After weekend losses to the Islanders and Rangers, the Pittsburgh Penguins find themselves in an unusual position. They're not at the head of the pack of the Metropolitan Division, for basically the first time in the 15 month history of the division.
That, plus a less than stellar 6-8-3 record has led to a lot of hand-wringing and concern among fans. Is it an issue to have such a poor record? Let's check out the past to see if we see any trends in the Sidney Crosby / Evgeni Malkin / Marc-Andre Fleury era when we compare the team's division record and also their season series with future playoff opponents.
|Season||Overall division record||Round 1 Opponent||Round 2 Opponent||Conference Finals||Stanley Cup Finals|
|2007-08||15-14-3||Ottawa: 1-2-1||Philadelphia: 3-5-0||NY Rangers: 3-3-2||Detroit 0-0-0|
|2008-09||15-4-5||Philadelphia: 4-2-0||Washington: 1-3-0||Carolina: 2-1-1||Detroit 1-1-0|
|2009-10||15-8-1||Ottawa: 2-2-0||Montreal: 3-1-0|
|2013||12-6-0||NY Islanders: 4-1-0||Ottawa: 3-0-0||Boston: 3-0-0|
|2013-14||20-8-2||Columbus: 5-0-0||NY Rangers: 2-1-1|
As we can see, the Penguins have done really well within their division in recent years, especially if you put less weight on the 2010-12 seasons when Malkin and especially Crosby missed a lot of time in those years. Perhaps now the contrast that they are struggling makes their difficulties all the more interesting.
But as is also evidenced- season series don't always predict playoff results. The Penguins didn't fare well against the Flyers in 2008 or Capitals in 2009, but still were able to win those series. Likewise, the Pens "had the numbers" of the Canadiens in 2010 and the Bruins in 2013 in the regular season, but also were eliminated by those same teams.
It's certainly not a good thing that Pittsburgh is losing so many head-to-head matchups with rivals, but at the same time, it has to be in the context of the bigger picture. The Pens have battled injuries in many of those games. Excuses don't change results, though, and those other teams don't have to give points back for that.
It appears like the Penguins, Rangers, Islanders and Capitals will all make the playoffs - with the order and seeding very much still to be decided in an exciting final half of the season. Just how the NHL wanted it.