Through 45 games, the Pittsburgh Penguins boast a record of 21-17-7 and are currently tied for fourth in the Metropolitan division with 49 points. They’re currently tied with the New Jersey Devils and division rivals the Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes are right behind with 48 points.
The three playoff teams, as the standings currently indicate, are the Washington Capitals, the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers.
In the Wild Card race, the Boston Bruins (51 points) and the Montreal Canadians (50 points) are right ahead of Pittsburgh. With 37 games remaining, the Pittsburgh Penguins have plenty of time to contend for a playoff spot, but it has to start now.
NHL Playoff History Since Realignment
Prior to the 2013-14 season, the NHL had a vastly different playoff structure. It boasted three conferences and a total of eight teams made the playoffs. While the current format continues to bring eight teams into the Stanley Cup chase, it only has two divisions.
The top three teams within each division automatically qualify for a playoff position. Then the next top two teams from both divisions combined battle for the two Wild card spots.
Two years is not a brief sample size, but it gives an idea of how many points the Penguins will need to simply make the playoffs. Their current rate puts them on pace for 89.29 points. But that is unfair to new head coach Mike Sullivan, so lets take a look at how many points the Penguins are on pace for with their new coach.
Under Sullivan, the Penguins have accumulated 16 points in 17 games, which puts them on pace for 77 points over an entire season. However, it can be argued that the Penguins have played their best hockey under him in the last few weeks.
In the past two seasons in the current playoff structure, wild card teams have averaged 95.75 points to secure a berth.
Both rates that the Penguins have been producing points at would not net them a playoff spot. Considering how tight the playoff race projects to be this season, Pittsburgh needs to start ticking off wins sooner rather than later. At this point in the season, wins come much easier than at the end of the year. Teams aren’t desperate yet, their players aren’t fighting through injuries and some aren’t worrying about their next contract yet.
One website Sports Club Stats currently give the Penguins a 54.2% chance of making the playoffs. While another site called Hockey-Reference gives them a 52.3% chance of making the postseason.
The point is that no one is sure about this team, some games they look phenomenal and the next they can’t score a single goal.
In the month of January, the Penguins have taken at least a point in all but one game. This rate puts them on pace for 105 points in a whole season. How will the Penguins season end? It’s entirely up to them, but if they keep up their high level of play there is a very good chance they find themselves in the playoffs, but their fate is in their own hands.
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Michael Pityk is an analyst who has written for numerous sites since beginning his professional career. He’s acted as a credentialed member of the media for the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Penguins. His work has been featured in Sports Illustrated, The Sports Journal, MSN, PensLabyrinth, Montreal Hockey Talk, ESPN Pittsburgh, The Hockey Writers, Todays SlapShot and The Bleacher Report. He formerly was the editor of Pens Labyrinth and an analyst for The Sports Journal. Michael presently acts as an NHL Analyst for The Hockey Writers