The easiest path through the playoffs for the Pittsburgh Penguins would have been to tank the rest of the season and finish in the first wild card spot. This would have allowed the Pens to open most likely against the Montreal Canadiens. However, it seems as if this Penguins team has other ideas. In order to tank to the wild card spot, the Pens almost certainly had to spot the Rangers the four points from their final two meetings this season. The Pens 4-3 overtime win over the Rangers to end the month of March takes this option off the table. The idea of tanking was essentially over when Crosby shot the puck into Lundqvist’s head and into the net.
Pittsburgh currently has 105 points. The Columbus Blue Jackets have 105 points. Usurping the Washington Capitals for the top spot is not impossible, but is highly unlikely. The only objective other than get healthy, or help Sidney Crosby pile up more points this season, is to secure home-ice in the first round of the playoff, although that legitimately does not matter.
The Pens have five games left. They play the Carolina Hurricanes, the Blue Jackets, the New Jersey Devils, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the o on have nothing to play for and rest many of their key players. The Hurricanes are hot and the Leafs are playing for a higher seeding as well.
The Blue Jackets also have five games left. Outside of the penultimate game against the Pens, the Jackets play the Caps, the Winnipeg Jets, the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Leafs. Realistically their schedule is just as challenging as the Penguins’, with the only easy game being the matchup against the Jets.
The Penguins will beat the Blue Jackets in the first round. Yet, no one wants a potential Penguins/Blue Jackets series to go to seven games. The only thing worse than the series dragging on seven games, would be if the seventh game were in Ohio.