NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Penguins are light years better than the Blue Jackets … if they can get healthy

Pittsburgh topped Columbus 4-1 on Tuesday. Dave Lozo wonders what a healthy Penguins team might do to the Blue Jackets in the playoffs.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Update, 4:04 p.m.: The Pittsburgh Penguins chances of repeating as Stanley Cup champions got a lot slimmer when news broke today that they will head into the playoffs without defenseman Kris Letang.

Original Post

The first-round playoff matchup is finally set for the Pittsburgh Penguins — they’re going to face the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Well, it’s not set in stone, but it’s practically inevitable. And we’re not going to talk again until next week, so let’s just go ahead an assume Game 1 between the Penguins and Blue Jackets will be in Pittsburgh, and it should be a relatively easy win for the Penguins as long as they are healthy when the puck drops.

What’s that? Matt Cullen and Bryan Rust got hurt Tuesday night, too? Come on.

Look, I can’t emphasize this enough — the Penguins are light years better than the Blue Jackets, who have feasted on bad teams and struggled against good ones all year. And when the Penguins are healthy, they are a really good team. Heck, without Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Carl Hagelin, Trevor Daley, Olli Maatta (list truncated for time), the Penguins still beat the Blue Jackets 4-1 on Tuesday.

So imagine what the Penguins could do with just half of those guys back.

Evgeni Malkin signs his jersey in a shirts off of our backs fan promotion after the 4-1 win over Columbus. Malkin didn't play, so he didn't really use the jersey. Because he's hurt. Like everyone else.

Evgeni Malkin signs his jersey in a 'shirts off of our backs' fan promotion after the 4-1 win over Columbus. Malkin didn't play, so he didn't really use the jersey. Because he's hurt. Like everyone else.

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At some point, icing an AHL lineup against an NHL roster is going to hurt a team, even one as deep as the Penguins. But Tuesday night should leave you feeling pretty good about the Penguins’ chances of getting to the second round for a rematch with the Washington Capitals.

Yeah, we’re assuming the Capitals win their first-round series, too. Since when has making assumptions about a playoff series a week in advance ever gotten anyone in trouble?

Button up, Nick

Nick Bonino

Nick Bonino

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Twitter can be a great place for opening your mind to new ideas, new cultures and just new ways of seeing the world. It can be an invaluable tool for getting people out of their bubbles and helping them step into the shoes of others. It can foster understanding between human beings that otherwise would never come into contact with one another.

And it can also be a device for allowing a crazy person to put forth crazy ideas that must be stamped out immediately.

There is one way to put on a button-down shirt — you button the second-highest button and work your way down. In the case you are wearing a tie, you then button the top button. That’s it. I don’t know where Nick Bonino learned this, but it has potential to be worse than the hot dog/sandwich debate.

Luckily for us, more than 20,000 people let Bonino know that he was the wrong one.

Although the fact that 31 percent of people said they start from the bottom is scary. They probably eat their pizza with a knife and fork, too.

It’s important that Bonino’s teammates support him during this difficult time. He didn’t know any better. This was what he learned as a child. Bonino’s story is so moving — he overcame this issue to win a Stanley Cup — that he should be retroactively the Penguins’ Masterton Trophy nominee.

We’re all pulling for you, Nick. Don’t let this problem get you down. I mean, let it get you down, but only if you start at the top, then work your way down.

Player of the Week

Jake Guentzel

Jake Guentzel

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Jake Guentzel has played three games since returning from a concussion and has one goal in each game. He also has an assist. And the Penguins are 3-0.

It’s pretty clear — Guentzel is the most important Penguin and the key to a championship. Ignore all that previous stuff about Malkin and Letang being healthy. The only way the Penguins win a second straight Stanley Cup is if they let Guentzel play 25 minutes a night.

Player of the Weak

Nick Bonino

Nick Bonino

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry, but it’s Bonino. Yeah, one assist in four games isn’t much production, but that shirt thing really hurts him. You want him to be a leader in the locker room and he’s buttoning his shirt from bottom to top in front of young players? It can’t be good for the long-term plans of this team.

One Question

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Pittsburgh Penguins
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Mike Sullivan spent 11 years in the NHL as a center, so I’m thinking if Malkin, Cullen and one more center go down before the playoffs, he’s 100 percent dressing for Game 1 against the Columbus and putting himself on the second power-play unit.

His career-high in points was 21 in 1995-96, which is the equivalent of like 150 today, because no one was scoring back then. Throw in the fact that he finished 34th in Selke voting in 2001, and Sullivan is a complete player the Penguins need.