Gameday 55: Philadelphia? Flee, Dumb

The good news is that we only have two more weeks until the trade deadline, and maybe by then Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Kyle Dubas will have an idea of which direction he wants to take the team for the remainder of the 2023-24 regular season. The bad news is that his mentality seems to shift with every win or loss. It’s not very confidence inspiring to watch/hear your team’s GM waffle so readily, but the truth is that the Penguins are not out of the playoff race by any means. At 54 games played, Pittsburgh still has a number of games in hand on most of the teams in the NHL, particularly all of their rivals in the Metropolitan Division as well as the rest of the Eastern Conference (save the Ottawa Senators). If they win all of those games they add six points, good enough to pull them one point behind where the Tampa Bay Lightning are right now.

Pass the syrup…

As much as it seems like it would be an enormous challenge to make the playoffs and seriously compete for the Stanley Cup, with so many games left to play there’s still a chance that the Penguins could do just that. We can dispute whether or not Pittsburgh would actually do well in the playoffs all day long, but if they can get hot for the last couple of months of the season (and they would have to) there’s no telling how things could go. At least, that is the hope for any team which is maybe not even considered a dark horse for a championship, like the Florida Panthers were last season. The Penguins still have the veteran leadership for sure, plenty of talent up and down the lineup (at least when healthy), and their goaltending has been among the top ten all season long. Kyle Dubas says he wants the team to get younger, and slowly but surely he’s working on that. Most recently he acquired Emil Bemstrom from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Alex Nylander in one of those “maybe this guy will be more useful for us than the other guy” moves. Now it’s up to head coach Mike Sullivan to actually put those guys to good use.

I suppose it was going to happen eventually, but right now the Philadelphia Flyers are comfortably ahead of the Penguins and in a playoff spot, third in the Metropolitan Division with a seven point cushion between them and the next three teams behind them (nine points ahead of Pittsburgh). The thing with John Tortorella seems to be that his first full year with a team is never as good as his second, and that is once again the case with him and the Flyers.

They have just one player (Travis Konecny) who is close to a point-per-game player but not quite; otherwise their forwards are nothing special. They’ve gotten average goaltending. The big key for Philadelphia has been their play in their own end: they are pretty good at limiting shots (sixth-fewest shots against per 60 minutes at even strength), their penalty kill is second-best in the League, and they’re tied for the fourth-fewest expected goals against per 60 minutes. They are hanging in there as a result, and that’s about as much as you can expect from the dingleberries from eastern Pennsylvania.