In all likelihood the Penguins will wrap up the Atlantic Division and be either the #1 or #2 seed depending on how the jockeying with Montreal goes. But the bottom of the conference is just as unsettled so there’s really four teams the Penguins could be playing in the first round. A quick profile:
Boston Bruins—The Bruins could still hold on, and if they do, they’re a #7 or #8 seed.
Penguins record this year against them: 2-2 (5-4 shootout win Dec. 20th, 4-2 win Dec 23rd, 2-1 loss Feb 13th, 5-1 loss Feb 28th)
Why it would be good to play Boston: Their best two forwards (Marc Savard and Patrice Beregron) are hurt and their goaltending situation is up in the air.
Why Boston is a scary matchup: They have Zdeno Chara and a tight checking defensive system that could give opponents fits…And when their goaltending has been good, it’s been very good
Ottawa Senators—For what was the East’s best team for much of the season, the playoffs are no longer to be taken for granted. If they don’t play well they could miss it or end up as a #7 seed
Penguins record this year against them: 1-2-1 (6-5 SO W Nov 22th, 4-1 L Dec 13th, 4-3 OT L Feb 23rd, 5-4 L Mar 1st)
Why it would be good to play Ottawa: They fired their coach and have struggled the second half of the season, inconsistent goalie play and definitely a city in panic right now
Why Ottawa is a scary matchup: They did easily handle the Pens last season and have a lot of playoff experience
Philadelphia Flyers—The Flyboys up and down season continues. If they make the playoffs, it’ll be as a low #7 or #8 seed
Penguins record against them: 2-4, with two more to play (3-1 L Nov 7th, 5-2 L Nov 10th, 8-2 L Dec 11th, 4-3 L Jan 24th, 4-3 W Feb 10th, 7-1 W Mar 16th)
Why it would be good to play Philly: The Penguins showed they can beat the crap out of them, in the 7-1 game. Plus if Philly holds off Washington or Boston for one of the last seeds, they might have expended more energy and effort to make it in the playoffs than they would be able to use once they get there.
Why Philly is a scary matchup: It is an in-state rivalry and the Flyers have been the Pens twice. Plus if they get in the playoffs it will probably mean they’ve won at least 1 of these final 2 games and their confidence for beating Pittsburgh would be pretty high
Washington Capitals—Ok, so it’s more likely that they’d make the playoffs as the #3 seed, but suppose Carolina doesn’t stumble and one of the above do. That’s what dreams are made of
Penguins record against them 3-0-1 (2-1 W Oct 20th, 4-3 OT W Dec 27th, 6-5 SO L Jan 21st, 4-2 W Mar 9th)
Why it would be good to play the Caps: Except for Fedorov, their nucleus of important players; (Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, Green, Laich, etc) haven’t played in the NHL postseason. Cristobal Huet has 6 NHL playoff games under his belt, plus Pittsburgh kinda has a hammer-nail relationship going on here
Why Washington is a scary matchup: If the Caps make it, it means they’ll be winners of 11 of their last 12 and riding a wave of confidence in themselves and Huet. But like the Islanders last year, sometimes going on that kind of run just to get their uses all the focus and energy a team can muster