Bob McKenzie and David Pollak break down the wild-card race, and talk about how the Penguins could be able to make the playoff picture easier for themselves.
The playoffs are in the books and the Pittsburgh Penguins have now clinched home ice advantage throughout the first round.
But there are still plenty of questions, and the Penguins have some of them.
The Penguins’ playoff chances are currently a bit murky.
Pittsburgh is only one point ahead of the Washington Capitals for the eighth and final wild-cards spot, and their playoff odds were at 3-to-1 at the start of the season, according to NHL.net.
But as of Tuesday, Pittsburgh is a bit ahead of Washington for the sixth and final playoff spot.
While there are some things that Pittsburgh can do to improve its playoff chances, those have to be taken into consideration when looking at the Penguins playoff chances heading into the playoffs.
The first thing to consider is that the Penguins haven’t been winning games.
Pittsburgh has not won a game in regulation since Jan. 8, when it lost in overtime to the Carolina Hurricanes.
That streak has been broken twice in the past six games, both of which came against playoff-bound teams.
Pittsburgh also has not recorded a point in the first two games of the series, as the Pens are 0-for-4 in the shootout.
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why Pittsburgh hasn’t been able to win a game during that time.
There are a number of things going on for the Penguins right now.
First, there is Sidney Crosby.
The veteran forward has missed two straight games because of an upper-body injury.
He has missed eight of the Penguins’ nine games this season, with one coming this week against the New York Rangers.
And he has missed three of Pittsburgh’s last four games due to a knee injury.
While he has played well so far, Crosby has not been able, as he was on Wednesday, to consistently generate offense for the Pittsburgh offense.
In those games, Crosby’s goals have been on the low side.
He is averaging just 2.0 goals per game, and he has scored just one goal over his last six games.
Crosby has also been an ineffective penalty killer this season.
He ranks eighth in the NHL in total power play time-on-ice (3:52), and his minus-7 rating is the fourth-worst in the league among players who have played at least 60 minutes this season (behind Tyler Seguin, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Steven Stamkos).
There is also a new-look defense corps that was supposed to be a strong presence in the Penguins offense this season and that has struggled to produce at all.
The Penguins have struggled to get good results offensively and defensively in their first nine games of this series, with both goals and power play goals on the skates.
Pittsburgh’s power play has been shorthanded in each of those games.
The most surprising aspect of Pittsburgh has been the goaltending.
While they have won three of their past four games, the Penguins are 3-3-1 in their past five games.
That includes a 3-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.
The goaltending has been a major concern this season for Pittsburgh, and it has been one that has come up frequently throughout the playoffs so far.
The team has allowed a goal in six straight games against the Washington Senators and Tampa Bay, and has allowed five goals in their last five games against Washington and Tampa.
That stretch has included a shootout win against the Senators on Wednesday night, which put Pittsburgh within two goals of the final wild card spot.
Pittsburgh is currently one of three teams with at least eight wins in nine games, along with the Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars.
The Bruins, Flyers and Penguins have nine wins apiece.
If the Penguins can get their goalie back to 100 percent by Wednesday, and they get through their remaining games, they could be in position for the postseason.
However, it’s hard to see the Penguins getting out of the first wild-Card round without their top defenseman.
Evgeni Malkin, who has missed six games with an upper body injury, will play against the Islanders on Wednesday.
Malkin has played a total of five games this year with an injury, all of which have come in the playoffs, and his ice time is down from last season.
If he’s able to play, he would be the most likely option to step in for the injured Crosby, who will be in goal for the playoffs after missing three games with the same injury.
But what about defense?
It’s difficult to see Pittsburgh winning games in the defensive zone with any consistency this season with the way the team has struggled in the offensive zone, as they are 2-for (1) against the Capitals and 1-for/0 against the Rangers.
Pittsburgh hasn´t scored more than five goals against Washington this season or Tampa Bay this season since January 8.
The Pens are