Penguins Hope to Survive Not-So-Dapper Metropolitan Division
NHL Playoffs – Metropolitan Division
Following the announcement of NHL realignment prior to the 2013-14 regular season, the Pittsburgh Penguins were marked as the head of the class in the awkwardly titled Metropolitan Division. Their road to being the valedictorian would not be easy, however, with old rivals such as the Rangers, Flyers, and Capitals reconvened in what looked like a blue-collar division that could prove capable of shooting down the Pens’ high-flying lines on any given night.
Granted, plenty of stars were still around, including Rick Nash, Claude Giroux, and reigning MVP Alex Ovechkin, but the lines all of these teams were rolling game after game were sure to be loaded with plenty of grit and intensity. Added into the mix were the Columbus Blue Jackets, who migrated to the Eastern Conference from the West along with the Atlantic Division’s Detroit Red Wings. While the Penguins-Flyers rivalry has often defined the bitterness that can grow between close rivals, the Jackets are located even closer to Pittsburgh, offering another possible rival for one of the league’s premier logos. Now that the division-heavy playoff pairings are final, some of those preseason outlooks have come to bear fruit we all get to enjoy over the first few weeks of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Columbus Blue Jackets Matchup
That possible rivalry between these close division foes – Columbus and Pittsburgh are only three hours apart by car – proved to be decidedly one-sided in their first season sharing a neighborhood. The Penguins swept their five-game regular season series with the Jackets, including three victories on Columbus ice; so, while Pittsburgh already has home-ice advantage, they may hold a mental advantage in Ohio, as well. This series would appear to have all the makings of a sweep, but the second half of the year hasn’t been decidedly kind to the Penguins’ health.
Pascal Dupuis is still gone, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are just coming back from late season injuries, and essentially every other blue-liner has missed a significant number of games for a wide variety of ailments. The Penguins have had two constants all year, and a pair of all-world talents at your core can help cure a whole lot of ill will. Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury helped their squad runaway with the top seed in the Metro, so now that their full cast of friends has returned, expect the Penguins to take flight in a fast and impressive way against Columbus. This team hasn’t made a Stanley Cup Final since they won the title in 2009, and this year’s quest isn’t going to stop against the Blue Jackets.
Pittsburgh – Columbus Season Series
|11/1/2013||Penguins, 4-2||Pittsburgh||PA||Consol Energy Center|
|11/2/2013||Penguins, 3-0||Columbus||OH||Nationwide Arena|
|12/9/2013||Penguins, 2-1||Pittsburgh||PA||Consol Energy Center|
|12/29/2013||Penguins, 5-3||Columbus||OH||Nationwide Arena|
|3/28/2014||Penguins, 2-1||Columbus||OH||Nationwide Arena|
Penguins – Blue Jackets Tickets
2014 Blue Jackets – Penguins Highlights
New York Rangers – Philadelphia Flyers Matchup
The Philadelphia Flyers rivalry with the New York Rangers doesn’t quite date back to the Original Six days of the league – the Flyers didn’t join the Stanley Cup playoff fray until 1968 – but it might as well. These two have always had plenty of regular season battles, and this will be the 11th postseason tilt between them. It’s the first Philly beat the Rangers in the 1997 Eastern Conference Finals (after which they went on to lose the Cup to Detroit). Fans on both sides have been waiting for a decade and a half to see these two go toe to toe with something really on the line, and the Metro gods have smiled upon them with this inaugural pairing.
Philadelphia started so slowly, it’s somewhat amazing to see them in the playoffs at all. Perhaps that’s a statement about the lukewarm talent in the division, but a playoff berth is all that matters. The Rangers made a big splash at the trade deadline to push themselves across the finish line, swapping their captain for ageless winger Martin St. Louis, giving superstar sniper Rick Nash a partner to assault the opposition’s goal.
The Rangers still count on “King” Henrik Lundqvist to hold things down in their zone, while the Flyers seem to have overcome their perpetual net issues with the resurgent Steve Mason. Given that these two teams’ four regular season games were an even split, with each team holding their own at home, this looks like a seven-game series that’ll go down to the wire with a heavy dose of physical play. Get your fisticuffs popcorn ready.
New York – Philadelphia Season Series
|10/24/2013||Flyers, 2-1||Philadelphia||PA||Wells Fargo Center|
|1/12/2014||Rangers, 4-1||New York||NY||Madison Square Garden|
|3/1/2014||Flyers, 4-2||Philadelphia||PA||Wells Fargo Center|
|3/26/2014||Rangers, 3-1||New York||NY||Madison Square Garden|