All Things End? Penguins Playoff Streak DEEP Trouble, & Why Odds Favor Them
The Pittsburgh Penguins have the longest North American sports playoff streak. They have a pair of generational talents, at least three Hall of Famers, and a handful All-Stars.
They haven’t missed the playoffs since Sidney Crosby was known as “Sid the Kid,” Mario Lemieux and John Leclair played out the final days of their career, and Evgeni Malkin finished his third season, “Super League.”
George W. Bush was the American President, and the political vitriol of then makes the dual-sided anger of today seem like a backslapping roast at the Friar’s Club.
It was a different world, and all things must end. But now?
It probably won’t be this year. Probably.
First, anyone with eyes must acknowledge the Pittsburgh Penguins’ absolute inability through 50-plus games to show urgency, care, and play consistently. Every team has dips. Every team has highs. But few teams have played Houdini by escaping more terrible efforts with wins and otherwise played mistake-filled hockey as often as the Penguins.
Their goal differential is a meager plus-7.
The frustration and consternation were visible on coach Mike Sullivan’s face after his team served up a sloppy 6-4 loss to the hapless San Jose Sharks in the final game before the break. They failed to build on a structured, tight 2-1 OT loss to New Jersey prior.
It sure seems like the team can’t fully invest themselves in “their game,” which they often cite the need to play.
See also: the Penguins’ 2-1 OT win over the Colorado Avalanche last Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena. It should have been a blowout against the Penguins. Instead, they played 10 great minutes and were rewarded with two points.
After a promising start against the LA Kings, a soft goal allowed by Casey DeSmith preceded the Penguins blasting pucks into traffic and collapsing in a 6-0 loss.
Yet the Penguins have a five-point lead on their closes competitor, the Buffalo Sabres. They are just one point ahead of the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders but have four games in hand on each.
Surely, the Penguins can cobble together a couple of wins in those four games, eh?
And therein lies the conflict.
The Penguins SHOULD be able to nurse a five-point lead over 30 games. Even if they muster just 35 points in that span (let’s say 15-10-5), Buffalo, Florida, and NYI would need at least 36, if not 37, points over 26 games.
You can configure the 36-37 points in multiple ways, but let’s assume that’s 16 wins for New York and Florida. Is 16-5-5 realistic for either? Even after the Islanders’ snagged Bo Horvat, it’s against the odds.
Buffalo would seemingly have the best chance, needing to best the Penguins by six points in the same 30 games remaining.
And the reason Buffalo has the best chance is the reason the Penguins should have a few cold sweats. Buffalo is a good team and getting better. In our guestimation, they need 41 points in 30 games, leaving more margin for error.
Only Florida has at least six wins in their last 10 games.
And lest we forget about the Washington Capitals, just one point ahead of the Penguins with three more games played. The breaking news on Tuesday was not good on any level, personal or professional. Unfortunately for hockey and Washington, captain Alex Ovechkin is stepping away due to family reasons and will not be with the team for “the foreseeable future.”
The Capitals’ core is in rough shape. Tom Wilson is banged up. Nick Backstrom is still finding his game legs after hip resurfacing surgery and has only six points in 12 games. He’s also an uncharacteristic minus-7. And T.J. Oshie has been in and out of the trainer’s room for two seasons.
Mathematically, Florida, Buffalo, and New York could zoom past the creaking Penguins and decimated Capitals. The Penguins have a greater chance of passing the Capitals than being passed by two teams.
The Penguins have three more against the Islanders and Rangers and two more against the New Jersey Devils and the mighty Tampa Bay Lightning. It’s not a schedule of cupcakes, but no one in the Metro has an easy schedule.
And every point above 35 makes it more likely that the Penguins’ streak continues–the Penguins definitely have the talent for more than 15 wins in their next 30. They also have shown an ability to earn less.
The Penguins’ 17th consecutive playoff streak is far from guaranteed, but it is still more likely than not. When pushed against the figurative wall, it is hard to imagine Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin not doing everything necessary to at least get to the postseason.
No matter how close it seems to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ wheels coming off.