Can the Penguins Win the Atlantic After Going 0-6 Against New Jersey?
The Pittsburgh Penguins might have posted an underwhelming 0-6-0 record against the New Jersey Devils this season, but they are still primed to secure the Atlantic Division title. It would be the Birds’ second in the past three seasons.
I know it sounds ludicrous, but they are indeed close to making the Division title a reality and currently lead the Devils by two points in the standings.
The Penguins have put themselves in position for the title by posting an impressive 13-2-1 record against the rest of the Atlantic Division, while managing to go 22-10 against the rest of the East.
If the Penguins had managed even one victory against the Devils, they might have this race in hand already; however it is still going to require some work. It is a “control your own destiny” situation at this point.
Sure there is that pesky game in hand that the Devils have held for what seems like the entire season, but it may not be enough to stop the Birds, especially when you consider the remaining schedules for each team.
The NHL schedule maker has laid the groundwork for Pittsburgh to not only eliminate the game in hand, but to win this title by more than one or two points.
Of the six games remaining on Pittsburgh’s schedule, four are at home and five of them are against teams that are not in the playoffs as of today. They have two each against the Thrashers and Islanders, whom they have gone a combined 5-1 against this season, one against Tampa Bay, whom they have gone 2-1 against on the season. Based on history, it wouldn’t be out of the question to expect the Penguins to come out of those five games with at least 8 points, possibly 9.
The remaining game on the schedule is against the Washington Capitals, whom the Penguins haven’t beaten, but have been able to take points out of two of the three games against them. I am expecting a Penguins victory in this one based on what I have seen in the last two meetings, however for the sake of this piece we’ll say that the Penguins will come away with their usual point.
Having the schedule shake out as such, combined with the fact that they have the benefit of four home games, where they are 23-10-4, could see the Penguins finishing the season with at least 104 points.
Though the Devils schedule has a couple of tomatoes on it, they have three games remaining against playoff teams, two of which are against teams that are at or near the top of their respective conferences.
The Devils will meet both the Buffalo Sabres and Chicago Blackhawks, whom they have gone a combined 1-2-1 against on the season. It would be reasonable to assume that they will come out of those games with 2 points or less.
The schedule will take them through the Southeast Division for road games against Carolina, Atlanta and Florida. Their combined record against those teams this season is 6-3-0, they have also dropped three consecutive road games against Carolina. Considering the above, it would be reasonable to assume that they would come out of those three games with 3 points.
The seven games wrap up with matches against Boston and the Islanders, whom the Devils have gone 6-2-0 against this season. It would be reasonable to assume that they will take those four points. However it is worth noting that the Bruins are fighting for their proverbial playoff lives maybe holding the Devils to a point.
Considering the above the Devils would finish the season with 101 points giving the Penguins the Atlantic Division crown with 103.
I believe the Devils to have blown their shot at the Division crown when they dropped yesterday’s game to the Philadelphia Flyers. That was probably a must win, especially with the Penguins having a four point weekend.
What’s your take on the race in the Atlantic?