The Penguins have 16 games left in the regular season, with the final game on April 11th in a tilt against the Buffalo Sabres. Between now and then Pittsburgh will face off against six Metro division opponents, six Western conference teams and four Atlantic division. So out of those 16 match-ups let’s take a look at the ones that we should look forward to the most?
5. Philadelphia Flyers (4/1/15 & 4/5/15)
While the Flyers are more than likely going to miss the Playoffs there is still a level of animosity towards the cross-state rivals that no other two teams in the NHL can match. On top of that the Penguins have struggled within their division this season and capping off a season series against the Flyers with two wins would be a huge step and moral boost heading into the playoffs.
Keys to victory: They cannot allow Philly to get under their skin, the Penguins need to play their game and stay defensively sound. Despite their record the Flyers are a much better team then where they sit in the standings.
4. Boston Bruins (3/14/15)
It’s hard to believe how hard the Bruins fell off this season, granted they dealt with injuries all year and Tuuka Rask seems to have had a hiccup this season, but they are still a force to reckon with. At this point it seems like the Bruins, as long as they stay the course, should make the playoffs. However Florida is only six points behind them in the race for the final Wild card spot. With recent history showing us that the Penguins had a hard time in the Post-season against the B’s having them lose any ground in the standings would only be plus for Pittsburgh.
Keys to victory: They need to break down Rask, they cannot allow the Bruins defense to bully them around. Rask is too good, even in this off year for him, for the Penguins not to have quality shots and rebound chances on net. So the Penguins need to get to the dirty areas in front of the net and throw Tuuka off his game.
3. Detroit Redwings (3/15/15)
It almost doesn’t seem fair to have to play Boston one afternoon and then Detroit the next day, but such is the NHL and their schedule making. Detroit and Pittsburgh have nearly identical records and despite them being in different divisions it’s always a pleasure watching these two teams battle it out. The Penguins, in my assessment, are the better team here and should be able to cap off this season series with a win, but, that is what makes these two opponents so much fun to watch against each other….anything can happen.
Keys to victory: In the words of the “great” Dan Bylsma The Penguins just have to get to their game and stay with it.
2. St. Louis Blues (3/24/15)
St. Louis is a team trying to prove to everyone that they are more than just a regular season powerhouse. While the Penguins may not see them in the post-season, unless both find themselves Stanley Cup Finals bound, playing well against a team that is laying it all on the ice would be a huge boost to this Penguins teams. Yes Pittsburgh defeated them just a few weeks ago, but that gives the Blues a reason to play their best. This will undoubtedly be an exciting game, and while it may not be high scoring, both teams will have ample opportunities to put on a show.
Keys to victory: The Blues may be one of the better defensive teams in the league, this game, just like the last one against them, will be a chess match. The first team to make a mistake will capitalize on that chance. The Penguins will need to stay patient and limit their mistakes.
1. New York Islanders (4/10/15)
In the Penguins final home game of the season, Sidney Crosby and the rest of the team will battle the current division leading Islanders in what could be a Playoff match-up preview. This season the Penguins haven’t fared to well against their divisional opponent but much like victories against the Flyers would be huge and win against New York could be a ginormous boost heading into the post-season. Without a doubt this will be the biggest game of the season thus far and hopefully by this time the Penguins will be fully committed to what Mike Johnston has brought to the team. This is where we will see if our team will be able to succeed in the post-season.
Keys to victory: Special teams. the Penguins have gone 4-7 on the PP against the Isles this year, but a disturbing 2-13 on the PK. This means the Penguins need to play more disciplined hockey against the Isles and find a way to stop them from scoring with the man advantage when they have the opportunity.
There you have it folks, the games everyone should most look forward to in the final stretch of the regular season.
Thanks for Reading and Enjoy this final month of regular season Hockey.
– Robert Slavinsky