Despite their uneven start to the 2010-2011 season, the Penguins are in pretty good position in the Atlantic Division standings. There’s reason enough to be optimistic about the Pens’ improved play recently, but that’s especially the case when considering their divisional competition.
The Flyers are the one good team in the division, and after recent losses to the Canadiens and Lightning, even they are only two games ahead of the Pens, at 12-6-2. The Pens are next at 10-8-2, and the Rangers are right there at 10-8-1. That leaves the Devils and Islanders, and here the Pens continue to benefit from having two of the worst teams in the NHL in their division. The Islanders, with 11 straight losses, are just hideous, and New Jersey hasn’t looked much better in the past couple weeks, going 3-6-1 in the their last ten.
That doesn’t seem so important yet, but keep in mind that the Pens have already played the Flyers three times and only have to play them three more times, and the remainder of the Pens’ schedule is stacked with nine games against the Devils and Islanders. With several teams in the Northeast and Southeast divisions clustered around .500, a record along the lines of the ones the Pens have now is probably good enough to get them into the playoffs, but given their schedule, they should be able to do better than that even if they never really gel.
The Pens’ upcoming schedule after the Hurricanes includes one team that has been roughly average so far (the Panthers) along with three fairly bad ones – the Sabres, Senators and Flames. (The Senators have a .500 record, but have allowed 13 more goals than their competition.) The Pens should be able to pull out a few wins there.