I think most of us have reached the same conclusion by now: the Penguins aren’t going to be the #1 seed in the Metropolitan division. It would have been great if they could’ve stayed healthy and reminded everyone how dominant they can be, but injuries happened and the Penguins have fallen off the pace of the Capitals (who still haven’t learned that winning the President’s Trophy doesn’t mean shit) and the Blue Jackets, presently the Penguins’ first-round opponent. Playing Columbus in the first round would be exciting for everyone except Penguins fans, already smarting from the incessant bloodbath from the last eight weeks that crippled their lineup.
Pittsburgh thus heads into Manhattan with a quandary: continue bringing back key players and hope to eke out the #2 seed in the Metro to host the Blue Jackets (which only appears likely if the Penguins win the rest of their games, or thereabouts), or continue backing into the playoffs while continuing to “rest” Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang and “hope” to be overtaken by the Rangers for third in the division and let New York be the beneficiary of the Columbus/Washington gauntlet. The “reward” for being fourth in the Metro means a trip to Canada and playing in the Atlantic division bracket.
I suspect neither is a problem for the Penguins, but with the Metro division being the League’s toughest (all four playoff entrants have most points in the standings than the Atlantic’s #1 seed) and the Penguins still recovering from the injuries and rust, the Atlantic division bracket might be a more forgiving route to take if the Penguins have the Conference Final in mind. For their part, the Rangers are scuffling worse than the Penguins are right now (3-4-3 in their last 10), but they’re entering tonight with the luxury of a two-day layoff so they’ll be rested and ready to go.
To their credit, the Penguins could be expecting Jake Guentzel and/or Ron Hainsey back in the lineup tonight. Of course, I’m terrible at reading tea leaves so it’s possible neither could play again tonight. Ultimately, not all is lost for Pittsburgh if they want home ice in the first round, but they clearly need to see some players come off the injury report if they want to be competitive in that regard.
I’m going ahead and reuniting The Top Line. The team needs some good juju and hopefully this graphic brings it to them. Same thing goes with Hainsey, amazing how much better the defense looks with just one more full time NHLer added to the roster. Either way this game is a battle to lose, because lets be honest both of these teams want Montreal.
Man I hope they play now that I revealed this beauty. The key to tonight is the same as it has been, get through the month without adding to the injury total. Luckily for the Pens it is the last game of the month, thank God. This month started with Letang, Maatta, and Daley out, the Pens are 8-4-3 and somehow people are still complaining. Take 3 of the top 6 off of any other team in the league and try to get 19 points out of them. What Sullivan has managed to do during this month with limited off days, 16 games and 15 days off, is nothing short of coach of the year caliber shit. He won’t get it because he has Sidney Crosby on his roster apparently, but that is just bull. Removing 50% of your starting defense for 1/4th of the season and maintaining a winning record sounds like some pretty damn good coaching and management to me and not the result of a superstar center.
Either way I have low expectations for tonight, part of me thinks the teams are just going to give their balls a tug along the boards while Murray and Lundy shoot pucks at each other from opposite blue lines. That may in fact be more entertaining than what we actually see tonight. Whatever the Pens do, shoutout to SSGeno for dubbing Tom Kuhnhackl as the Cannibal, that is probably going to stick.
And for a trip down pens.hockey memory lane:
LET’S FUCKING GOOOOOOOOOOOOO