Coming off the next Stanley Cup victory of this Crosby-Malkin era, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be trying to become the first team of the 2000s to repeat as Cup champions. They are set to make a significant run again this year since the vast majority of their top talent is still under 30 years of age. The Pens smothered their opponents through the playoffs with a fast-break offensive fashion which found them outshoot their opponent in 20 of 24 playoff games. Maintaining this speed over the course of an entire season will not be simple, however Pittsburgh should still be one of the greatest displays on ice this season.
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 enhanced under Sullivan, heading 33-21 to finish out the regular season and finished top 5 in goals per game in each of the last four months of the season after being in the bottom third prior to the Sullivan hire. Perhaps most evident was Sidney Crosby’s improvement as his point total increased each month during the regular season.
Here’s a look at their odds Going into the season:
Stanley Cup +1000
We don’t see many repeat winners at the NHL like we do in other professional sports leagues. The last to accomplish this was the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998, but using the core of last year’s team returning, this could 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 connected with the Capitals and Lightning.
Their drive to the Cup was fueled by an unbelievable ability to bounce back, as they finished the season with a 19-1 record in matches after a loss. That is far from a coincidence — it’s a mentality instituted by Sullivan along with the training staff and when it is something that they can carry forward to this year, they will be hard to knock out at a seven-game series.
Eastern Conference +400
Comparable to the Stanley Cup winner, we don’t see many back-to-back Eastern Conference champions, but it does happen more often. It last occurred with all the — you guessed it — Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008 and 2009. Just 3 groups since 1988 have been repeat winners at the seminar, together with the Pens accomplishing the feat twice.
Sidney Crosby and company are the faves to win the conference again this season and their biggest challenger will probably be that the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team they beat in seven games in last season’s conference final. Pittsburgh might have caught a bit of a break in the series with Lightning captain Steven Stamkos being on the shelf for a few of those games while recovering from surgery.
Metropolitan Division +180
Pittsburgh is the favorite to win the division but the Washington Capitals are hot on their heels in +195. Unless the New York Rangers can get their act together, this will likely be a two-team race. Considering that the new branch realignment three seasons before, the Pens, Rangers and Caps have won the Metropolitan, while they all 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 times because Alex Ovechkin entered the league in 2005.
Point complete OVER/UNDER 103.5
Only two groups have a higher OVER/UNDER point total than the Pens — Tampa Bay (105.5) and Washington (106.5). Either side of this wager come in at -115. Not such as the strike-shortened season of 2012-13, Pittsburgh has gone over 103.5 points in four of their previous five complete seasons. Taking that into consideration and also considering how dominant they had been through their Cup run, the OVER seems like a fantastic bet.
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