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Penguins Blog: Frustration, a MUST Win, & Remaining Schedules for Playoff Chase



Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby

The Pittsburgh Penguins have missed easy opportunities. The Florida Panthers have not.

And this is what happens.

Saturday, the Penguins lost 4-3 to the Boston Bruins at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins went to bed Saturday night out of the wild-card position, one point behind Florida for the second spot and just three points ahead of the Buffalo Sabres, who, despite being an afterthought for a couple of weeks, are again within striking distance.

Buffalo has one game in hand, too. If they win it, they’re just one point behind.

After the Penguins split the road trip last week with an impressive win in Colorado and a four-star effort in a 3-2 loss to Dallas, everything seemed to be falling into place. They finally played consistently good hockey while the Panthers lost a few games.

The world was as it should be.

But as they have done all season, the Penguins traded their best for unacceptable efforts and allowed mistakes to sabotage them.

The Penguins are 3-7-0 in their last 10 games, which is not exactly an impressive stretch run. It is certainly not a stretch worthy of the talent that fills the Penguins’ locker room.

Things do not get easier for the Penguins Sunday night when they host the Philadelphia Flyers. While the game is circled as a “should win,” the Flyers, with the sixth-worst record in the NHL, are 5-1-2 in their last eight games.

Their first loss since March 14 was Saturday … against Buffalo.

The Penguins faced a tie game in the third with the Boston Bruins, earned 4:57 of power play time in the final 7:30, but still lost 4-3 when David Pastrnak scored a late goal in regulation. The Penguins’ power play was 0-for-6.

A few hours later, Florida pounded the Columbus Blue Jackets 7-0. Carter Verhaeghe scored four goals.

Our colleagues at Florida Hockey Now had full coverage of the Florida Panthers’ big night.

The Penguins’ locker room was in a bad mood Saturday, as they should have been. While their wild-card opponents have taken advantage of bottom-feeders, the Penguins have lost to Detroit, Ottawa, and Montreal in their last 10 games, which made the loss to Boston sting all the more.

If the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 16-year playoff streak ends, there will be nobody to blame but themselves. They had an opportunity to beat Boston. They were tied with the long-ago-faded Detroit Red Wings in the third period Tuesday before losing 7-4. They lost to an ECHL goalie on home ice against Ottawa, and Montreal is currently one of the favorites in the #TankforBedard sweepstakes.

The Penguins also nearly lost after establishing a 3-0 third period lead against the Washington Capitals last Saturday. Only late heroics by Evgeni Malkin in the final 90 seconds averted disaster.

A season of inconsistency, or to use coach Mike Sullivan’s term, “volatility,” has come home to roost. The Penguins have one game in hand on Florida. So, they still control their fate.

Six games remaining.

If they didn’t believe they could miss the playoffs, perhaps this is the wake-up call. Anything less than a resounding effort against Philadelphia Sunday will be unacceptable, and anything but a win means they no longer control their fate.

The Penguins’ two games after Philadelphia will not be easy, either. They face the New Jersey Devils, who are battling for first in the Metro, at the Prudential Center. Then they have the Minnesota Wild, battling for first in the Central Division, on Thursday at PPG Paints Arena.

Florida has five games left; their next two are against Buffalo (Tuesday) and Ottawa (Thursday). The good news for the Penguins is both teams can’t win Tuesday.

The bad news for the Penguins is that they must start winning games and do so consistently. With six remaining, they probably must win four to assure themselves a playoff spot. Anything less cedes control of the situation.

Sunday will be Kris Letang’s 1000th game. PHN will have full coverage, including a candid locker room conversation from Friday.

Florida’s remaining schedule (five games, four at home):


Penguins remaining schedule:

@New Jersey