Coming off the second Stanley Cup victory of the Crosby-Malkin era, the Pittsburgh Penguins will probably be attempting to become the first team of the 2000s to repeat as Cup winners. They are set to make a serious run again this season as the majority of the top talent is still under 30 years old. The Pens smothered their opponents during the playoffs with a fast-break offensive style which saw them outshoot their opponent in 20 of 24 playoff games. Maintaining this pace over the course of an whole season won’t be easy, but Pittsburgh should still be one of the greatest displays on ice this year.
They turned into a much different team under Mike Sullivan, who had been brought in as head coach on December 12 following a 15-13 start. They improved under Sullivan, going 33-21 to complete the regular season and finished top 5 in goals per game in each of the last four months of the season after being at the bottom third before the Sullivan hire. Perhaps most noticeable was Sidney Crosby’s improvement because his point total increased per month during the regular season.
Here’s a look at their chances entering the season:
Stanley Cup +1000
We don’t see many repeat champions in the NHL like we do in other professional sports leagues. The last to accomplish this was that the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998, but using the core of last year’s team coming, this might be the year the back drought comes to an end. They find themselves supporting the Blackhawks (+750) about the oddsboard and are tied with the Capitals and Lightning.
Their drive to the Cup was fueled by an unbelievable ability to bounce back, as they ended the season with a 19-1 record in matches after a loss. That is far from a coincidence — it is a mindset instituted by Sullivan along with the training team and if it’s something they could carry forward into this season, they will be tough to knock out at a seven-game series.
Eastern Conference +400
Similar to the Stanley Cup champion, we do not see many back-to-back Eastern Conference champions, but it will occur more frequently. 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, with the Pens accomplishing the feat .
Sidney Crosby and company will be the faves to win the conference again this year and their main challenger will probably be that the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team they beat in seven games in last year’s conference final. Pittsburgh may have captured a small break in the show using Lightning captain Steven Stamkos being on the shelf for six of those games while recovering from surgery.
Metropolitan Division +180
Pittsburgh is your favorite to win the division but the Washington Capitals are hot on their heels in +195. Unless the New York Rangers will get their act together, this will probably be a two-team race. Since the new branch realignment three seasons ago, the Pens, Rangers and Caps have all won the Metropolitan, while they all have a second-place finish as well.
Since Sidney Crosby entered the NHL in 2005, the Penguins have won their division three times. Of note regarding their stiffest competition in the division, the Capitals have won their division six occasions because Alex Ovechkin entered the league in 2005.
Point complete 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). Either side of this 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 the last five complete seasons. Taking that into consideration and considering how dominant they had been through their Cup run, the OVER looks like a fantastic bet.
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