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May 10—The Pittsburgh Penguins have clinched the NHL's East Division. The regular season has been better than any Penguins fan ever had a right to expect.
But what does any of it mean if the franchise fails to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs for a third straight year?
In this week's "Madden Monday" podcast, Mark Madden (105.9 The X/TribLive) says there is reason for optimism to be guarded despite a fantastic regular season.
"People say, 'Why don't you trust them in the playoffs?' Well, Montreal last year. The New York Islanders the year before that. And the Capitals — albeit in the second round — the year before that," Madden said. "They haven't won a playoff series in three (consecutive chances). They got beat by the No. 24 seed last year. And playoff hockey is different hockey."
Madden feels the biggest reason for skepticism revolves around goaltending.
"My main reason for discomfort is Tristan Jarry, who has been pretty good sometimes this year, but inconsistent at other times this year," Madden said. "If you want me to hang my hat on one thing about the Penguins that makes me uncomfortable heading into the postseason, I'll hang it right on the goaltender's locker. Because I don't trust Jarry. Not to win four playoff series in a row. Heck, maybe not even to win one playoff series. I won't believe he can do it until he does it."
A big factor in how far the Penguins advance will have to do with the matchups. They won't be determined until the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals conclude play Tuesday night. And Madden thinks getting the Islanders in the first round would be the best possible matchup.
"The Islanders are the best team to play," Madden insisted. "They are a real good team, but I don't think they have a lot of firepower up front. (Kyle) Palmieri only has (two) goals since joining from the Devils. He has not had nearly the impact they were hoping. And he has hardly replaced (injured captain) Anders Lee. They are just not the same team that swept the Penguins a couple years back."
I tend to agree. I think avoiding the Bruins for as long as possible would be the best-case scenario. Hopefully, Boston plays the Capitals in Round 1 and they spend seven games taking a pound of flesh from one another, while the Penguins survive a first-round test against the Islanders.
"Beating the Islanders would be no guarantee and wouldn't be an easy task. But it would be the easiest. I have zero doubt on that," Madden added. "And, yeah, if the Bruins and Capitals killed each other, so much the better."
Also in the podcast, Mark and I talk about the Steelers' upcoming schedule, JuJu Smith-Schuster's latest comments, Medina Spirit's positive steroid test, and the death of former actress and MTV star Tawny Kitaen.
Listen: Tim Benz and Mark Madden discuss the Penguins and possible postseason matchups
Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at email@example.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.