Even though the Pittsburgh Penguins have dropped their past five games and are still looking for a playoff berth on the final day of the NHL regular season, they have the best case scenario working for them.
Before you flip out, let me explain.
The Ottawa Senators, who have been on an incredible run the past month, play Philadelphia this afternoon. If the Senators beat the Flyers, it doesn't determine the Penguins playoff fate.
You can thank Washington and Florida for that.
The Boston Bruins have dropped two straight and trail Pittsburgh by a point for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. If the Penguins win, they're in. If they lose, then Pittsburgh fans better hope that the Tampa Bay Lightning are not resting up for the playoffs.
The Penguins already blew their first chance to clinch in their final home game on Fan Appreciation Night at Consol Energy Center. While the more recently reserved crowd was louder than usual, knowing what was at stake, they were silenced by the Islanders, who beat Pittsburgh 3-1 Friday night. One could assume the fans did not appreciate that (or the impending collapse).
While the five-game slide has put the Penguins on the brink, this team, which has had the misfortune of injuries to key players, playing with only five defensemen due to cap restrictions, and just an obscure streak of bad luck, some luck has come their way this week with Boston's losses to the Capitals and Panthers.
If the Bruins had won one of those two game, Penguin fans would be on pins and needles watching both the Senators and Bruins play today (if they were not already).
Pittsburgh's opponent tonight, the Buffalo Sabres, have assured themselves the best chance at the first overall pick in this summer's draft. Or in other words, they won the award for worst team in the National Hockey League. There is no Presidents' Trophy for that.
Despite being the worst, the Sabres stand a good chance to beat the snake-bitten Penguins, possibly ruin their playoff hopes and give the crowd in Buffalo something to cheer about other than getting the most ping pong balls for the lottery.
Game 82 should have meant nothing to the Penguins. It hasn't for almost eight years. But, a team that cannot hold a 2-0 lead over Columbus, a 3-0 lead against Ottawa and one that has lost six straight to teams in the Metropolitan Divsion should be lucky to call itself a potential playoff team.
They win and they're in. Too bad it's not a given, even against the worst team in hockey.