Down the stretch they come!

With eight games left in the season, the Penguins have all but wrapped up their playoff spot for this post season. Their magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to 1 and the schedule for the end of the regular season is not that difficult.

The Penguins begin a six game home stand against the hated Flyers on Saturday and it would be great to see them clinch their spot against Philadelphia. As you can see above, that game is followed up by games against Toronto, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Washington, and the Islanders. The Penguins then close the season with two games on the road against Atlanta and the Islanders. Therefore, of the Pens last eight games of the season, only one is against a team currently in a playoff position. That would seem to give the Pens a great chance to, not only hold on to a high playoff spot, but still be able to stay ahead of the Devils for the Atlantic Division title.

And once again, winning the division would be a nice thing to do because that would mean getting the #2 seed instead of #4. The possibility of winning that title looks even better when you consider that the Devils have a slightly more difficult schedule to close the season. The Devils close with games at Montreal and Philly, then home against Boston and Chicago, then back on the road against Carolina, Atlanta, and Florida before going back home and closing the season out against the Isles and Sabres. And if you are doing the math, yes, New Jersey does still have a game in hand over the Pens. What is interesting about the Devils, though, is not that, in March, they are winning games against some tough teams, including the Pens and the Sharks, but that all of the games they lost this month have been against non-playoff teams. So, on paper, it would seem that the Penguins would have the upper hand over the Devils for the division title, but that is why they play the games.

But getting into the playoffs is not what has Pens fans chewing on their nails right now. With only eight games left before the playoffs start, the Penguins need to be playing playoff hockey right now, and they are not. In the last few games, they have looked out of sync and confused. There is no chemistry between the players right now and that is not how you want to be playing going into the playoffs. Watching those last two games against the Devils and the Capitals was painful, and the worst part of it is that there is a good chance that the Pens will face one of both of them in the playoffs. No, wait, the worst part is the that Pens have yet to beat either team all season. Certainly, the absence of Geno, and more recently, Gonchar has been tough to overcome, but this is the playoffs boys. Stuff happens and you either over come it, or you go home.

If it was a wake up call that the Penguins were looking for, then hopefully these last two games were just that. There is no more time left to prepare for the playoffs. The Pens need to start executing better immediately or risk an embarrassing early departure from the playoffs. The schedule for the rest of the season is their chance at redemption before they playoffs start.

So is a run for another Stanley Cup hopeless considering how the Penguins have been playing. No, not at all. There are still positives to take away. Despite how poorly the Pens looked against Washington, they still were able to hang on all the way to a shootout. So if that's how the games end when they are not playing well, it should be fun watching them when they start playing their game. And if anyone can rally the troops and get their heads in the right place, it is Dan Bylsma.

So here we go. The Pens have two weeks to get on their game and be ready for the playoffs. No doubt all of PENS UNIVERSE is behind them. We believe in you boys...let's do this.


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