The Pittsburgh Penguins have had an entertaining season filled with plenty of ups and downs in a shortened time frame. The schedule was unique this season, playing only division rivals in two to three-game series. They were like mini playoff series, and the teams got very familiar with each other. As the regular season winds down with two weeks left, here are my picks for which matchups were the most and least fun to watch against the Penguins.
Most Fun Matchups
New York Islanders
The Penguins played their last regular-season game against the New York Islanders on March 29, a 2-1 win. Pittsburgh led the season series 5-3, but that doesn’t tell the whole series story.
Two of the games went into overtime, and the Penguins came back to win two games after falling behind. The Islanders and Penguins were pretty evenly matched this season, even though the season series record doesn’t reflect it. The first six matchups were dead even with both teams winning three apiece.
The Penguins pulled away with two home wins at the end of March, ending the month 9-3 at home. The games have been close, with six of the eight games ending within a two-goal or lower deficit. The veterans have thrived against the Islanders. Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang each have nine points against the Islanders this season, and Evgeni Malkin has six. The Islanders have emerged as a legitimate threat to the Penguins over the past couple of seasons. This series was enjoyable to watch.
Don’t let the regular-season record against the Washington Capitals fool you into thinking that Pittsburgh has dominated the series. The Penguins lead the season series 4-2, three of the wins coming in overtime. It’s been a classic Penguins-Capitals rivalry, with no love lost between the two teams.
Tom Wilson continued to be Pittsburgh’s nemesis this season. Wilson had a questionable late hit against Mark Jankowski on February 25 that raised some eyebrows. Some things never change. The talent on each team is even. Both teams are still led and dominated by Crosby, who leads the Penguins with 56 points, and Alex Ovechkin, who leads the Capitals with 24 goals this season. They have not faced each other since February 25, which was a 5-2 Capitals win.
They have two games left against each other, the first coming up this Thursday in Washington, where they will continue to battle for the first-place spot in the East Division. It’s fitting these two teams will have a dramatic finale.
Least Fun Matchups
The season series between the Boston Bruins and the Penguins was more frustrating than fun to watch this season. Letang and Malkin had a missed 3-on-0 breakaway in overtime on January 26, foreshadowing how lackluster Pittsburgh could look against Boston this season. The Bruins lead the season series 4-3, one of the wins coming in overtime. The final regular-season matchup between the two teams is tonight in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins have continued to struggle on the road against the Bruins, where they just won their first game at TD Garden in seven years. They are averaging 2.57 goals per game this season against the Bruins, the lowest against any opponent this year.
Their 5-7 loss to Boston on April 3 was one of their ugliest performances of the season. The blood started to boil again between the two teams, and the Bruins proved they are a thorn on the Penguins’ side. The two teams can potentially face each other in the first round of the playoffs, which could be a headache for the Penguins. They are going to have to find a way to solve the TD Garden dilemma if they want to make it out of the first round.
Not to kick the Buffalo Sabres when they are down, but this matchup was a bit of a snooze fest. The competition wasn’t even close to the same level, and the Penguins have easily defeated them. In the six games played thus far, 15 different Penguins players have scored a goal against the Sabres.
The Penguins have recorded only one loss against the Sabres, but that was just a blip. Over the past few seasons, there really hasn’t been a rivalry between Pittsburgh and Buffalo, and it showed in the games. The Penguins got the points that they needed to and didn’t fall into the potential trap games. They have taken care of business so far. They play each other two more times in Pittsburgh to wrap up the regular season. It should be relaxing television for the fans.
With a shortened season and facing the same seven teams, the games, for the most part, did not disappoint. The quality of hockey was still there, and at times, even more, intense than a normal regular season. It was a season like no other, but it will be nice to get back to a traditional schedule next year.