Pittsburgh Penguins: Closing Out the Season Strong

Mar 31, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates with Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) after defeating the New York Rangers in a shoot out at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 31, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates with Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) after defeating the New York Rangers in a shoot out at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports /

As we enter the final month of the 2016-17 NHL season, the Pittsburgh Penguins still find themselves with a few crucial games to get through.

It’s April 2, 2017 and the Pittsburgh Penguins are sitting third in the Metropolitan Division. They are one point behind Columbus for second and five points behind Washington for first. Not to mention, the New York Rangers are seven points behind us in the first wild card spot.

Looking at the final five games of the season, it’s really hard to gauge where the Pens might finish. There are some easy games and some hard games. Some games more crucial than others. Either way, the Penguins should be looking to dominate in every single one of them. We have the chance to overtake second place in our division, possibly even first. Let’s take a look at this next stretch and see what’s in store for the boys in yellow.

April 2 vs. Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes may be trailing the Bruins for the last wild card spot by six points, but they’re definitely not going to count themselves out. The Hurricanes have been rather hot lately, going 5-1-2 in their last eight games. They have crept up into playoff contention and they show no signs of stopping.

The Penguins could see this game as a very crucial one. Win this one and we take second in the Metropolitan Division, as long as Washington defeats Columbus today.

The Hurricanes will be looking to play hard and finish off their final stretch with a playoff berth. It’s up to the Penguins to ruin their hopes and dreams.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins /

Pittsburgh Penguins

April 4 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

The importance of this game is pretty self-explanatory. We’re chasing the Blue Jackets right now for that second place divisional spot. This game against Columbus places the Penguins fortunes right in their hands.

Looking at the season series so far with the Blue Jackets, they have taken two out of the previous three matches with the Penguins. This includes an ugly 7-1 loss on Dec. 22. Not to mention as well, two of the three games also went to overtime.

The Penguins have to win this game if they want to get a step ahead of the Blue Jackets in securing second place. If the Blue Jackets do end up defeating Washington tonight, then any hopes of taking second today is non-existent. It would all come down to Tuesday’s game.

We can’t even afford taking the game to overtime too. The Penguins must try to steal the full two points from Columbus if they want to have a comfortable lead to close out the season with.

April 6 vs. New Jersey Devils

Nothing much to say about this game. The Penguins have won all four of their games against New Jersey this season.

The Devils have already been eliminated from playoff contention and you have to think tanking may be in their minds. Don’t be surprised if the Penguins find this to be an easier match-up.

April 8 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Here’s where it really gets interesting. The Toronto Maple Leafs have been really hot lately. Riding the waves of their rookie trio of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, they’ve been stringing together wins and riding up the standings in a very tight Atlantic Division.

The Leafs will also be looking to win as many games as they can to close out the season because they really don’t know where they may finish in their division. The Penguins have to come out full force for this game.

Auston Matthews may have 38 goals but Sidney Crosby has 43. The Penguins have to make sure they effectively shut down the Leafs kids and steal away the two points.

April 9 vs. New York Rangers

The Rangers are obviously in the hunt to steal third place from us. If the Pens can string together some wins this week though, this won’t be the case. A seven point lead is sizeable, but take it with a grain of salt. If a series of unfortunate events bring the Rangers neck-and-neck with us, this game will be the most important.

I don’t think this will happen but you can never be too sure. If all goes as planned and the Pens pull off at least a few wins this week, this game won’t mean too much. The standings will most likely already be set and there wouldn’t be much room to move anyways. But still, being the last game of the season, the Penguins should give it their all to finish strong.

If we get a win here, we’ll go in to the playoffs with a confident mindset. This is important no matter who we face in round one. We have to keep our eyes on the prize and we shouldn’t lose sight of it, even if this is the last game of the season.

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