Updated Penguins Playoff Scenarios; Tonight the Night?
It’s down to two games. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ 17th consecutive playoff berth rests in the hands of others as the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders, who can clinch the Eastern Conference wild cards by collecting three points in their final two games.
To have a chance, the Penguins must win their final two games, beginning with the Chicago Blackhawks at PPG Paints Arena Tuesday, then they must beat the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday at Nationwide Arena.
UPDATE: The New York Islanders lost ceding control of the playoff race to the Penguins. Get the updated Penguins playoff scenarios here.
It’s pretty simple for the others. If Florida and the Islanders each win out or even win one and lose the other in OT, the season ends for the Penguins.
The Penguins need some real help, but they are in a position to get it.
The Florida Panthers will face two playoff teams in their final two games. They host the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday at Florida Live Arena. Thursday, they host the Carolina Hurricanes.
While Toronto has nothing to play for, they have been dialing in their game for the playoffs. The organization hasn’t won a playoff series since 2004, and another early exit could mean significant changes.
Toronto doesn’t want that, so they’ve used the final stretch well. Toronto crushed Montreal and used their EBUG in the final minute to have some fun in a 7-1 route Saturday. They took Boston to OT before losing 2-1 last Thursday and thumped Columbus 4-2 Tuesday.
Toronto and Florida went to OT in their last meeting on March 29. Florida won 3-2.
OT would be bad news for the Penguins this time.
Florida’s next big hurdle to the playoffs will be Thursday against Carolina, who remain one point ahead of the New Jersey Devils for first place in the Metro Division. However, Carolina has one game in hand on New Jersey, so root for a loss by Carolina at the Ottawa Senators Monday or at home against the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday.
A loss by Carolina would only begin to set the stage for Carolina needing a win Thursday vs. Florida.
For this scenario to mean anything, root for New Jersey to win Tuesday when they host the Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo could make the playoffs by winning their remaining four games and for two of the Penguins, Islanders, and Florida to lose one game in regulation.
So Buffalo has everything to play for Tuesday vs. New Jersey. However, a New Jersey win and one Carolina loss would make Thursday meaningful for both teams, thus making Carolina a much more formidable opponent in Florida. Otherwise, it’s likely that Carolina would rest several regulars, essentially handing a win to Florida.
That would be bad news for the Penguins, too.
New York Islanders
We’ll see if Alex Ovechkin plays Monday when the Washington Capitals host the Islanders. The Capitals were spunky until the third period against Florida Saturday. It was 2-2 until late in regulation, but Washington didn’t get their second shot of the period until the final minutes.
Ovechkin’s injury timing is conspicuous. You’re not the only one wondering if he is sitting out a minor injury to avoid helping the Penguins. Others are, too, and we’ll leave it at that.
The Islanders host the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday. Montreal has limped to the end. They scored three goals in their last four games, were shut out twice, and were blown out twice.
The odds are heavily in the Islanders’ favor to get three points.
Pittsburgh Penguins Odds
According to MoneyPuck.com, the Penguins continue to have a 42% chance of making the playoffs.
The Islanders are at 79%, and Florida is at 78%.
The odds are not forever in the Penguins’ favor. It all becomes an extremely long shot if Carolina wins the division by winning Monday and Tuesday or by winning Monday and the Devils losing Tuesday.
Monday’s game between Toronto and Florida might be the Penguins’ best and last real shot to see a regulation loss.
Buckle up. If this writer can figure it out, PHN will host a watch party on Hulu. Watch Twitter for any developments on that front.