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Sunday Standings: Depleted Penguins keep finding ways

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Injuries haven’t stopped the Penguins from getting results as we look at the Eastern division to see how the competition is doing..

NHL: MAR 27 Islanders at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Another week has gone by for the NHL’s season, and here’s how the Eastern division standings look as of 3/28, counting the NYR/WSH game from today since I didn’t get the screenshot in time.

And here’s the matrix of what happened on the week. Green is a win of any sort, a yellow is an OT/SO loss that results in one point in the standings, the dreaded red is a regulation loss. And now the orange to represent a game that was postponed and not played as scheduled.

Let’s take a quick trip around the division to talk about the important points of what is going on, with a mind to how it affects the Penguins.

Washington Capitals

Light week for the Caps, who enjoyed a four day rest and then took care of business with two wins over New Jersey in a back-to-back. Washington is in quite the groove, having won 10 of their last 11 games and their season is cruising along right now.

New York Islanders

The Islanders found ways to gut out low-scoring extra time wins earlier in the week against Philadelphia and Boston, but then got some poor goaltending and get blown out playing the Pens on the road last night. For a team that had previously won 10 of their last 11, it looks like in the past 7-10 days it’s been more of a downturn for NYI, yet they remain in a very strong position overall.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The resiliency of the Pens is really something impressive. Pittsburgh is 4-1-1 since Evgeni Malkin got hurt, a problem compounded by the absences of Jason Zucker, Teddy Blueger, Kasperi Kapanen and Brandon Tanev. If they can hang tough this week with the next three games NYI, @BOS, @BOS (and they are enduring a long losing streak @BOS) the schedule does become a LOT more favorable. The Pens play 10 straight games after next week against non-playoff teams that they have a really good record against so far.

Boston Bruins

The Bruins recent COVID issues have seemingly subsided, the team lost but gained a point against NYI, then won against Buffalo. Not sure we learned too much about Boston either way this week but going 1-0-1 and getting back to normal may be a good enough step in the right direction for them.

Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers 2-1 win over the Rangers on Saturday counts just as much in the positive for the standings as does their 8-3 loss to NYR on Thursday. But it sure doesn’t feel that way. Philadelphia seems like a fragile team right now, and a candidate to get totally blown out of any game due to poor defensive play and/or goaltending. The clock is ticking very loudly on their playoff chances and outlook for the season, and it’s running out too. A 1-2-1 record this week only hurt their cause.

New York Rangers

The Rangers went 2-1-0 on the week, and in many models their playoff hopes have risen above Philadelphia. At 10-15% it still is a very longshot for them, but NYR has been playing a scrappy game this season and they are a very, very young team. This experience will be a building block for their future.

New Jersey Devils

A strong start to the week saw New Jersey beat two teams higher than them in the standings in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. However, then the wheels came off a bit with a close loss to the Caps, followed by a more pronounced 4-0 shutout loss to the division leaders. One step forward, one step back for what is another very young team.

Buffalo Sabres

It’s getting tough to watch for the Sabres with a 16th straight loss (0-14-2). The inevitable sell-off of assets has begun as a listless Eric Staal (his in-game interview during a Pens game was hilarious for the lack of interest he had at the moment) and will only pick up. No one loses every game, always, but Buffalo has done a really good job at being very, very bad. One possible glimmer of hope is that starting goalie Linus Ullmark has returned from injury. They haven’t won a game since he got hurt.

Playoff picture

This is Micah’s model,

Penguin playoff chances in other models (as of Sunday morning):

The Athletic: 94%
Moneypuck: 82.0%

For many weeks, the playoff picture was very chaotic and featured a lot of twists and turns as the top five teams jockeyed for positioning. In really about the last month or so a lot of the drama has been removed as Philadelphia has yeeted themselves right out of the picture and seen their playoff odds go about as well as the ship trying to get through the Suez canal.

Good of course for Penguin and Bruin and Islander fans, but at the same time for the NHL it’s a bit sad that there doesn’t look like there’s going to be a lot of mystery right now as far as who the playoff teams from the East will be. Buffalo, New Jersey and the Rangers haven’t been serious factors since the season started. Barring a dramatic turnaround in Philly the four that will move on are coming into focus pretty clearly as we now are about 60% into the season for most clubs.

Looking ahead

Key games: WSH @ NYI on Thursday, PIT@BOS on Thursday, Saturday.

This is a big week for the top of the standings. Will the Islanders be able to take back first place with wins against the Pens and Caps? It’s possible (Washington would have to not beat NYR, though). Or the Caps could be as many as six points clear of all teams in the division if the Islanders lose their next two games and the Caps beat NYR again.

Could be a let up week for the Flyers with two games against Buffalo. That would really be hilarious is Philadelphia is the team that lets the Sabres end their losing streak. If not, they’re guaranteed a winning week, which will help their cause a little bit.

As mentioned, a tough week for the Pens with three games against playoff opponents. It would be great to see them try to snap another long streak with their losing all games in Boston for the better part of a decade.