Penguins destined to be top-3 in points in the East for 9th time in 11 years

The Penguins 3-1 win over the Sabres was a closely played game with good goaltending at both ends and the final result went about expected, the Penguins finding a way to win and the Sabres finding a way to lose. There’s a reason one team has 101 points and the other has 72 points.

The Penguins clinched their 11 straight playoff berth and what might be most impressive with this streak is over the last 11 years there’s only be one instance where the Penguins either went into the final couple days of the regular season or even the ‘final day’ needing to win to get in.

That only happened during the 2014-2015 season where the Penguins made the post-season as the second wildcard team, clinching a playoff spot in the final game of the regular season vs the Sabres, a 2-0 shutout win.

Pittsburgh has finished with at least the third most points in the conference eight times in the last 10 seasons. This season will make nine of 11.

Overall Conference Rank:

2015-2016: 2nd, 102 pts
2014-2015: 8th, 98 pts
2013-2014: 2nd, 109 pts
2012-2013: 1st, 72 pts
2011-2012: 2nd, 108 pts
2010-2011: t-2nd, 106 pts
2009-2010: 3rd, 101 pts
2008-2009: 4th, 99 pts
2007-2008: 2nd, 102 pts
2006-2007: t-3rd, 105 pts

Player Takeaways

— Sidney Crosby’s one-handed goal and his crotch shot on Ryan O’Reilly is what many are talking about but the best player on the ice vs the Sabres was Conor Sheary. He seemed to be a threat to create offense nearly every shift.

Sheary’s two point night vs the Sabres gives him 21 goals and 49 points in 52 games, not to mention he’s the NHL leader in points/60 at even strength. He’s going to get paid.

— At the AHL level Oskar Sundqvist has learned to use his size better and it’s led to a breakout season offensively and being a much more consistent player along the wall and below the dots.

At the NHL level it’s a different story. He’s nowhere near strong enough right now to be ready to play a shutdown defensive role the Penguins eventually envision him playing. While it’s a small sample so far, Sundqvist has constantly been bumped off pucks in winnable 1-on-1 battles and that was especially true vs the Sabres.

Watching Sundqvist lately and it’s not a stretch to say that another season in the minors would still be beneficial. Problem with that, he’s eligible for waivers next season.

— Defenseman Frank Corrado did not have a great first impression. Struggled in dealing with pressure and was rushing things with the puck when trying to exit the zone. He had a turnover up the board leading to the Sabres lone goal and on the very next shift, had a similar turnover that led to another high danger chance against. Corrado played just three shifts in the third period.

Race for first in Metro

Who has toughest remaining schedule?

Capitals Remaining Schedule | 10 (4H / 6A)

3/23 vs Columbus
3/25 vs Arizona
3/28 @ Minnesota
3/29 @ Colorado
3/31 @ Arizona
4/2 @ Columbus
4/4 @ Toronto
4/5 vs New York Rangers
4/8 @ Boston
4/9 vs Florida

Combined winning percentage of remaining 8 opponents: (.494)

Remaining Games vs top-10 teams (pts%): 4


Penguins Remaining Schedule | 10 (5H / 5A)

3/23 @ Ottawa
3/24 vs New York Islanders
3/26 vs Philadelphia
3/29 vs Chicago
3/31 @ New York Rangers
4/2 vs Carolina
4/4 vs Columbus
4/6 @ New Jersey
4/8 @ Toronto
4/9 @ New York Rangers

Combined winning percentage of 9 remaining opponents: (.520)

Remaining Games vs top-10 teams (pts%): 4

Blue Jackets Remaining Schedule | 11 (5H / 6A)

3/22 vs Toronto
3/23 @ Washington
3/25 vs Philadelphia
3/28 vs Buffalo
3/30 @ Carolina
3/31 @ Chicago
4/2 vs Washington
4/4 @ Pittsburgh
4/6 vs Winnipeg
4/8 @ Philadelphia
4/8 @ Toronto

Combined winning percentage of 8 remaining opponents: (.519)

Remaining Games vs top-10 teams (pts%): 4

Columbus on paper has the toughest remaining schedule, facing Washington twice and a stretch of three straight games vs Chicago, Washington, Pittsburgh. [/hide]