His Pittsburgh Penguins are back in the playoffs – in fact, they’re the 2-seed in the Eastern Conference – but Scott Ferrall doesn’t feel too optimistic. Yes, the Penguins will face the Columbus Blue Jackets – a team they dominated in the regular season (Pittsburgh went 5-0 and outscored them 16-7) – but Ferrall simply does not trust Marc-Andre Fleury.
And who can blame him?
The Pittsburgh goalie has been downright awful in each of the last two postseasons. In 2012, he allowed 30 goals in six games to the Philadelphia Flyers, and in 2013, he allowed 14 goals in a three-game span to the New York Islanders before getting benched in favor of Tomas Vokoun, who led the Penguins to victory in six of their next seven games.
So after seeing the Flyers and Islanders have their way with Fleury in back-to-back postseasons, Ferrall wants to know what the Blue Jackets have in store for the Quebec native this time around.
“That’s a good question,” SportsNet and NHL Network analyst Billy Jaffe said on Ferrall on the Bench. “I don’t think a lot of people know about Ryan Johansen, who plays for the Columbus Blue Jackets, who is a big, right-handed shot centerman.”
Johansen, 21, led Columbus with 33 goals and finished third on the team with 30 assists. Jaffe compared him to Anaheim Mighty Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.
“He can be an absolute motor for this Columbus team,” Jaffe said.
Still, there’s no denying that Pittsburgh (51-24-7) should beat Columbus (43-32-7), especially given the lopsided results in the regular season.
“If the Pittsburgh Penguins play their game and they play a better team-structured defense then they have shown in the last few playoffs, I think they should be okay against Columbus,” Jaffe said. “Columbus has got great work ethic and they’ve got really very good structure in the neutral zone, but they don’t have the dynamic offense like we saw with the Philadelphia Flyers when they lit up Marc-Andre Fleury. He completely got lost in his crease. He was floating – not even floating, he was flying, sliding out of his crease – the last few years (against) the Flyers and the Islanders and he got lost at it.
“I think Columbus brings a different style,” Jaffe continued. “I think if the Pittsburgh Penguins, with (Evgeni) Malkin coming back (from a foot) injury and (if) they get a (good) performance from (Sidney) Crosby and they get (Chris) Kunitz going in the power game, I think they’re the better team in this series and they should win.”
The Penguins and Blue Jackets square off in Game 1 in Pittsburgh on Wednesday at 7:30 EST.
We should know right away whether Fleury can live down his recent playoff failures.
“He did it a few years ago in the playoffs,” Jaffe said. “Let’s wax nostalgic here for a moment. When he and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Detroit Red Wings going back to the ’09 season, he was damn good. And he took the bullet, as they said, to solidify the win (after diving to stop a shot by Nicklas Lidstrom with 1.5 seconds remaining). He was phenomenal.
“But what’s happened since then?” Jaffe continued. “I don’t know. I’ve talked to him a lot, we’ve watched him a lot – he just seems to have gotten out of his game. There’s not a guy that doesn’t have more to prove.
“If he doesn’t perform in these playoffs, oh man. Forget it. I don’t know what they’re going to do in Pitt (going forward), but I don’t think it would involve him.”