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2016 NHL playoffs: The Pens and 2 other teams fighting for just 2 spots

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The NHL playoff race is heating up. Who between the Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers will be left out in the cold?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

12 days ago we posted this "path to the playoffs" and with all the movement, figured today was a great day to follow up.

Since last update

The Penguins have gone 4-2-0, not spectacular but pretty solid considering they played 5 division games, 3 times against teams ahead of them in the standings and 4 times on the road.

Accordingly, they've made some moves to strengthen their playoff standings. On March 3rd the Pens were 3 points behind the Detroit Red Wings, and 3 points up on the Philadelphia Flyers. Now?

pensplayoff31516

Pens have improved 4 points on Detroit and 1 point on Philly (though losing a game-in-hand, so that's up in the air).

The top of the division, however will be a tough task to catch and pass. On March 3 the Pens were 6 points behind the Rangers and 3 behind the Islanders. Here's how it looks today:

metro31516

So even though the Penguins have twice beaten the Rangers in regulation in the last 12 days, they've only gained 1 total point on them in the standings over that same stretch, and due to losing to the Isles last week in regulation, Pittsburgh has fallen 1 point back on NYI since we last checked in to 5 behind (with NYI still having a game-in-hand to potentially make that difference even more).

Moral of the story, it's very difficult to make up a lot of ground in the standings this time of the year.

Ides of March

Tonight has arguably the biggest game of the season so far for the East. And it isn't the NYI/Pens game, it's Philly/Detroit.

What should Pens fans hope for? Well, no overtime, that's for sure.

Otherwise look at this swing based on tonight's game, according to Sports Club Stats:


Current Odds Odds w reg win Odds w reg loss
Philly 49.8% 61.6% 33.0%
Detroit 57.2% 73.3% 44.3%

Quite the swing. An overtime game about halves the total shifts and wouldn't be quite so devastating for either.

Pens outlook

Enough of those stickpounders, now let's talk about a real team. Sports Club has the Penguins at 88.1% to make the playoffs right now, and it can only be as low tonight as 81.0% even under the worst of results (Pens lose, any sort of OT for PHI/DET and a CAR win). Pittsburgh is in relatively good shape for now because both Philly AND Detroit will have to pass the Pens for Pittsburgh to miss the playoffs, given that PIT has more regulation+OT wins and takes the first tiebreaker. Is it possible? Certainly if there's a collapse or 2015-Ottawa-esque rally.

penssked31516

Look at those next two Saturday afternoons. Those will be playoff-like games. The Penguins also have a couple games coming up against non-playoff bound teams (CAR, NJ, BUF) which are going to really require salting away some wins.

Rest battle

Interesting chart there. To break it down:

  • blue is advantageous (2 times): means the Pens rest the day before a game where the team they play had to play the day before...That Buffalo game is screaming for 2 points
  • red is not advantageous (1 time): means the Pens are on the second game of a back-to-back and the team on Game 2 didn't play the day before...Also second time in a row this has happened against the Caps where Pens are tired, Caps are more rested, not ideal there
  • gray means both teams are tired (2 times), with both on second day of a b-2-b. No excuses here, right?
  • yellow means both teams are well rested (once).

With all the games late in the season, this doesn't seem too bad, or unbalanced. The Penguins haven't played well on the back-half of b-2-b's, but the schedule really isn't much of an excuse, it's not putting them in much of a disadvantage relative to what every other team has to go through as well.

Final target

Last article we said:

Takeaway: 95 points, at this rate, looks like it will solidly make the playoffs, however to be totally sure the Pens would really need to be 96+.

This still looks to be the case. Sports Club has the Pens at north of 96% to make the playoffs if they end the season with 95 total points. And it would only require a 7-6-1 record to get to that mark.

The Pens are at 99% with 96 points, which would need a 8-6-0 record.

Anything at 97+ points (8-5-1 or better record) makes it a Billy G, Guarantee 100% chance of a playoff spot.

In all, it might seem like the Pens are pretty frustrating with the current pace they're on, but they've been playing a lot of road games lately, and divisional ones too. If they keep on current pace for that and then beat the teams under them in the standings later, the Pens are still on a good track for the 2016 postseason.

However, the pressure and fun will really kick up the next two Saturdays (and scoreboard watching tonight) as the Pens, Red Wings and Philly all race for the 2 wild-card spots.