-One of the good things about covering a playoff series at home and on the road is getting to know the other team a little bit better. During a regular season, you pretty much only get to interview another team's players at the morning skate and after the game and usually, the interviews are limited to immediate concerns involving that night's game. Occasionally, a team will come in a day early and you can talk to them a day before a game but those are rare. During a playoff series, you interact with these players upwards of two weeks. You find out who are the good and not-so-good quotes on that team.
-Last postseason, for a variety of reasons, we enjoyed found defensemen on the other teams to be good quotes. For the Islanders, it was Travis Hamonic. For the Senators, it was Marc Methot. And for the Bruins, it was Andrew Ference. This year, it has clearly been Jack Johnson.
-Johnson has caused a bit of a stir with comments such as saying about how the Penguins were nothing special and his comment about how the Penguins haven't been covering him on his goals. Some have seen it as trash talk or bulletin board material. In every instance we've talked with Johnson, he hasn't come off someone offering inflammatory comments for the sake of shock value. He strikes us as a pretty mellow matter-of-fact kind of guy.
-The Calder Trophy finalists were named today. Forward Nathan MacKinnon of the Avalanche as well as Lightning forwards Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson are three top vote getters. Olli Maatta was not one of them. It's pretty simple to see why. Maatta's a defenseman and generally speaking, defensemen don't put up big numbers which voters usually look at. Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm had a very solid season as well and could have merited consideration. Last season, Jonas Brodin had a fantastic season for the Wild but didn't get a sniff at the award.
-The only way defensemen really ever get consideration is if it is a lean year for forwards. Unfortunately for Olli Maatta, he made his NHL debut in a season when a player of MacKinnon's stature started his career as well.
-It will be interesting to see how quickly the lines get shifted around tonight for the Penguins. We can't imagine the Blue Jackets will have the same intensity to start this game as they did in Game 3. The crowd at Nationwide will be bonkers tonight once again but it won't quite be at the same level as it was for Game 3. It never will be. That was a pretty special crowd. Even if it's one level down, it's still not going to be the same as what went on in this building Monday. The Blue Jackets won't have quite the same jump and that only benefits the Penguins.
-The Penguins worked the same power-play unite of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Matt Niskanen and Paul Martin today. We're not sure if any sort of tactical changes to that units approach were made. Regardless, the Penguins need it to change in terms of success. Life will be a lot easier with a successful power play.
-We're not sure how long it will be utilized, but the third line of Beau Bennett, Brandon Sutter and Jayson Megna which worked out this morning is a bit intriguing.
-Rob Scuderi only got 13:44: of ice time in Game 3 and coincidentally, that was his best game of the series. Part of that was dictated by the Penguins having a ton of power plays early in the game as well as an early deficit. Part of that was probably dictated by his level of play which hasn't been good much of the series.
-Fedor Tyutin could have helped the Blue Jackets defend their lead in Game 3. He is their Paul Martin. He might not put up huge numbers but he has a calming presence where he can settle things down for his teammates and make the right play in most situations.
-A few sights. The barn:
-We really enjoy the arena around the Arena. Columbus is a typical midwest city in that it's a pretty generic grid for how the city is laid out and everything is pretty spread out. There is plenty of green space in this city as well. With most of the trees finally blooming, it's a pretty sight:
-Near the front of Nationwide Arena, there is this quaint walkway lined with bars, restaurants and living spaces:
-Someday soon, hopefully Fifth Avenue and the Civic Arena site can blossom like this.
-Fans were lined up this morning for gameday ticket sales:
-There are a few 412ers here. Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby:
-And Miroslav Satan:
-The always rare Luke Richardson/Marc Denis combination:
-And we always have room in our hearts for a Geoff Sanderson fan:
-The signs being distributed tonight are double-sided:
-Fans entering the barn:
-The goal cannon:
-Like at Consol Energy Center, there is a display for a lot of the local youth team jerseys:
-There is a pretty neat marker in the main concourse nothing how far away center ice is:
-There are a few more Penguins fans on hand tonight than in comparison to Game 3 but it's still nothing like a regular season game where tons of Penguins fans show up. Kris Letang:
-There are two Ron Tugnutt fans on hand tonight:
-Jersey of the Night: Mark Letestu Penguins:
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Lee Stempniak, Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo, Chris Conner, Deryk Engelland, Brian Gibbons, Marcel Goc, Taylor Pyatt and Tomas Vokoun.
-The Blue Jackets' starters are Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, Brandon Dubinsky, Jack Johnson, David Savard and Sergei Bobrovsky.
-Their scratches are Jared Boll, Matt Frattin, Nathan Horton, Ryan Murray, Jeremy Smith, Corey Tropp and Fedor Tyutin.
-The national anthem:
19:50: Almost immediately, "C-B-J!" chants rain down.
19:25: Recovering a puck dumped into his own left wing corner, Scuderi absorbs a solid hit into the boards by Dubinsky.
18:39: A wrister by Nikita Nikitin is wide of the net.
17:34: Glass chucks a wrister on net from the left wing. Bobrovsky snags it.
17:23: Battling for a puck in the Columbus' left wing corner, Crosby is walloped to the ice by his friend Johnson.
17:11: A wrister by Crosby from the slot is deflected out of play by Savard.