No one in the Metropolitan Division has been close in the standings to the Pittsburgh Penguins since about December, but they finally clinched the division on Thursday. All they needed was either a win over the Winnipeg Jets or a Philadelphia Flyers loss. They got both.
Their seeding is pretty much set considering they are still eight points behind the Boston Bruins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, and while home ice throughout the playoffs would be nice, it’s looking like they will be the No. 2 seed in the East when the postseason begins.
It’s incredible what Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma has been able to do this year considering they are most likely going to become just the third team in the last four years to have over 500 man games lost in a season. The starting roster has been a revolving door all season, and there have been more than a handful of players from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ AHL affiliate, who have played well in their opportunities.
To understand how many injuries the Penguins have had this season, all you need to know is that third-line center Brandon Sutter has played with 17 different wingers this season. That number is utterly ridiculous.
For the remainder of the season, the Penguins just need to focus on staying healthy and keeping to their system as the playoffs approach. They will face the first wild card team in the Eastern Conference in the first round, which is currently looking like it’s going to be the Detroit Red Wings – another team who has continued to win with a battered roster.
Paul Martin returned Thursday night against the Jets and blasted home a power play goal that ended up being the game-winning goal. Martin’s production is a sign of good things to come considering how much the Penguins struggled with the man advantage in his absence. Beau Bennett‘s goal came right as a penalty expired, so even though the stat sheet won’t say it, the Penguins pretty much scored twice on the power play.
The Penguins clinching the division will come at a surprise to no one, but seeing the benefits of a healthier team will definitely make them confident as they enter the postseason.