After a predictably unpredictable weekend, here’s the playoff picture in the East as of today:
Carolina keeps winning and I feel like no one is really talking about it but the bloom might be off the rose for Montreal losing three straight games and falling way off the pace of the three strong Atlantic teams.
Buffalo also had a bad weekend and have really been one of the worst teams in the league over the last several weeks, their playoff chances appear to be fading fast. Philadelphia is staying pesky - their loss to Pittsburgh is their only one in regulation in quite a long time. Something to keep in mind for Saturday’s outdoor game which is shaping up to be more important than recently expected.
In the Metro, Washington’s loss to Anaheim last night sets them back quite a bit. Columbus is in really good shape to take second place in the division, having two games in hand. It seems like the Caps, Jackets and Pens all trade wins and losses - and as a result no one has been able to create any sort of separation. Or really give NYI much of a chase for the top of the division.
This is before yesterday’s game (and Pittsburgh win) but it’s very tight for the playoff chase.
Point projections over the past fortnight. pic.twitter.com/NhO7D5sng1— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) February 17, 2019
Micah has it at 93.7 points to get into the playoffs, and the Penguins on pace for 94.0 - though, again, yesterday’s win will help the cause there. But right now he has Washington, Columbus and Pittsburgh projected to group very closely together.
But how can they get there? And what’s the likelihoods currently looking like for where the Pens will end up? Let’s turn to Sports Club Stats:
That’s chopping it up a little, but the bottom line is Pittsburgh has 69 points in 59 games, there are 23 games remaining in the season.
If the team goes 11-10-2, they have a 60% chance of making the playoffs and will end up with 93 points, right on the low-end of the projected playoff cut-off. It Pittsburgh can do a little bit better and go 13-9-1, they end up with 96 points and their odds shoot up to a 94% chance of making the playoffs.
They will have to go 14-8-1 in games remaining to get to 98 points and an almost near guarantee of making the playoffs.
But - what this should also tell you as an astute reader - is it’s going to be very difficult to get to 100 points this season.
In the Mike Sullivan era the Pens finished with 104 points in 2015-16 (though with Sullivan’s record they were on pace for a 108 point season based on the games he coached). The Pens were even better in 2016-17 as defending champions putting up 111 points in the standings that season. Last year was a lot more of a slog as two-time defending champs and resulted in 100 points.
This year the team is likely going to have to win 15 of the remaining 23 games to get to 100 points. It’s possible but definitely going to take going on a run and pulling out some wins consistently - which obviously has not been something the Pens have been capable of too often this season.
But, a strong finish and realistic finish of like 13-9-1 or 13-8-2 puts the Pens in the 96-97 points range and should comfortably send them to their 13th consecutive playoff year. Finishing with 97+ points brings a statistical probability right now that the Pens make it to the 2v3 matchup in the Metro. Finishing with less almost certainly would mean a wild card spot to play a division winner.
There’s still work to do to get there, and it’s very tight, but as of now it appears Pittsburgh is in fairly good shape to get back to the playoffs with even a reasonably above .500 type of record down the stretch.