The Rink Report: NHL East Wild Card race coming down to the wire

Written By Anthony Cugini, Sports Columnist

The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday,5-1. It was a dominant performance from start to finish for the Pens as they never trailed in the game. 

Sidney Crosby led the way for Pittsburgh as he scored twice and picked up an assist. It was a memorable day for Sid as his second goal was his 1,500th point of his career, which made him just the 15th player in NHL history to hit that mark.

Crosby continues his monster season with 91 points on the year, the most points he’s recorded in a season since he put up an even 100 in the 2018-19 season.

Recently promoted forward Alex Nylander also scored his first goal as a Penguin in Saturday’s win. Nylander has been playing sporadically since his first game with the Pens on March 7th. It’s just the second point to Alex’s name in his seven NHL games this season.

Tristan Jarry was solid yet again after his strong performance on Thursday where he allowed just one goal on 28 shots. The Pittsburgh goaltender continued to put up solid outings as he stopped 19 of the 20 shots he faced against Detroit.  Let’s hope the goalie continues to build off these performances as we near the playoffs.

The Penguins continue to be out of the playoff picture despite the strong showing on Saturday. Both the Florida Panthers and the New York Islanders continue to win as they remain just a point ahead of the Penguins. Only two of these three teams can make the playoffs and with just two games left, it’s nearly impossible to tell who these two teams will be.

Though the playoff picture is still unclear, things don’t look good for Pittsburgh. To put it simply, the Penguins have to win out. In order to have a shot at the playoffs the Penguins must beat the Chicago Blackhawks and the Columbus Blue Jackets. On the bright side, both of these teams are considered to be bottom-dwellers of the league with both teams sitting dead last in their respective conferences.

Even if Pittsburgh wins out, there’s no guarantee of a playoff berth. Due to tiebreakers,  the Pens need either the Islanders or the Panthers to lose a game in regulation in order to reach the postseason.

In their final two games, Florida must play the Carolina Hurricanes and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Carolina has been great all season and currently leads the Metropolitan Division. Meanwhile the Leafs are in second place in the Atlantic division, behind the Bruins who have been the best team in hockey. Florida will no doubt be the underdogs in both of these games so the outlook for Pittsburgh seems to be a little brighter.

The Islanders have a much easier path to the playoffs as they take on the Washington Capitals and the Montreal Canadiens, both of which are out of the playoffs. If Pittsburgh wants to be playing hockey in late April, then they have to win out and hope Florida loses one of the two games they’re supposed to.