MORNING PENS BUZZ
The Pittsburgh Penguins are 2-2 in four games against the New Jersey Devils this season after Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Devils in Newark on New Years Eve.
New Jersey’s tight defensive system and excellent goaltending has made them emerge as one of the very few teams in the Eastern Conference that could cause the Penguins fits in a playoff series.
At the mid-point of the season, the Devils have been the one team in the Metropolitan Division to cause the Penguins the most matchup problems from a system standpoint and it’s not a stretch that the Penguins and Devils could meet in the first round.
While many have believed the two Wildcards would come from the stronger Atlantic Division, the pack of mediocre Metropolitan teams can’t be ruled out from nabbing one or two spots.
As things stand today going in Wednesday’s action, the Detroit Red Wings (45 pts) and Toronto Maple Leafs (45 pts) hold the two wildcard spots with the New York Rangers (42 pts) and New Jersey Devils (42 pts) just three points behind.
After the Penguins, the Metropolitan Division is likely to remain bunched up the rest of the way. The surging Flyers (44 pts) could be emerging as the second best team in the division with the way Claude Giroux is going and Steve Mason continuing to look like the goaltender he was in 2008-2009. But, it’s the Devils that matchup best against the Penguins when it comes to division foes.
The consensus from evaluators is outside of Boston, Montreal is the team built best to beat Pittsburgh in the playoffs and after that opinion’s vary. One scout I asked said “ask me again in March”. The Devils, though, have joined the discussion but it’s far from a guarantee that they even reach the playoffs.
PLAYOFF FIELD AS OF 1/1/14
Pittsburgh (59 pts, Division Leader) vs Toronto (45 pts, 2nd wildcard)
Boston (54 pts, Division Leader) vs Detrot (45 pts, 1st wildcard)
Tampa Bay (50 pts, 2nd in Atlantic Division) vs Montreal (50 pts, 3rd in Atlantic Division)
Washington (45 pts, 2nd in Metro Division) vs Philadelphia (44 pts, 3rd in Metro Division)
— Happy New Year Everyone —