Thursday night saw the NHL’s Eastern Conference playoff puzzle set a couple more pieces in place with Pittsburgh and Carolina officially clinching a spot in the post-season dance. Washington also clinched their fourth-straight first place finish in the Metropolitan Division.
Here’s the look from the NHL standings website:
Ineffective Math has the odds now as 83 percent Pens/Islanders and 17 percent Pens/Caps for the first round. Dom at The Athletic has it even more slanted in the favor with 91 percent Pens/NYI and just 9 percent Pens/Caps.
Here’s the scenarios that could play out
It will be Pittsburgh vs. NYI if...
—The Pens defeat the New York Rangers on Saturday in any fashion.
—The Pens lose to NYR in OT or a shootout
The simple way is if the Pens take care of their business and beat a bad New York team that has nothing to play for, they will avoid the Wild Card. Even if Pittsburgh can force OT, it’s a big win for the standings.
Or if Carolina can’t beat the Flyers, the Penguins benefit. I probably wouldn’t count on this one to happen though, being as Philly is a very bad team (per usual) and limping down the stretch and probably just ready for this season to be over with. The Canes also might need to win this game to ensure they won’t finish in the second wild card spot and end up with the mighty Tampa Bay Lightning, so Carolina will have lots of motivation in this on.
And for home ice in this PIT/NYI series...
If Pittsburgh wins tomorrow, and NYI loses (@ Washington) in regulation, Game 1 of the series is in Pittsburgh. Any other scenario (Pittsburgh fails to get two points, NYI loses in OT, or wins themselves) and the series opens on Long Island. The Islanders get to play all first round home games in the Nassau Coliseum. Should they advance any deeper, all home games shift to the new arena in Brooklyn. Got it?
We will see Pittsburgh vs. Washington in round one if...
—Pittsburgh loses in regulation to the Rangers
—The Carolina Hurricanes defeat Philadelphia in any fashion
This scenario would bump Pittsburgh to the Wild Card No. 1 spot, since the Penguins and Hurricanes would be tied with 99 points. Carolina wins the first tiebreaker of wins in regulation/OT (ROW) being as they already have 43 and the Pens have 42 and have to lose Game 82 to be tied.
As mentioned, the odds look really good. Carolina should beat Philly, so an outright Penguins loss could drop them.
So, the easy way around this is for the Penguins to just beat NYR. There’s no reason they should be losing outright to the Rangers in this situation anyway.