Coming off the second 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 serious run again this year as the majority of their best talent is still under 30 years of age. 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 matches. Maintaining that speed over the course of an entire season won’t be simple, however Pittsburgh should nevertheless be among the greatest displays on ice this year.
They became a much different team under Mike Sullivan, who was brought in as head coach on December 12 after 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 previous four weeks 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 entering the season:
Stanley Cup +1000
We don’t see many repeat champions in the NHL such as we do at other professional sports leagues. The last to do so was that the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998, but using the core of last year’s team coming, this might be the year that the back-to-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 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 mentality instituted by Sullivan along with the training team and when it is something that they can 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 champion, we do not see many back-to-back Eastern Conference champions, but it does happen more frequently. It last occurred with all the — you guessed it — Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008 and 2009. Just three teams since 1988 have been repeat winners in the seminar, with all the Pens accomplishing the feat twice.
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 year’s conference final. Pittsburgh may have caught a bit of a 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 at +195. Until the New York Rangers will get their act together, this will probably be a two-team race. Considering that the new branch realignment three seasons ago, the Pens, Rangers and Caps have won the Metropolitan, while they each 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 from the division, the Capitals have won their division six times since Alex Ovechkin entered the league in 2005.
Point total 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 the bet come in at -115. Not such as the strike-shortened season of 2012-13, Pittsburgh has gone over 103.5 points in four of the last five complete seasons. Taking that into consideration and also considering how dominant they were through their Cup run, the OVER seems like a good bet.
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