I was reading the Pens Q&A with Dave Molinari, and he came out and said that there's no way the Pens can make the playoffs this season... and that all they're really doing right now is playing for lottery position. So I decided to do the math and see if there's any way they can get into the playoffs.
If you extrapolate the current postion of teams in the Eastern Conference out to a full 82 game season, it looks like the cutoff for the playoffs will be right around 90 points. The Pens currently have 26 points (they're currently on track for 59 points this season). They have 46 games remaining. Can they get 64 points in 46 games?
The best team in the east this year so far is Ottawa. They have 55 points in 35 games, or an average of 1.57 points per game. For the Pens to get to 90 points, they would need to average 1.4 points per game for the remainder of the season, right about the level of what Philly has done in the first half. That would seem to be pretty difficult.
Let's look at this a different way (before I have to start breaking out my Star Wars references to the Kessel Run...) Say the Pens go on a little winning streak for the next five games (up to the halfway point in the season). Through 41 games, they would have 36 points. They would need 54 points in the second half to reach the magical 90 plateau. That's a much more makeable average of 1.32, or right around the success level of Carolina or the Rangers in the first half. Can the Pens make that? I think they could, but it has to start now.
So, the short answer is, I think the Pens can make the playoffs, but to do it, they'll have to finish up the first half on a winning streak, and then be one of the top three or four teams in the conference in the second half. I think they're capable... it's just a matter of how much they're willing to do for it.