Well, it is pretty simple for the Penguins if they want to make the playoffs this year, and that is for them to win games. However, this year it has seemed very hard for them to get on winning streaks and keep momentum rolling in their favor.
The Penguins are currently tied for the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference with 59 points. They are coming off a very big win last against the top team in the Western Conference, the San Jose Sharks (which I missed because I lost power for the whole game).
The Penguins have only 26 games remaining on their schedule, but their schedule leans towards their favor. Out of the next 26 games the Penguins play 11 games against teams that as of today are out of the playoff picture.
These are teams that they MUST beat. With almost half of their games against teams out of the playoff picture the Penguins should be able to put together some good winning streaks, and also jump up in the standings.
With three games left against the Panthers the Penguins can pull ahead, and then leave the Panthers in their wake if they can manage to at least win two of three.
The down part to those three games is that two of them are in Florida, where the Penguins are known to not play well.
The Penguins do have to face the top four teams in the East though six times down this stretch. They face Boston and New Jersey one more time, and Philadelphia and Washington twice. They play three away and three at home.
The Penguins should be back to full strength for their run to playoffs, which is perfect for a team who is sitting on the outside looking in currently with only 26 games left.
I believe that with 26 games left the Penguins need to win at least 16 games. That does not mean that they can lose 10 too. They need to win 16 and probably only lose 6-8 games in regulation, the other losses will have to come in overtime.
With ending the season with a record of 16-6-4 that would give the Penguins a final point total of 95 points, which should be good enough for a 6th seed.
It is going to solely come down to how badly the Penguins want it. They won a big game last night, and that should help to motivate them for the rest of the season, that they know they can beat a top team.
With Gonchar coming back, the power-play should be getting back to the way it was last year, and the Penguins defense should be solid.
Marc-Andre Fleury needs to play like he has never played before down this stretch. He looked great from what I saw of the highlights of last night's game, and if he can play the rest of the season like last night the Penguins will be just fine.
The offense I think is doing fine, besides the whole not taking shots. If coach Michel Therrien could just get the players mentality to change from pass first to shoot first they will be much better off.
I think though that this group of guys can get the Penguins into the playoffs, and an addition to the offense before the trade deadline can never hurt.
The next 26 games are going to be exciting and nerve-racking at the same time. If the Penguins can play to the ability that we all know they are capable of then us Pittsburgh fans should be watching Penguin playoff hockey come April.