FLA 91 Pts | NYI 91 Pts | PIT 90 Pts —

The Pittsburgh Penguins embark on the final week of the regular season trailing the New York Islanders and Florida Panthers by one point in the wild card race and boast the easiest remaining schedule in the National Hockey League in facing the Chicago Blackhawks on home-ice Tuesday night and the wrapping up the season in Columbus on Thursday night. The New York Islanders final two games of the season are @ Washington tonight and at home vs the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night. By contrast, the Florida Panthers have the toughest road ahead among the three wild card contenders. While the Panthers finish the season at home, they face the Leafs tonight and the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night who may still have something to play for as the Hurricanes (109 points) and New Jersey Devils (108 points) are separated by one point for the division crown. A question for tonight is what Toronto Maple Leafs team shows up. The Leafs are locked into 2nd place in the Atlantic Division as they await a first-round showdown with the Tampa Bay Lightning. From the Penguins end, you’d hope the Leafs treat tonight as a final tune up before the playoffs but who knows what type of effort will be on the table.

— The Penguins 31 regulation wins (the #1 tie-breaker if two or more clubs are tied in points at seasons end) has their backs against the walls in any potential tie-breaker situations with the Islanders and Panthers. The Panthers are +5 (36 RW) over the Penguins in regulation wins and the Islanders are +4 (35 RW) over the Penguins. Assuming the Penguins take care of business against the lowly Blackhawks and Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh would still be eliminated from the playoffs if the Islanders and Panthers each accumulate any combination of three points over the next two games. On the flip side, the Penguins in fact could be eliminated from the playoffs as early as Tuesday night with a dud performance against the Blackhawks, If the Following Scenarios were to happen:

  1. The Panthers and Islanders regulation each win Monday night combined with a Penguins regulation loss or overtime/shootout loss Tuesday night
  2. A Panthers and Islanders OT/SO loss Monday night combined with a Penguins regulation loss Tuesday night.

— Whenever the time for self-reflection comes for the Penguins organization, the win-loss record against other Eastern Conference contenders is as alarming as it can get, and the organization can’t overlook the goal-differential numbers. The Penguins enter Game #81 this week with a +2 goal differential on the season. The Penguins have not had a goal differential below +28 since the 2014-2015 season under Mike Johnston. The past two seasons with the Penguins have had a goal differential +40 or above.

21/22 +43; 20/21 +40; 19/20 +28; 18/19 +32; 17/18 +22; 16/17 +48; 15/16 +42; 14/15 +11

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