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Who would be the Penguins’ best match in the 2022 first round?

Let’s face it— in the Eastern Conference, there are no easy answers.

Carolina Hurricanes v Pittsburgh Penguins
Kris Letang battles Carolina’s Nino Niederreiter for the puck at PPG Paints Arena on March 13.
Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

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:

  1. Carolina Hurricanes (~112 points)
  2. Pittsburgh Penguins (~106 points)
  3. New York Rangers (~104 points)

And the Atlantic Division is set to be:

  1. Florida Panthers (~112 points)
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning (~111 points)
  3. Toronto Maple Leafs (~110 points)

With the Wild Card teams as:

  1. Boston Bruins (~105 points)
  2. Washington Capitals (~101 points)

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:

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?

Poll

Who do the Penguins have the best chance of beating in the 2022 first round?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Carolina Hurricanes
    (22 votes)
  • 49%
    New York Rangers
    (600 votes)
  • 26%
    Washington Capitals
    (327 votes)
  • 1%
    Florida Panthers
    (16 votes)
  • 1%
    Tampa Bay Lightning
    (20 votes)
  • 11%
    Toronto Maple Leafs
    (136 votes)
  • 7%
    Boston Bruins
    (94 votes)
1215 votes total Vote Now