Will Sidney Crosby be ready for the playoffs?
There's a lot of optimism in that question when you consider how far the Penguins have come since Sidney Crosby went down with his head injury back in January. Given the rate at which he has taken to the ice and resumed practices with teammates, aiming for a postseason return isn't out of the question.
But it does still remain the question, and as Dave Molinari points out in today's Post-Gazette, there is still no certainty in Crosby returning for the playoffs:
With Game 1 of the opening round set for Wednesday or Thursday and Crosby still having two unspecified stages of rehabilitation to complete, there's growing reason to believe the postseason will begin before he gets the medical clearances needed to play.
That's not to say he isn't ruled out entirely for the second round of the playoffs, but if we're talking about baby steps for his recovery, then we have to say the same about the Penguins' postseason run. There is little concern as of late with how the Pens have been playing, but admittedly the last three wins have come against teams that are far from the playoffs picture in the Eastern Conference. With the Atlanta Thrashers (11th in the East) posing as the final stop for Pittsburgh's regular season, it's convenient to think the Penguins will finish the season on a four-game win streak.
But we already know the interesting aspect of the Eastern Conference playoff run. Provided the Flyers lose to the Islanders Saturday night, then the Pens have the opportunity to take the Atlantic Division with a win (or at least a point - again, depending on the Flyers' outcome).
Edit [10:13 pm]: Philadelphia's 7-4 win over the Islanders seals Pittsburgh's fate as the Eastern Conference's fourth seed. Even a win on Sunday against the Thrashers would tie the Pens with the Flyers, but Philly owns the tie-breaker.
Whether Crosby is ready for the playoffs or not does not take away from the fact that Zbynek Michalek netted all five of his 2010-11 goals in one month - March 8th through April 8th.
It doesn't change the fact that Marc-Andre Fleury has recorded over 30 wins for the third straight season (fourth of career).
And it doesn't change the fact that the Penguins, despite all of the injuries, setbacks and negative criticism over the last seven months, are headed to the playoffs.