DON’T UNDERESTIMATE COLUMBUS

I heard a couple of weekend-radio idiots saying the Penguins will beat Columbus in five games.

That’s why they’re weekend-radio idiots.

Columbus lost six of seven games to close the regular season, and lost comprehensively to the Penguins last Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena, 4-1. The Columbus franchise has never won a playoff series. It’s easy to think the Blue Jackets are fading away and will be classified as obsolete.

It’s also foolish to think that.

The Jackets finished with 108 points, fourth-most in the NHL. Their goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky, is a lock for his second Vezina Trophy and a legit MVP candidate. Columbus is physical in a very calculating, damaging  way. C Brandon Dubinsky may be Sidney Crosby’s No. 1 nemesis.

I do think the Penguins will win.

I don’t think it will be easy.

But here in Pittsburgh, we underestimate the opposition given any chance to do so. We turn on the home team when it stumbles even more easily.

The series will likely go six or seven games, and I won’t pick a winner until seeing Pittsburgh’s Game 1 lineup (i.e. the availability of Evgeni Malkin and Matt Murray).

The Penguins can certainly win with Marc-Andre Fleury in goal. (That’s why they kept him.)

But Malkin’s absence would dilute the Pens’ most pronounced advantage, which exists at the center position. Crosby is still scads better than Jackets top center Alexander Wennberg (just 13 goals), but no Malkin would drastically close the gap after that.

Then again, C Nick Bonino has scored nine goals since March 1. Bonino knows what time it is.

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