Penguins say playoff series against Columbus could fuel rivalry
Meeting here and there during the regular season doesn't ignite a rivalry.
But by playing the Columbus Blue Jackets for the first time in a playoff series, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma figures this might be enough to create animosity with his team's closest geographic rival.
“Having played in places like Anaheim and L.A., you can't get (a rivalry) without getting the playoff matchup,” Bylsma said. “Once you get that animosity there, once you get that playoff (matchup), now you're going to have a rivalry.”
Time will tell whether this one turns into anything substantial.
Last night's overtime game, which ended too late for this edition, should help to further that cause.
Same for the five guaranteed meetings every season because Pittsburgh and Columbus are now in the same division.
The Penguins (51-24-6, 108 points) won all five meetings this season by a combined score of 16-7.
With the NHL realigning divisions prior to this season, Columbus moved into the Eastern Conference and finished fourth in the Metropolitan Division.
“I think having them be in our division for the first time this year, you want to build a rivalry right off the hop,” Bylsma said. “You play them in the preseason like we have in the past, maybe even one time in our division … it hasn't been the same rivalry type of matchup as Philadelphia or even Washington.
“Now you're getting a playoff series against them. I think proximity and the closeness, our fans, their fans … you're going to get that animosity and playoff-type of rivalry from the close proximity.”
The Penguins are 15-3-1 all time against Columbus.
They trailed for all of 56 seconds in dominating the season series in 2013-14, although Blue Jackets starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has played just 13 minutes against the Penguins this season because of a groin injury and the flu.
One of the biggest factors during the regular season was the Penguins' penalty kill, which held Columbus to one goal in 14 chances (7.1 percent). The Blue Jackets actually outshot Pittsburgh, 155-145, during the five-game series.
Center Ryan Johansen, who is 21, led Columbus with 33 goals. Defenseman James Wisniewski had a team-high 44 assists.
“They have a good, fast team. They've got skill,” Penguins winger Harry Zolnierczyk said. “They're a team you can't let linger around. You let them linger around, and as of late, they've been able to score. You have to make sure you dictate the game and not let them get going.”
Blue Jackets games at Nationwide Arena routinely feature Penguins fans who are transplants or willing to make the drive: doable in under three hours.
The atmosphere — the team's goal cannon not included — usually doesn't lack for excitement.
Upon learning Saturday night that Columbus would be the Penguins' first-round opponent, winger Jayson Megna said he started thinking back to those five games and how they may play into the current series.
“They're a very good team,” Megna said. “I think they had a really good year. I think that it's going to be a great matchup for us. It'll be a great series. It's going to be a hard-fought series.
“It's a great atmosphere there. They have a great following. We have an excellent following. They're so close together that it should make for a great playoff matchup.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.