As Sunday begins, here’s our weekly look at the standings in the Eastern division as of this morning:
It’s been rare to have a lot of changes in the standings in the past few weeks in the East, but we have had two in the last week alone. The Pens hop over the Islanders, for second place, with a similar amount of games played.
The Rangers are suddenly red hot and have leaped the Flyers for fifth place in the division as well to add on for another change.
The last week saw the following results. 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
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.
Big week for Washington going 3-1-0 and blowing out Boston and Philadelphia before they....lost to Buffalo by a score of 5-2? Very weird result there, otherwise it’s remained all systems go for the Caps who have welcomed Anthony Mantha in the fold. And Mantha has been a great fit, scoring a goal in all three games he’s played with Washington so far.
The Pens jump up to second place after a 2-0-1 week, which possibly could have been even better considering that shootout loss they held a third period lead against Philadelphia. Still, the fruits of playing a weaker schedule late has boosted Pittsburgh, and that should only continue.
New York Islanders
The Islanders shrugged off the Rangers to start the week, but then suffered two straight defeats by convincing margins against a still somewhat shorthanded Bruins team. NYI will have a chance to bounce back, but their road record has to be somewhat concerning at this point — especially if they don’t have home ice advantage for the playoffs, like they sit right now.
Big week for the Bruins to string together a couple of wins over the Islanders and stay relevant for the chase for a higher spot.
New York Rangers
Great week for the Rangers, who have proven they are far superior to the Devils with three wins over their local rival this week. The Rangers seem to have a lot of momentum, especially offensively. It will be interesting to see if they can make any sort of late season rally for a playoff spot, but they still face a terribly uphill battle. However this might be the last year that NYR doesn’t make the playoffs if their current trajectory continues.
An embarrassing loss to the Sabres to start the week, followed by two spankings from Washington makes Philadelphia officially a non-factor now for the rest of the season. Fortunately (?) for them, they rallied in the third period to beat their rivals in the Pens. For lottery draft purposes they might have been better off just losing, but, sure.
New Jersey Devils
0-4-0 week for the Devils who don’t look like they have a lot of fight left in them at this point following losing a some players at the deadline (Zajac, Palmieri, Kulikov) as they limp to the finish line this season. Good news for the Pens, since NJD is coming to town next week for three games.
Under interim coach Don Granato, the Sabres have shown a lot of fight and at least some passion and willingness to try to take offensive chances. It hasn’t always worked, but they’re at least a threat to win now, which you couldn’t say a few weeks ago.
This feature is being retired with this week’s Sunday Standings, since the Pens are now 98-99+% in all models to make the playoffs.
It’s magic number szn. Any points gained by the Penguins, or lost by the Rangers will chip away at this number. When it hits 0, the Pens will have clinched a playoff spot.
The Rangers can gain a maximum of 74 points if they were to win all the rest of their games.
So we will be very safe and conservative to avoid all tie-breakers and say that the Penguins currently need to get to 75 points of now to ensure a playoff berth. Pittsburgh has 59 points as of this morning, so the magic number is...16
Key games: WSH @ BOS on Sunday, WSH @ NYI on Thursday and Saturday.
All eyes on the first place Caps for some big games all throughout the week. Pretty tough week for NYI too with an upstart NYR team and two games against Washington.
Meanwhile, the Pens and Bruins have very favorable scheduling in the week ahead. Pittsburgh returns home after today, where they’ve been almost unbeatable and will look to add on that against a slumping New Jersey later in the week. For Boston, we’ve seen that the Buffalo Sabres in mid-April are no longer the total joke that they were last month, yet Buffalo isn’t terribly talented either. It should be a pretty good week for the Bruins.