Could Columbus Crash Penguins Playoff Chances?

The Pittsburgh Penguins have spent most of the season on cruise control.  Even though they have had to overcome several obstacles, including key injuries, they have been able to maintain a playoff spot.  If they are not careful this weekend, that playoff position might start to fade to black.

After putting up a 7-8-2 record in March, and then losing to the Flyers on April 1st, the Penguins now find themselves in the 1st wildcard spot, after spending most of the season near the top of the Metropolitan Division.  They currently sit at 95 points.

Even though these recent stretch of games haven’t gone the Penguins way, the belief remains that they will still get in the playoffs.  They can catch the Islanders or Capitals in the Metropolitan, or maintain their current standing.  The odds do favor the Penguins making the playoffs.

But that doesn’t come without a major spoiler alert for this weekend.  The Penguins have back to back games this weekend against teams that have a major incentive to beat them.

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The Blue Jackets would love to crash the Penguins playoff chances. A win Saturday might just do it. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Penguins At Blue Jackets

The weekend begins Saturday afternoon at Nationwide Arena.  The Columbus Blue Jackets are the last team anyone wants to see these days.  After beating the New York Islanders in a shootout Thursday, the Blue Jackets will go into Saturday’s game winners of a franchise best 8 in a row.  A win Saturday by Columbus will give them their 1st ever 9-game winning streak.  That’s only the beginning.

Two noted Penguins killers, Scott Hartnell and Brandon Dubinsky, would love to make sure that the Penguins woes continue.  The Penguins traditionally do well against the Blue Jackets.  What makes Saturday increasingly difficult, is the current health of the Penguins.

Both Christian Ehrhoff and Evgeni Malkin are out Saturday due to lingering injuries.  So is Kris Letang.  Taylor Chorney was called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to give the Penguins a 6th defenseman.  Without Malkin, the Penguins are easier to shut down.  And because the Blue Jackets are out of the playoffs, they would love nothing more than to take Pittsburgh with them.  The Penguins have all the pressure right now.

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The Penguins will be without Evgeni Malkin Saturday in Columbus. Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr

Penguins at Flyers

Does this need any more introduction?  We know what this rivalry is about.  The Flyers would love nothing more than to knock the Penguins from the playoffs.  Malkin could come back for this game.

The Flyers just beat the Penguins in Pittsburgh 4-1.  Philadelphia is comfortable playing against this team.  Back-to-back losses is a real possibility for the Penguins this weekend.

Why Pittsburgh Must Worry

Look at the Penguins final 5 games.  They play at Columbus, at Philadelphia, and at Ottawa.  They then host the Islanders, and then finish in Buffalo.  The focus here needs to be on the Ottawa game.

Ottawa has 90 points.  They are 5 points in back of the Penguins, each with 5 games remaining.  If Pittsburgh loses both weekend games (a real possibility), and Ottawa wins both of theirs (home to Washington and at Toronto), then the Senators go into the Penguins game only 1 point behind.  Anything is possible if that happens.  Andrew Hammond has lost just 1 regulation game in his short career.  The Penguins must win at least once this weekend, or panic could set in.

Will Ottawa do the unthinkable, and knock the Penguins out of the playoffs?  The odds say they won’t, but don’t sleep on this story.  Columbus and Philadelphia will be motivated.  If Ottawa takes care of business, we could be sitting here next week discussing the possibility of the Penguins out of the playoffs and no 1st round pick.    Hey, you never know.

See also: Penguins In Danger Of Missing Playoffs.