Sunday, April 16, 2017

Blue Jackets don’t act like they’re in Penguins’ league

By Michael Arace
April 15, 2017
Image result for kuhnhackl calvert april 2017
Matt Calvert hits Tom Kuhnhackl
The late, great Howard Cosell said it decades ago: “When you play Pittsburgh, you have to play the whole city.”
Cosell also said, “The time may have come to say goodbye to Muhammad Ali, because very honestly, I don’t think he can beat George Foreman.”
The Blue Jackets-Pittsburgh Penguins first-round playoff series is hanging somewhere in the middle of those two bon mots. Cosell loved winners, he loved Pittsburgh and sometimes he was wrong, but you couldn’t tell him that because he was always right. I don’t know whether he put fries and slaw on his ham sammiches, but if he did, he would brook no discussion about its deliciousness.
The Jackets threw just about everything they had at the Penguins in Games 1 and 2 in Pittsburgh. Heck, Matt Calvert broke his stick over Tom Kuhnhackl’s back, did a spin-turn and made a run at Kuhnhackl’s mush, and even that didn’t bother the Penguins.
The Penguins took the first two games at PPG Arena by an aggregate score of 7-2. The Jackets played well enough to make the Penguins exert themselves, but, well, scoreboard. The Penguins use a dash of Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, a soupcon of Sidney Crosby and a smattering of Marc-Andre Fleury, and, at this stage, it is enough.
These are the defending Stanley Cup winners, hailing from the City of Champions. As loud and boisterous as PPG Arena was on Wednesday and Friday nights, it was clear that a fair number of fans, especially in the lower bowl, cleared out before Calvert got around to testing the connective tissue in various aspects of Kuhnhackl’s anatomy in the waning seconds of Game 2.
Make no mistake: Penguins fans will be there down the line because they are Pittsburgh, and to beat Pittsburgh, you have to beat the whole city. They’re just a little bored at the moment. They’re just waiting for things to get innerestin.
What is Columbus to them but a big Spring Game? A scrimmage? The Jackets are 2-6 in playoff games against the Penguins. When things get tough, Malkin can just throw a few pucks in the net. He has done it before; he had a hattie in an elimination game against the Jackets in 2014. Elvis will leave the building. He always does.
Presently, Pittsburgh is threatening a sweep with half the city tied behind its back. Although the Jackets are more Jimmy Young than Ali, the Penguins certainly come off like Foreman — who was the world’s undefeated heavyweight champion when Cosell picked him to win the Rumble in the Jungle in 1974. Foreman seemed invincible.
This is what we have for Game 3 at Nationwide Arena: Jimmy Young facing George Foreman and the entire city of Pittsburgh. On paper, it’s not even a contest. If Cosell were still alive, he’d go toupee shopping this afternoon.
What is Columbus? Its city population is more than double that of Pittsburgh, but it is not quite as big a media market. The Blue Jackets for years outdrew the Penguins, but that was BS (Before Sidney) so it doesn’t really count. Columbus’ sports history is minor league in comparison to that of mighty, mighty, mighty Pittsburgh, the first Gateway to the West, before Cincinnati, St. Louis, Kansas City and Omaha. And Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Fargo, North Dakota. And Denver.
Columbus can’t compete with that.
Right now, Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan is outwitting his mentor, John Tortorella, and Penguins goaltender Fleury — a surprise starter in Game 1 — is outdueling Sergei Bobrovsky. The Pens are taking the Jackets’ best shots, and they’re not feeling threatened. There is no way the Jackets can come back. Yinz can’t imagine it.

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