Every year there comes a point in the season where all the teams in the NHL begin to sort themselves into three different tiers.
We are not quite at that point yet (it is usually around late February or early March), but with every team having already entered the second half of its schedule we are definitely getting close.
Just what are those tiers?
At the top, there are the six or seven teams that know they can win the Stanley Cup. It starts to become clear not only to them, but also to the rest of the league and everyone watching it that the team hoisting it at the end of the season is going to come out of this group.
Next, you have probably another 15 teams that think they can win the Stanley Cup. Most of these teams will make the playoffs. Some of them will Cheap Pittsburgh Penguins Jerseys
win a round. A few of them may even win two and make a deep run in the postseason, but they are probably just short of what is needed to be a championship team.
Then you have the rest of the teams that know they can not win. These are the lottery teams. These are the teams that are selling and playing for the future and dreaming of ping pong balls going in their favor.
Now that the Pittsburgh Penguins have reached the unofficial halfway point of the 2018-19 season, we should try figure out exactly where they stand among the league’s teams.
First, we know they are not in that third group. So we can just scratch that off right now.
There have been times this season where the Penguins have looked like they belonged in the top-tier, such as that early season Canadian road trip and more recently the two-month stretch from late-November to mid-January where they went 17-5-3.
They have also had stretches where they have not played at anything close to that level, like the first two-and-a-half weeks of November when they went 1-7-1 and had general manager Jim Rutherford call out everyone. They also had this most recent Western Conference road trip where they just did not look good in any game outside of that one in Anaheim against a Ducks team that is just a circus at the moment.
What do you get when you have a team that goes through stretches where it looks completely unbeatable and is followed by stretches where it can’t seem to get out of its own way? A team that is pretty comfortably positioned in that second tier of teams and sitting in the middle of the standings.
At this point I see the NHL shaking out like this (again … at this point)