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A look at how the Penguins fit into the NHL Playoff picture today

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As always, it’s a bunched together tight race!

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Monday starts a fresh work week, but the grind of the NHL stretch run never really takes a break or a breather. Sunday saw several important games in the East, with Washington and Philadelphia winning, and NYI and Columbus suffering regulation losses.

Add it up and there’s a new leader in the Metropolitan Division:

The Capitals bump up to the top spot, though the Islanders have a game in hand and a regulation/OT win would push them back into first on the tiebreaker.

Right now, the arrow is definitely pointing up for the Carolina Hurricanes too, who are riding a five-game winning streak. Washington has done well of late too, and the Penguins haven’t lost in regulation in the last four games. Those three teams are surging a bit as of now.

And for every surge, there’s the flip-side of the coin. NYI has only won four of their last ten games. Is the PDO wave finally crashing down on them a bit? Also troubling is Columbus getting outscored a combined 9-2 over the weekend for two home games, putting them now in a precarious spot in the standings.

Columbus and Pittsburgh meet twice this week on Thursday and Saturday in what should have playoff-type intensity. The Blue Jackets will have to be very desperate and needing to go all out to get points right now, so that will certainly be a fun challenge to see if the Pens can match that intensity. The history of these two teams tells us that they will, but history isn’t lining up to play either.

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Zeroing in on the Penguins a bit, here’s current playoff odds:

The Athletic (Dom Luszczyszyn): 91%

Sports Club Stats: 89.5%

@Ineffective Math: 75% (last updated Saturday)

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The Penguins had an off-day yesterday, and boy I hope they enjoyed it. Tomorrow starts the busiest stretch of the month, and one of the busiest in the entire season when they play 12 games in the next 21 days — not having more than one day off from March 5-25.

And, after what should be an easy (by NHL standards) tune up game against Florida, they go: CBJ, @CBJ, Bos, Wash, @Buff, STL, Phi, @CAR, @NSH, @DAL, @NYR

That’s a really competitive, tough schedule flanked by Florida and NYR to face teams either in the playoffs or at least in the chase.