The Pittsburgh Penguins Control Their Own Destiny


To say that the Pittsburgh Penguins have hit the skids would perhaps be the greatest underestimation of the 2014-2015 NHL season.

However, despite coming off four consecutive losses and dropping six of their last eight, they are still the masters of their own fate with two games remaining. It will take three points to guarantee entrance to the playoffs, three points that seem just out of reach to many of the Penguins faithful.

The 4-3 overtime defeat against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday evening was a brutal one. Not only was Pittsburgh battered, bruised and exhausted by the end of the match, they were also dejected. A quick 3-0 Penguins lead in the first period was extinguished with flair by the Senators. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury turned in a solid performance, full of exceptional saves that kept the game a lot closer than it looked, but proved that he could not do it alone. The game went to overtime, ending the team’s hopes of clinching a playoff berth, and they went on to lose.

And so the final two contests of the season will determine the fate of the Pittsburgh Penguins and victories in them will not come easy. The second of these games, to be played in Buffalo against the Sabres on Saturday, April 11, will be their best chance for two points. Unless the Senators do not win another game of their two remaining, two points will be an absolute must for the Pens and a game against the NHL’s worst team will be the best time to do so.

However, the Penguins must not count the Sabres out entirely. In two recent games played against the Arizona Coyotes, the NHL’s second-worst team, Pittsburgh only came away with narrow victories. While the Sabres faithful are cheering on the team’s plummet in an effort to secure the best odds for the Connor McDavid sweepstakes, it would not be a surprise if the fans could rally behind the team for a chance to humiliate the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Despite coming off four consecutive losses and dropping six of their last eight, they are still the masters of their own fate with two games remaining.

But before the Penguins face off against the Sabres, a far more difficult challenge awaits them in Pittsburgh on Friday, April 10. That evening, the team will take on the New York Islanders, a formidable opponent that only needs one point to secure a playoff spot.

This season, the Pens are 1-2-1 against the Islanders, a record that does not bode well for their chances. The Penguins have struggled mightily against their fellow Metropolitan Division inhabitants all season long and their late-season woes may only exasperate those difficulties. Furthermore, Islanders forward John Tavares is currently tied with Pittsburgh Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby and Dallas Stars Captain Jamie Benn for the league-lead in points at 83. Tavares is also coming off a three point night against the Philadelphia Flyers and is likely itching to secure his team a playoff position.

However, the Islanders have had their own problems down the stretch, posting a record of 3-7-2 in their last 12 games. Two of those wins came against the Sabres and the New Jersey Devils, another bottom-feeder.

Against the Islanders, the Pittsburgh Penguins must at least take the contest into overtime and secure one point in order to remain in control of their playoff destiny.  A win would be ideal, but at least one point will let them keep pace with the Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins, both of whom are only one point behind the Pens with 95 each.

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The Senators have two remaining contests this season. The first is this evening against the Presidents Trophy-winning New York Rangers. Their second will be against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. Given the quality of Ottawa’s play as of late, it is hard to expect that they will drop either of these games. However, in their last meeting with the Rangers, they fell in a 5-1 defeat and their last meeting with Philadelphia was a shootout victory.

With the playoffs approaching and their playoff tickets punched, the Rangers may pull up a little in order to secure the health of their team, which could give the Senators the leeway they need to secure a victory. Then against the Flyers, who has already been eliminated from playoff contention for some time, the Senators will face an easier opponent who happens to hate the Penguins more than anyone. But if Penguins fans find themselves having to root for the Flyers on Saturday, that simply means the team has not done their part to secure their playoff spot.

The stumbling and bumbling at the end of this season must end before Friday or the Penguins will find themselves on their face well short of the finish line. It will be stressful and the team’s play as of late certainly does not lend itself well to hope.  But, in the end, it is the Penguins who control their destiny. Depending on how you feel about this team at the moment, that may very well be a scary thing.

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