Before you tell us your thoughts on who you want to see the Penguins face in the first round, let’s break down the current Eastern Conference playoff projections.
As of Saturday, March 19, Micah Blake McCurdy of HockeyViz projects the Metropolitan Division Standings to sort out at the end of the season as:
- Carolina Hurricanes (~112 points)
- Pittsburgh Penguins (~106 points)
- New York Rangers (~104 points)
And the Atlantic Division is set to be:
- Florida Panthers (~112 points)
- Tampa Bay Lightning (~111 points)
- Toronto Maple Leafs (~110 points)
With the Wild Card teams as:
- Boston Bruins (~105 points)
- Washington Capitals (~101 points)
Point projections over the past fortnight. pic.twitter.com/Qubns9kuMT— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) March 19, 2022
Right now, that sets first-round playoff matchups as:
- Hurricanes vs. Bruins
- Rangers vs. Penguins
- Lightning vs. Leafs
- Panthers vs. Capitals
But look at those point distributions— the Atlantic Division could potentially finish in any order, and the Penguins by no means have their No. 2 spot on lock (heading into Saturday, the Rangers were just two points behind the Penguins with a game in hand.)
With about 19 games left for most of these teams, all it would take is a single losing streak to tumble into a wild card spot.
The Penguins biggest danger, in this case, might actually be the Washington Capitals— if the Capitals climb into one of the top three spots in the Metropolitan, the Penguins could fall to the first wild-card spot and face the fearsome Panthers or tempestuous Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes would be a dangerous team for these Penguins. If you watched the Capitals/Hurricanes game Friday night, you already know why:
This is in 1 period. The Penguins honestly may not survive pic.twitter.com/2aBaAX9uf4— Jake (@JakeD8771) March 18, 2022
But every Eastern team has the strengths to potentially end the Penguins’ 2022 playoff run before it begins.
As of Saturday, the Panthers’ relentless offense makes them the highest-scoring team in the NHL (they average 4.06 goals for/game); the Hurricanes’ deadly penalty kill is the best in the League at stymying power plays (they are operating at 89.1% efficiency); Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin has the highest save percentage (.938 through 40 games played); the Maple Leafs are one of the strongest even-strength teams with 153 goals at 5v5 (for reference, the Penguins have 129); the Bruins are one of the best bounce-back teamswith an 18-4-2 record after a loss; the Capitals are one of the best shot-suppressors (they rank fifth in the league by averaging under 30 shots against per game.)
What do you think— which of these seven playoff teams will present the Penguins’ best chance of making it into the second round for the first time since 2018?
Who do the Penguins have the best chance of beating in the 2022 first round?
This poll is closed
New York Rangers
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs