Did you know that since the lockout, 80 percent of teams in playoff position after 20 games ended up securing postseason bids? As the NHL's teams close in on the 20-game mark, Puck Prospectus revisits its preseason projections to evaluate some of the Eastern Conference's most intriguing teams. By comparing the early returns to their projections (measured in goals versus threshold (GVT), a proprietary metric comprising the sum of the game's components -- offense, defense, goaltending, shootouts), we can see whether teams are likely to sustain their success or rebound from rough patches.
To check out the Western Conference report, click here.
Pittsburgh Penguins, 28 Points, 19 Games Played
Beset by injuries (Sergei Gonchar, Evgeni Malkin), the Pens still are where Puck Prospectus' VUKOTA projections expected them to be, with some bright spots making up for the injury woes. Overachievers have included 23-year-old F Tyler Kennedy (2.8 GVT), ex-Blues D Jay McKee (2.8 GVT) and super-soph D Alex Goligoski (5.0 GVT), who leads the team at plus-11. The surprising Goligoski is second among defensemen in goals, seventh in points and third in plus/minus. But now Goligoski is out for two weeks as well, and it was at this time last season that the team hit a 13-19-2 skid without Gonchar. Based on our projections and injury time tables, the team's depth will be tested, but the Pens still are playoff locks. However, that doesn't mean they won't face some stiff competition -- from within their division and their state. -- Timo Seppa