The Penguins are the highest remaining seed in the East -- whatever that is worth since three higher seeds were knocked out in the first round -- but seemingly now have a much easier path to defending their title. Not only were the three higher seeds eliminated, the Pens also fared worse against those teams than any others in the East during the regular season. Even better, their regular season record against teams still in the playoffs is a stellar 11-3, losing only once to each team.
Against the four teams that were eliminated in the first round, three of which were seeded higher than the Pens, Pittsburgh was only 5-11-2. Of course, part of that is due to two teams, both of whom the Pens couldn't solve this year, being eliminated. They were a combined 0-8-2 against the Capitals and the Devils during this regular season. Maybe when the Pens square off against Montreal Friday night they should thank them for taking out one of their biggest threats.
Much like the Capitals before them, the Pens appear as though they are the team to beat in the East. As two-time defending Eastern Conference champs, they are likely used to the role. But of course, all these statistics are just statistics and that's why they actually play the games after all. It doesn't matter that a panel of seven experts unanimously picked the Capitals to go to the Finals or that they had a league high 44 wins against their own conference, all that matters is the final score.