The Columbus Blue Jackets and the Pittsburgh Penguins face off at Consol Energy Center tonight for game five of the Stanley Cup Playoffs opening round. With the series tied at two, Pittsburgh looks to regain their one-game lead, and Columbus looks to take their first-ever series lead in the Playoffs. Game five will be a crucial one tonight, forcing the loser to win both of the following two games to stay alive. With that, here are my keys to getting it done in enemy territory tonight:
Sustained Pressure: It’s no secret, the Jackets have been one of the most physical teams in the Playoffs so far. One of the biggest keys for tonight is keeping up the physical play in all parts of the game. The Jackets have seen time and again that when they let the pressure die down the Penguins strike. For example, the first period of game 4. The Jackets gave up three disappointing goals early in the game. Once they got the pressure back and started hitting, however, they turned the game around and pulled it off in overtime. There can’t be any time where they release the pressure tonight.
Defense: The most scary part of the last four games have been the Jacket’s defense. Being without Fedor Tyutin in game four made for a bit of a hole, but it is possible that he could play tonight. He took part in practice, but hasn’t been confirmed, or denied for that matter, for tonight.
Regardless, the Jackets need to find a way to stop the Penguins’ fast neutral zone transitions. Too many times we have seen the Pens get the puck in their own zone, skate down the ice, and enter the Jackets’ zone unchallenged. Against some teams, the defense would then be able to challenge them and get the puck before they got a shot off, but not with Pittsburgh. Every time they enter the zone unchallenged, they get a shot off before wasting time setting up. If the Jackets can match that speed in the neutral zone, they will be able to neutralize the Penguins’ offense much more effectively.
Energy: The Jackets will be without their trusted 5th line tonight, so there will be decidedly less energy to feed off of. They will have to neutralize the Penguins’ home crowd, and find a way to turn the crowd energy to their energy. The best way to do that is to take a commanding lead early in the game. While the Jackets fans didn’t lose spirit in game 4 after the Jackets went down 3-0, it’s likely the same won’t happen in Consol Energy Center tonight. Although it has seemed to be bad to be the first one on the board this series, the Jackets just need to figure out how to keep the crowd from feeding the Penguins with energy.
Energy also goes back to the first key. When they Jackets lose energy, they quit playing their game. When they quit playing their game, they lose pressure. When that happens, bad things follow. Energy will be a big part in the game tonight, both neutralizing the crowd’s energy and not losing their own.
Tonight’s game is the Jackets’ first-ever game five, and they are hoping to set another franchise landmark with a win tonight. It won’t come easy, however, as the Jackets will be battling for their first regulation win this series. If they stick to their game and don’t let it go, I think they can pull it off. Go Jackets!