The Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 4-3(SO). Sergei Bobrovsky made the game-winning save against Brandon Sutter in the shootout.
The Ohio – Western PA Rivalry
Sports fans around the world really care about regional differences and the state of Ohio is no exception. After all, one of the most prominent factors in the well-documented Ohio State – Michigan rivalry is the fact that the two states actually fought in a border war.i As a result, the battle between the two teams on the Saturday after Thanksgiving could even be seen as a reenactment of that war.
The Columbus Blue Jackets themselves are grounded in Ohio state pride. After all, the “Blue Jackets” name was inspired by “the great pride and patriotism exhibited by its citizens, especially during the Civil War as both the state of Ohio and the city of Columbus were significantly influential in the Union Army.”ii When the Jackets go out onto the ice, they’re supposed to represent and honor the state’s history. To be more specific, they’re meant to show that Ohio is the greatest state in the union.
Pennsylvania and Ohio may have fought on the same side during the Civil War, but there is a certain tension between Western Pennsylvania and the state of Ohio. Regardless of their strong economic ties, the regional similarities, almost as much as their differences, have caused a “border war” friction that has been played out on the football field and the baseball diamond:
- The Pittsburgh Steelers joined the NFL on the condition that they would be able to play the Cleveland Browns every year. The Steelers were also the only organization that voted against the Browns’ move to Baltimore during the 1990s.
- Steelers fans often take over Paul Brown Stadium during away games in Cincinnati.
- During the 1970s, Steelers fans often outnumbered Browns and Bengals fans in Columbus.
- The Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates are rivals and competed with one another for dominance in the National League during the 1970s. The Pirates claimed World Series championships in 1971 and 1979, while the “Big Red Machine” claimed the 1975 and 1976 titles. The Reds and Pirates also went head-to-head in the NLCS during the 1972, 1975, and 1979 seasons.
As a result, there is a regional rivalry between the state of Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. Unlike certain professional sports “rivalries,” like the Indianapolis Colts – New England Patriots “hatred” of the 2000s, this type of rivalry is bound to stand the test of time.
How the Regional Rivalry Can Be Seen on the Ice
Before the Blue Jackets came to the city of Columbus, the state’s hockey fanbase was split between the Detroit Red Wings, a 1990s dynasty, and the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team manned by superstars Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.
Until last season, the Blue Jackets had played in the Western Conference, competing against the Red Wings at least six times a season. However, the football rivalry between the Buckeyes and Wolverines never really made its way onto the ice, which could be attributed to the fact that the Blue Jackets were a terrible hockey team at the time.
Today, the Blue Jackets are in the same division as the Pittsburgh Penguins, whose fans also fill up Nationwide Arena just as Steelers fans tend to take over Paul Brown Stadium every single season. Is it any surprise that the regional rivalry between the state of Ohio and the city of Pittsburgh can now be seen on the ice?
The Teams Don’t like Each Other Either
Not only is there a real regional rivalry between the two fanbases, but the hockey teams also tend to butt heads on the ice.
During the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Jackets made an effort to hit Sidney Crosby as often, and as hard, as possible. Brandon Dubinsky went out of his way to trip, spear, charge, and interfere with the captain. The Pens won the series in six games, but the Jackets gave the New York Rangers the blueprint they needed to defeat the Penguins in the following series.
See: Marc Staal’s crosschecks to Sidney Crosby’s head.
Crosby wasn’t in the lineup last night. However, the player the Pens signed to deal with Dubinsky, Steve Downie, was ready to go after him.
As you can see, Bobby Farham also made a huge impact in last night’s game against the Jackets. He, along with Bryan Rust, made an effort to stand up for their teammates and show the Jackets that they wouldn’t be able to “take liberties” anymore.
Frankly, Bobby Farnham showed more in the first period than Zach Sill has all season long. How in the world does a rookie, making his NHL debut, convince a veteran defenseman to have his first fight in the NHL?
Bryan Rust and Bobby Farham Can Also Play Hockey
Not only dud Bryan Rust and Bobby Farnham show that they’re great teammates, but they also made an impact on the forecheck. In particular, Bryan Rust’s performance as an F1 with Ebbett and Farnham was impressive. He stayed right on top of the Blue Jacket blueliners, making it difficult for the team to establish a quick breakout. Not only that, but the Notre Dame product, playing on his off-wing, showed that he could drive the net and create his own offense. Farnham also demonstrated a willingness to go into the boards to disrupt the Jackets’ recovery of the puck, something Zach Sill hasn’t done this season.
+ He was magnificent on the 4-on-3 penalty kill in overtime. If the Jackets make that cross-crease pass, the game doesn’t go to the shootout.
– He can’t handle the puck when facing a tough forecheck
Despres Takes a Step Back
+ It’s great to see that Despres is getting a shot to carry the puck up the ice on the second power play unit. He’s making some great decisions in the offensive zone as well.
Paul Martin Needs to Be Taken off the Power Play
I have no idea what Paul Martin is doing on the first power play unit with Kris Letang. He’s not a great passer, can’t shoot the puck, and really adds nothing to what should be a dynamic unit. Christian Ehrhoff, who has a booming slap shot and has quarterbacked power plays in both Vancouver and Buffalo, would really be a better choice.
Comeau’s High-Slot One-Timers
He may not have the same shot as James Neal, but Blake Comeau is great at getting to “soft spots” in the high slot at both even strength and on the power play. Even if he doesn’t receive the puck, Comeau is still drawing a forward or a defenseman to him. This creates time and space for Evgeni Malkin, whereas James Neal simply took that away from him.
Craig Adams Played Well
Craig Adams is a 37-year-old right winger that’s blocking some great young players in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. That being said, he put in a great performance last night against the Blue Jackets. Not only did he put a great shot on net after a set-up from Ebbett and Malkin, but he also made had an assist on the Kris Letang shorthanded goal that gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead in the third period.
Speaking of Letang…
The $7.25 Million Dollar Man
Letang did a great job against Johnny Gaudreau on Friday. He followed up that great performance with two goals against the Jackets.
ROOT Sports Moment of the Game: Savran Should Be Ashamed
Photo credited to Jay LaPrete of the Associated Press