How does a loss to the Maple Leafs impact the Pittsburgh Penguins' playoff hopes?

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers
How does a loss to the Maple Leafs impact the Pittsburgh Penguins' playoff hopes?

On Monday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime.

Although they didn't get two points, they collected one crucial point, reaching 84 and moving into a tie with the Detroit Red Wings.

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If Pittsburgh had collected that extra point, they would have dropped to third in the Metropolitan Division (based on wins), bumping the New York Islanders into the second wildcard spot while pushing the Red Wings out of the picture for now.

After 78 games, the Penguins are chasing the Red Wings and Islanders, who have a game in hand. Meanwhile, rivals like the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers are yet to be mathematically eliminated, with each team having 83 points.


What's next for the Penguins with four games left?

Pittsburgh has a couple of days off to prepare for their next game on Thursday night when they welcome the Red Wings to the PPG Paints Arena. In one of the most critical games of their campaign, they have to collect two points and avoid any overtime or shootout situations.

Thursday's contest will be the third meeting of the season. The two teams are split in their season series at 1-1-0, alternating 6-3 wins.

Although the matchup with the Red Wings will be intense, the Penguins welcome the Boston Bruins to town on Saturday in a marquee showdown. The long-time rivals have also split their season series at 1-1-0, with one of the year's most entertaining games on Jan. 4, which Pittsburgh won 6-5.

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Considering that the Bruins are vying for the Presidents' Trophy, it will be an all-hands-on-deck effort from the top team in the Atlantic Division, meaning the Penguins can not afford to let up on the gas pedal.

After those grueling matchups, they face the Nashville Predators next Monday. As the top wildcard team in the west, Pittsburgh could pick up two points against an opponent in another conference team to help their quest in their own conference.

Eventually, whether the team qualifies for the playoffs will come down to its final game on Apr. 17 when they travel to Long Island to skate against the Islanders.

In three previous meetings, Pittsburgh has a 2-0-1 record, outscoring its Metropolitan Division rivals 14-6. This final game could determine who advances to the postseason based on how New York performs in its final games.

Getting into the Stanley Cup playoffs could be the final run with the current core, led by Sidney Crosby and coach Mike Sullivan, who may have one more chance for a championship together.

However, If Pittsburgh doesn't advance, there could be a seismic shift in the team's philosophy, with wholesale changes on the horizon.

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Edited by Bhargav
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