Coming off the next Stanley Cup success of the Crosby-Malkin era, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be attempting to become the first team of the 2000s to repeat as Cup champions. They’re set to make a significant run again this year as the vast majority of the top talent is still under 30 years old. The Pens smothered their competitions through the playoffs with a fast-break offensive style which found them outshoot their opponent in 20 of 24 playoff matches. Maintaining this speed over the course of an entire season won’t be simple, but Pittsburgh should nevertheless be among the greatest shows on ice this year.
They turned into a much different team under Mike Sullivan, who was brought in as head coach on December 12 after a 15-13 start. They improved under Sullivan, heading 33-21 to complete the regular season and finished top 5 goals per game in each of the previous four months of the year after being at the bottom third prior to the Sullivan hire. Perhaps most noticeable was Sidney Crosby’s improvement because his stage total increased per month during the regular season.
Here’s a look at their chances Going into the season:
Stanley Cup +1000
We do not see many repeat winners at the NHL like we do at other professional sports leagues. The last to do so was that the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998, but using the heart of last year’s team coming, this might be the year that the back-to-back drought comes to an end. They find themselves behind the Blackhawks (+750) on the oddsboard and are tied with the Capitals and Lightning.
Their push into the Cup was fueled by an incredible ability to bounce back, as they finished the season with a 19-1 record in games after a loss. That is far from a coincidence — it is a mentality instituted by Sullivan and the coaching staff and when it’s something they could carry forward to this season, they’ll be hard to knock out in a seven-game series.
Eastern Conference +400
Comparable to the Stanley Cup winner, we do not see many back-to-back Eastern Conference champions, but it does happen more frequently. It occurred with all the — you guessed it — Pittsburgh Penguins at 2008 and 2009. Just three teams since 1988 are repeat winners at the seminar, with the Pens accomplishing the feat twice.
Sidney Crosby and business are the faves to win the conference again this year and their biggest challenger will likely be the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team they beat in seven games in last season’s conference final. Pittsburgh may have captured a bit of a break in the show using Lightning captain Steven Stamkos being on the shelf for a few of the games while recovering from surgery.
Metropolitan Division +180
Pittsburgh is the favorite to win the division however, the Washington Capitals are hot on their heels in +195. Unless the New York Rangers will get their act together, this will likely be a two-team race. Since the new division realignment three seasons before, the Pens, Rangers and Caps have won the Metropolitan, while they each have a second-place finish too.
Since Sidney Crosby entered the NHL in 2005, the Penguins have won their division three occasions. Of note regarding their stiffest competition in the branch, the Capitals have won their division six occasions because Alex Ovechkin entered the league in 2005.
Point total OVER/UNDER 103.5
Only two teams have a greater OVER/UNDER point total than the Pens — Tampa Bay (105.5) and Washington (106.5). Both sides of the wager come in at -115. Not such as the strike-shortened period of 2012-13, Pittsburgh has gone over 103.5 points in four of their previous five full seasons. Taking that into account and considering how dominant they had been through their Cup run, the OVER looks like a good bet.
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