Evening, everyone. The last few weeks have seen the Pens slap together some of their best hockey of the season. Malkin and Fleury in particular have really shined. Even Paul Martin has looked 10% less decrepit. With 17 games left in the regular season, this is a good time to round into shape. Last year the Pens were mostly smoke-and-mirrors at this point. In 2009-10 they were erratic down the stretch, while people remained convinced that the Pens would flip a mythical switch and turn good again. Under Therrien the Pens had a good history of hitting their stride in March and April. Tonight's opponent is Toronto, a team desperate to make the playoffs that has already cast their coach overboard. Their GM is next. (Fun prediction- Toronto misses the playoffs, Burke gets fired, the new guy comes in and takes the credit next year when Toronto is good.)
Let's take a look at the standings: http://espn.go.com/nhl/standings/_/group/2
Catching the Rangers is probably still a bridge too far. Hockey Reference has their odds at around 5%, which seems about right- if you simulate the last month of the season 20 times, the Pens probably catch New York one of those, but it isn't likely. Winning tonight and opening the gap to 6 points over the Devils and 4 over Philly for the 4th seed would be nice. The Pens are better at home, and for karma purposes I don't like the idea of tanking to get the 6th seed (though if you're Philly, would you try to lay down and let the Devils catch you so you play whichever crap team comes out of the Southeast? Probably not yet since Ottawa is within striking distance, but you think about it). It's getting late for Toronto.
As always, I expect you guys to make some noise no matter how the Pens are playing. The Pens dedicated a statue to their greatest hero today, so hopefully the team can go out and honor him with a worthy performance.