After a miserable stretch in the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins are back in the hunt for a second straight Stanley Cup and a spot in the Eastern Conference final.
But how much will it matter to them if they don’t win it all?
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been one of the NHL’s most entertaining teams for years, and they’ll need all the energy they can get in this series to keep it going.
That’s especially true since the Eastern conference has three teams that are playoff-bound and could be contenders for the conference finals.
Here are three questions to ponder as the Penguins head into Game 2 of the Eastern Conferences first round.1.
Can Pittsburgh keep the game close?
It’s hard to think of a better time to take the ice than now.
The Penguins haven’t lost a game in the series since Game 7 in 2005.
Their record this season is 4-1-0, and the team has won five of its last six regular-season meetings with the Penguins.
They’ll need to keep the pressure on this series in the next couple of days, but they can’t afford to lose a step at this point.
They have to win or the Penguins will be out of the playoff race.2.
Can the Penguins stop this momentum?
The Penguins haven.
They’ve won seven of their last eight and are coming off a series-high five-game winning streak.
That streak included the four-game sweep in which they rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 in Game 6.
They’re now 10-0 when trailing after four periods and have the best goal differential in the NHL.
They need to maintain that momentum, but the Penguins are not the same team that was playing the way it was in Game 7.
They could be on the outside looking in if they fail to win the series in this matchup.3.
How many playoff spots are up for grabs?
The two teams will battle for just two playoff spots in the East.
If the Penguins win Game 2, they’ll have a two point advantage over the Islanders and Lightning, and if the Penguins lose Game 2 to the Pens, they’d get two points from the Lightning and the Islanders, which would give them a three-point advantage over their opponents.
If they lose Game 3, they’re out of reach and could miss out on the playoffs.
If the Penguins come out of this series with two points, they could be looking at the Eastern final in four weeks.
If Pittsburgh loses, it’ll have five games to play in the first round before the Eastern playoff field is narrowed down to three.
If Boston wins Game 4 and Toronto wins Game 5, the Eastern field is expanded to five teams.
If Boston wins, they would be guaranteed a spot at the Stanley Cup Finals and the Pens would need to take care of business in order to make the playoffs this season.
If Toronto loses, the Penguins would need a victory over the Boston Bruins in Game 4 to earn the top seed in the conference.
If Pens win Game 5 and the Isles lose Game 6, the East final would be extended to seven teams.