The Pittsburgh Penguins remain firmly in the middle of the pack for the chase of the 2019 NHL playoffs, but their status is far from firm. With 74 points in the standings after 63 games, the Pens are in a basically a dead heat with the Carolina Hurricanes (identical 74 points in 63 games) and Columbus (73 points in 62 games). Montreal is right with these three teams fighting for a Wild Card spot.
As far as the standings go, Pittsburgh hasn’t fared well in 2019. It finished the month of February with a middling and unimpressive 6-5-2 record. This followed January’s similarly “meh” record of 6-5-0.
The Pens need a big March, and it’s certainly going to be a very busy one with 16 games jammed into the 31 days, including a hectic 14 games by the 25 of the month.
They passed the test. With a 9-3-3 record in the month, it’s an impressive feat considering Kris Letang played only three games and Evgeni Malkin has been out almost half of the month. So to the surprise of no one, Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel have been the leaders:
General manager Jim Rutherford’s “Florida guys” in Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad combining for 12 goals in 15 games and being top-five producers this month has also been huge for the team.
Another huge story is how Matt Murray has totally taken over the crease, starting 14 of 15 games this month and providing quality goaltending.
Under Mike Sullivan, the Pens are now 39-15-8 in the month of March. That’s a 114-point pace for a regular season.
With four games left, Pittsburgh is on the verge of settling into a playoff spot likely in the 2v3 battle in the Metro division, especially if it can get a point or two Sunday against postseason-hungry Carolina.
The Penguins enter April looking to get healthy and make another deep playoff run, and they can thank their good results in the month of March to set them up for that.