Statistics throw some light on Penguins first-round series victory

The Penguins have reached Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the sixth time in the past seven springs.

Their six-game victory against Columbus had more than a few warts — like the three short-handed goals they allowed and their inability to hold multiple-goal leads in both of their losses — but the bottom line is that they managed to fend off a spirited challenge by the Blue Jackets.

“We found a way to win,” forward Jussi Jokinen said. “That’s all that matters.”

But before attention shifts to their next series, here’s a look at some of the Penguins’ statistical leaders in Round 1:

Points — Matt Niskanen and Paul Martin, 8.

Goals — Jokinen, Brandon Sutter and Evgeni Malkin, 3.

Assists — Martin, 8.

Shots — James Neal, 24.

Penalty minutes — Kris Letang, 10.

Hits — Chris Kunitz, 23.

Blocked shots — Martin, 19.

Faceoff win percentage — Sidney Crosby, 50.7.

Takeaways — Malkin, 7.

Giveaways — Crosby, 10.

Time for a short break

The Penguins, coming off their 4-3, series-clinching victory Monday night in Columbus, were given Tuesday off. They are scheduled to begin preparations for the second round this morning at Consol Energy Center.

Never a Sharks fan

Penguins winger Beau Bennett, a native of southern California, was an unabashed backer an of the Los Angeles Kings while growing up. In a lot of ways, he still is.

At least when it doesn’t conflict with his professional obligations.

“I was a big-time Kings fan,” he said. “Once you become a hockey player for a living, you don’t stop being a fan of the game.

“Obviously, when we’re playing [the Kings], I want to kill them, but, when they’re playing [another team], I do get a little excited when they score against other teams.”

Bennett presumably will be watching tonight, when Los Angeles tries to become the fourth team in NHL history to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games.

San Jose built a 3-0 lead in their first-round meeting, but the Kings rebounded to win the past three.

Bennett is among those who aren’t shocked that Los Angeles has climbed out of its early hole.

“A team with all that experience, having won a Cup a couple of years ago, and [Jonathan] Quick, being the world-class goalie that he is, I’m not too surprised,” he said.

And he certainly isn’t upset. Because, while Bennett didn’t have any particularly hard feelings for Anaheim, the Kings’ most fierce rivals, he never cared for San Jose.

“I hated the Sharks growing up,” he said. “I liked the Ducks. To be honest, it was just the Sharks and [Phoenix] Coyotes that I didn’t like.”

Not quite ready

Columbus earned a lot of praise for its resilience and willingness to compete throughout Round 1.

The Blue Jackets, though, are very much a work-in-progress, a group that has the potential to develop into a significant force in the NHL.

For now, however, they still are learning what it takes to thrive at the playoff level, and winger Nick Foligno said the Penguins can provide a valuable template for his team.

“We’re really proud of the steps we’ve taken, but we know we have a long ways to go,” he said. “We see it in a team like Pittsburgh, where they just keep coming, keep coming.

“And that’s a team that’s won. We can learn from them.”

Dave Molinari: and Twitter @MolinariPG.

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