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Friday, January 16, 2009

Can the Pittsburgh Penguins Make the Playoffs?

Current NHL Standings - Pittsburgh Penguins in 10th Spot
Currently the Pittsburgh Penguins sit in tenth spot in the Eastern Conference. If this were late April the Penguins would be trying to book an early morning tee time for this weekend. But, in case the snow and the cold didn't give it away, it's not April. It's January.

The Penguins will enter the Mellon Arena tonight ready to play game 46 of an 82 game schedule. A lot can happen between now and April. Can the Penguins improve enough to make the playoffs?

Possibly, but it won't be easy.

The Pittsburgh Penguins currently have 46 points. They will likely need at least 91 to squeeze into the eighth seed. They may need more. Last year Boston grabbed the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference with 94 points.

So, based on last year's numbers, the Penguins likely need 48 additional points to be assured a postseason berth. That's 24 wins out of their remaining 37 games. It could also mean a few less wins and a few more overtime losses, but for simplicity-sake 24 wins is the benchmark.

Even including overtime losses, the numbers show that the Penguins can only lose in regulation 13 times if they hope to make the playoffs.

If they continue playing like they have been recently they will not make it. The Penguins have lost 13 times since December 8th. That's 13 losses and 6 wins in just over a month. The Penguins have won only 47% of their games this season.

They will need to win 65% of their remaining games to qualify.

Is that possible?

Last season the Penguins won 21 of their final 37 games. If you add in the overtime losses (five of them) that gave them 47 points in their final 37 games. This year's team will likely need 48 to qualify. So if they finish this season in same way they finished last season they stand a good chance at making the playoffs.

But that was last year's team and, if we've learned anything from this season, the current Penguins are not the same as last year's team.

Can the 2008-2009 Penguins win enough games to qualify?

Well, first you have to remember that it hasn't been all bad news. The Penguins got off to a remarkable start this season. In their first 37 games this year's team won 19 times. If you include the four overtime losses you'll see that the Penguins earned 42 points in their first 37 games.

The Penguins had their most success at the beginning of the season but if they end the season in the same manner they started it they still won't make the playoffs.

In order to make the playoffs, the team will need to play their best hockey of the season. They will need to play better than they did at the season's start and they will definitely need to play better than they are currently. They have won 16 of their previous 37 games and earned 35 points. That definitely won't get them competing for the Cup.

Of course, the number of points needed to qualify depends on the performances of the rest of the teams in the conference. If the teams directly above and below the Penguins in the standings get hot, the Pens will need to win more games to catch up to them. If they're cold, the Penguins stand a better chance at making it.

In conclusion, it is possible for the Pittsburgh Penguins to qualify for the playoffs but they will need to find a way to be better, and fast.

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