#1: The Rangers were the odds-on favorite to be the Penguins first round playoff opponent, but the odds changed in a big way last night by virtue of an Islanders 4-1 win over NYR. Now, it looks like it Pittsburgh/Islanders in the first round. Via Sports Club:
Both NY teams have 99 points in the standings, but the Islanders are looking much better.
The Rangers only have one more game - tomorrow against the Red Wings (who are battling for their playoff lives).
The Isles have 2 more games; Saturday against the dead-in-the-water-Sabres and then Sunday against Philly (who are also playing for their playoff spot).
#2: More bad news on the injury front for the Islanders - last night they lost Anders Lee to what is feared to be a broken leg. Lee has been a menace in recent games against the Penguins, planting himself in front of the net and having some fierce battles with Kris Letang.
In other important NYI injury news: Jaroslav Halak (said to be out 6-8 weeks 4 weeks ago) skated yesterday, and Travis Hamonic (lower-body injury, out for at least regular season) also took the ice without gear. Could either/both be back next week for the playoffs? Will they be anything close to 100%? It'll be interesting to watch.
#3: No matter who it is, there's a pretty picture ahead given what's happened in the past few months. Pittsburgh has been playing much better than either New York team.
25-game possession metric samples between Pittsburgh and a matchup between the Rangers or Islanders looming. pic.twitter.com/S8MgI0knjI— Mike Darnay (@MikeDarnay) April 8, 2016
Which isn't to say the Penguins will automatically win a series, but if all parties play the same way, one would think it's looking promising.
#4: Heading into Game 82, the Penguins have 3 players who have suited up for the previous 81 games. They would be Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist and Matt Cullen.
Trevor Daley could also end up with 82 games on the season, though he spent the first 29 games of the season with Chicago before being traded to Pittsburgh.
Sidney Crosby has played 80 games, missing just 1 before Christmas.
Last year, if you were curious, the Pens had two 82-game ironmen: Nick Spaling and Rob Scuderi.
#5: Awkward transition to Beau Bennett not being a healthy scratch last night
Sullivan said Bennett was scratched due to the same injury he's been dealing with.— Seth Rorabaugh (@emptynetters) April 8, 2016
That would be the shoulder injury that knocked him out in December and then again in January. It's still not 100% and on the eve of the playoffs, that's a terrible sign for not only the short-term but also Bennett's long-term future.
Fewer injuries are worse for a competitive hockey player than a bum shoulder. We'll see how it goes but at this point, in a "make or break" year, unfortunately it looks like the latter for Bennett's days in Pittsburgh.
#6: Which is a shame, imagine plugging Evgeni Malkin in with Conor Sheary and Bennett for a line and leaving the Sidney Crosby and Nick Bonino lines in tact. Man. It'll be interesting to see if and when Malkin's ready what they do now.
#7: Who knows if the coach sees it the same, but with nothing to play for tomorrow, and 8 healthy defenseman, why not scratch Kris Letang (playing a team high 26:56 a game this season)? Doing that gives them a week between games to heal and rest. Not even worried about the ramifications of it being the Flyers the Pens have to play, just simply as a forward-looking decision to set the Pens up for the playoffs.
#8: Perhaps somewhat quietly, this has been one of Sidney Crosby 's best goal scoring seasons of his career. His 36 goals are the 3rd highest of his career (tied with 2013-14), with only 2009-10 (51) and his rookie year of 2005-06 (39) having more. Quite an accomplishment considering scoring is down league-wide, and the fact Crosby and the Pens got off to such a poor offensive start under Mike Johnston for the first two months of the season.
#9: I don't even know how this game got into OT, fam...
Daily xG Chart - PIT vs. WSH 2016-04-08 pic.twitter.com/4ZiA5IX3Xa— DTM About Heart (@DTMAboutHeart) April 8, 2016
#10: But I'm sure glad it did.