Feb 26, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71) and Columbus Blue Jackets center Samuel Pahlsson (26) on a face off during the third period at Consol Energy Center. Pittsburgh won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Dave Miller-USA TODAY Sports

Joining The Eastern Conference Battle-Pittsburgh Penguins

It’s no secret that the Columbus Blue Jackets face new demons in a new division and conference. I’d like to take a look at each new opponent in the division, and what CBJ needs to do to be successful.

The NHL Realignment plan to be enacted in the upcoming season has drawn generally positive reviews. West coast teams appreciate the easier travel times and proximity of opponents, and east coast teams enjoy the chance to frequent the opponents not as often played against in seasons past.

But what does the new format mean for the Blue Jackets?

Well, obviously its an entirely new palette of opponents. Bobrovsky and the gang can expect frequent trips to Carolina, New York, and Washington.

Oh yeah, and Pittsburgh. The seemingly unbeatable stars in Black and Gold loom over the new division.

But there is a way to beat the Penguins at what is becoming their own game. And that’s what I would like to take a look at in this article.

To quote Herb Brooks (Played by Kurt Russell) in Miracle, “We take their game, and shove it right back in their face.” The Penguins play a game based on intimidation. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jarome Iginla use their names to face down opponents.

There’s no denying the talent in Pitt. Generally sturdy goaltending backing up the best player in the world with a supporting cast of hockey legacies and ex-captains is enough to leave an opponent shaking.

June 5, 2013; Boston, MA USA; Members of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate after a goal by Chris Kunitz (14) during the second period in game three of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Yet the success teams have found against Pittsburgh has come from resilience and resistance. The Penguins know they’re good. If you look past that talent, they’re nothing.

Yes, they are talented, but the Pens aren’t willing to work when the going gets tough. Their inner prima donna begins to show, and they fold.

Case in point: The Bruins sweep of the Pens in the 2013 ECF’s. In game 1, the big story was that Malkin fought, and Crosby ran his mouth. And the frustration exhibited cost the Pens big time. They were off their game, and things were tough.

Jun 5, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Boston Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk (55) battle for the puck during the third period in game four of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

It was clear Boston got under the skin of Pittsburgh’s leaders, and game 1 quickly became a microcosm of the 2013 ECF. With minimal issue, Boston dispatched Pittsburgh in 4 games. All because they got them off their game.

And what is Pittsburgh’s game? Intimidation.

Some may say the Penguins are similar to Chicago in that they are the giants of the conference. But looking deeper, you can clearly see that Pittsburgh has more talent. However, no one can win on talent alone. Chicago, though they possess somewhat less talent, works for everything.

If things get tough, Jonathan Toews and company put on their work boots and get down to business. And that’s the difference between them. Pittsburgh depends on talent to dictate their fate, but Chicago controls their fate.

The answer to beating any team in the new division is to go against expectations. Pittsburgh expects teams to be starstruck. When a team fights back, as Boston did, they get rattled. Their expectations were wrong.

Feb 26, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek (4) and Columbus Blue Jackets center Derick Brassard (16) go after the puck during the first period at Consol Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Miller-USA TODAY Sports

In Columbus’ case, the expectation will most likely be a negative one, based on the team’s history. This only makes it easier on the Jackets. They just have to play better than the low expectations.

The point is, the hill to climb isn’t all that great. The Penguins are simply paper-mache giants. It won’t take a match of talent, which doesn’t exist, by the way, to beat the Pens. It just takes a little more effort than the Pens will put in.

If there’s a team that will put the Penguins in their place, it’s the young, scrappy, determined Blue Jackets.

How do you think Columbus should go about facing the Pittsburgh Penguins? Leave a comment below!

Tags: Columbus Blue Jackets Realignment

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