Coming off the next Stanley Cup success of this Crosby-Malkin age, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be attempting to become the first team of the 2000s to repeat as Cup winners. They’re set to make a significant run again this season as the vast majority of the top talent is still under 30 years old. The Pens smothered their opponents through the playoffs with a fast-break offensive fashion which saw them outshoot their opponent in 20 of 24 playoff games. Maintaining this pace over the course of an whole season will not be simple, but Pittsburgh should still be one of the best displays on ice this year.
They became a much different team under Mike Sullivan, who was brought in as head coach on December 12 following a 15-13 start. They improved under Sullivan, heading 33-21 to complete the regular season and finished top 5 in goals per game in each of the previous four weeks of the year after being at the bottom third prior to the Sullivan hire. Perhaps most evident was Sidney Crosby’s advancement because his stage total increased each month during the regular season.
Here’s a look at their odds Going into the season:
Stanley Cup +1000
We do not see many repeat champions in the NHL such as 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 coming, 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 push into the Cup was fueled by an incredible 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 mentality instituted by Sullivan and the coaching staff and if it is something that they can carry forward into this year, they will be tough to knock out in a seven-game series.
Eastern Conference +400
Comparable to the Stanley Cup champion, we don’t see many back-to-back Eastern Conference champions, but it does occur more often. It last occurred with all the — you guessed it — Pittsburgh Penguins at 2008 and 2009. Only 3 groups since 1988 have been 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 main challenger will likely be the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team they beat in seven games in last season’s conference final. Pittsburgh might have captured a bit of a break in the show with Lightning captain Steven Stamkos being on the shelf for six 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 at +195. Unless the New York Rangers will get their act together, this will probably be a two-team race. Considering that the new division realignment three seasons ago, the Pens, Rangers and Caps have won the Metropolitan, while they each possess a second-place finish as well.
Since Sidney Crosby entered the NHL in 2005, the Penguins have won their division three occasions. Of note seeing their stiffest competition in the branch, the Capitals have won their division six times since 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). Both sides of this wager come in at -115. Not such as the strike-shortened season of 2012-13, Pittsburgh has really gone over 103.5 points in four of the previous five full seasons. Taking that into consideration and also considering how dominant they had been during their Cup run, the OVER looks like a good bet.
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