We started our post post-season ranking of the 2014 NHL playoff series at #15 with a recap of the Montreal Canadiens – Tampa Bay Lightning series that was really without drama.
Of all the first round series, the biggest mis-match on paper might have been the series I have ranked at #14 – The Pittsburgh Penguins vs the Columbus Blue Jackets.
This pitted a team with Stanley Cup or bust aspirations against a team that hadn’t won a playoff game in franchise history. It was true David vs Goliath scenario and although the result was as expected, David fell but got a couple of solid shots in along the way.
The Penguins won the series 4 games to 2, but 5 of the games were decided by one goal, and Columbus took games 2 and 4 in overtime to tie the series on two occasions.
The Blue Jackets won their first two ever playoff games, with Jack Johnson leading the way from the blue line with 3 goals and 4 assists for 7 points.
From the Penguins vantage point, it was a preview of things to come in the near future, as Marc-Andre Fleury continued his trend of less than stellar play in the post-season. He was a big question mark going in, and didn’t really answer those who doubted his ability to perform under pressure, at least not in a positive way.
Superstar Sidney Crosby went goal-less in the series (6 assists) and fellow star Evgeni Malkin went goal-less through the first 5 games before breaking out with a hat trick in the deciding game. The star of the series was defenseman Matt Niskanen, as the pending unrestricted free agent made more than a few dollars on his next contract with a 2 goal, 6 assist series.
There wasn’t much animosity between the clubs, and it didn’t really develop much through the series. They had never met in the playoffs before, with it being the Blue Jackets’ first season in the Eastern Conference. Give the Blue Jackets credit for being close, but this series lacked much of the intensity of the ones higher up in the list.
For these reasons, Columbus vs Pittsburgh gets my #14 rank out of 15 playoff series in 2014.