Coming off the next Stanley Cup victory of the Crosby-Malkin era, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be trying to become the first team of the 2000s to repeat as Cup winners. They are set to make a serious run again this season since the majority of their top talent remains under 30 years old. The Pens smothered their opponents through the playoffs with a fast-break offensive style which saw them outshoot their opponent in 20 of 24 playoff matches. Maintaining this speed over the course of an whole season won’t be easy, however Pittsburgh should still be among 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 enhanced under Sullivan, heading 33-21 to finish out the regular season and finished top 5 goals per game in each of the previous four weeks of the season after being in the bottom third before the Sullivan hire. Perhaps most evident was Sidney Crosby’s improvement as his point total increased per month during the regular season.
Here’s a look at their chances Going into the season:
Stanley Cup +1000
We don’t see many repeat winners at the NHL such as we do in other professional sports leagues. The last to accomplish this was that the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998, but with the core of last year’s team returning, this could be the year that the back drought comes to an end. They find themselves behind the Blackhawks (+750) about the oddsboard and are tied with the Capitals and Lightning.
Their push to the Cup was fueled by an unbelievable ability to bounce back, as they ended the season with a 19-1 record in games after a loss. That is far from a coincidence — it’s a mindset instituted by Sullivan along with the training staff and if it is something that they could carry forward to this season, they’ll 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 will happen more often. It last occurred with all the — you guessed it — Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008 and 2009. Only 3 teams since 1988 are repeat winners at the conference, with all the Pens accomplishing the feat .
Sidney Crosby and company will be the faves to win the conference again this season and their main 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 show using 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 will get their act together, this will likely be a two-team race. Considering that the new branch realignment three seasons ago, the Pens, Rangers and Caps have all won the Metropolitan, while they each have a second-place finish as well.
Since Sidney Crosby entered the NHL in 2005, the Penguins have won their division three occasions. Of note regarding their stiffest competition from the branch, the Capitals have won their division six occasions 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). Both sides of the bet 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 last five full seasons. Taking that into account and also considering how dominant they had been during their Cup run, the OVER seems like a good bet.
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