Coming off the next Stanley Cup victory of the Crosby-Malkin age, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be trying to become the first team of the 2000s to repeat as Cup champions. They’re set to make a significant run again this year since the majority of their top talent remains under 30 years old. The Pens smothered their opponents during the playoffs with a fast-break offensive style that found them outshoot their opponent in 20 of 24 playoff matches. Maintaining this speed over the course of an whole season will not be simple, however Pittsburgh should nevertheless be among the best shows 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 enhanced under Sullivan, going 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 noticeable was Sidney Crosby’s improvement because his point total increased per month during the regular season.
Here’s a look at their odds entering the season:
Stanley Cup +1000
We do not 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 with the heart of last year’s team coming, this might be the year that the back drought comes to an end. They find themselves supporting 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 ended the season with a 19-1 record in games after a loss. This is far from a coincidence — it is a mindset instituted by Sullivan and the coaching staff and if it’s something that they could carry forward into 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 occur more frequently. It occurred with the — you guessed it — Pittsburgh Penguins at 2008 and 2009. Only three teams since 1988 have been repeat winners at the seminar, with all the Pens accomplishing the feat .
Sidney Crosby and company are the faves to win the conference again this season and their main challenger will likely be that the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team they beat in seven games in last year’s conference final. Pittsburgh might have captured a bit of a break in the series using Lightning captain Steven Stamkos being on the shelf for six of the games while recovering from surgery.
Metropolitan Division +180
Pittsburgh is your favorite to win the division however, the Washington Capitals are hot on their heels in +195. Until the New York Rangers can get their act together, this will likely be a two-team race. Since the new branch realignment three seasons ago, the Pens, Rangers and Caps have won the Metropolitan, while they all possess a second-place finish too.
Since Sidney Crosby entered the NHL in 2005, the Penguins have won their division three occasions. Of note seeing their stiffest competition in the division, the Capitals have won their division six occasions since 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). Both sides of this wager come in at -115. Not including the strike-shortened season of 2012-13, Pittsburgh has really gone over 103.5 points in four of their previous five full seasons. Taking that into consideration and also considering how dominant they had been through their Cup run, the OVER seems like a good bet.
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