Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Can The Pens Make The Playoffs?

I began writing this prior to this evening's Pens game which ended up being a win. That somewhat hampers the point of this column, as the Pens find themselves just a point out of the final playoff spot. Still, they didn't show up until the third period and then needed a fourth period to knock off a crappy Tampa team. A win like that doesn't exactly soothe many fears. At least not mine

The Pens had another incredibly lackluster game against Montreal last night that left them with just 53 points in 52 games. Thankfully they at least righted the ship with a 4-3 comeback OT W over Tampa Bay tonight. A loss against the Lightning would have been nothing short of devastating. Still, at 55 points in 53 they are getting just a shade over 1 point per game. In fact, it's just 1.038 points per game. They are sitting at 10th place in the Eastern Conference. They may be just 1 point behind the Florida Panthers, who are sitting in the 8th and final playoff spot in the East, but they also have played a whopping 3 more games than Florida. What's worse is that the Panthers have played 50 games to our 52. That's 1.12 points per game, a pretty significant edge over the Pens 1.019. The 9th place 'Canes are at 1.058 points per game. Also quite disconcerting.

So that leads me to my question: Can this team make the playoffs? Just last week I said I pegged the Pens as being in a very good spot for a solid run into the lower part of the playoff bracket. Now, just 3 games and 1 point later the Pens are suddenly struggling to even stay relevant let alone being a contender.

Now I know this is a dangerous and somewhat silly game I am about to play, but based on points per game, this is what the Eastern Conference would look like at the end of the season based on points per game:

1 Boston 129
2 Washington 110
3 New Jersey 108
4 Montreal 103
5 Philadelphia 100
6 New York Rangers 99
7 Buffalo 93
8 Florida 92
9 Carolina 87
10 Pittsburgh 85

That's right, a downright nasty 7 points out of the final playoff spot based on projections. And that's based on projections that take into account the whole season, thus at least somewhat negating the fact that the Penguins laid 3 road stink bombs in a row and had to pull off a downright miracle comeback at home against a crappy team. Even with the W, I don't think it can be denied that this team isn't playing good hockey right now and the chances of a major turnaround seem pretty damn unlikely right now.

The good news: The Pens have 29 games left, and 21 of those are against Eastern Conference opponents, and of those 13 are against teams ahead of them in the playoff hunt. They will get plenty of chances to either go down in flames or quickly make up ground. Perhaps even better, they will get 3 shots at the Florida Panthers down the stretch, the aforementioned team currently in the 8 spot.

One final note: How sick are the Bruins right now? On pace for 129 points! That's bananas.

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