it’s the physical side of things. The team has looked strong on the forecheck and has played a grinding style that should be panning out.
Except it’s not.
Once again, the Penguins have been finding openings and enduring the hits to make the plays. And they’ve found a way to overwhelm goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, a sure key to taking the win.
Sometimes, it really does come down to talent. And in the case of the Blue Jackets, they’re just outmatched.