Coming off the second Stanley Cup success of the Crosby-Malkin age, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be trying to become the first team of the 2000s to repeat as Cup winners. They’re set to make a serious run again this year as the vast majority of their best talent remains under 30 years old. The Pens smothered their competitions during the playoffs with a fast-break offensive fashion which saw them outshoot their opponent in 20 of 24 playoff games. Maintaining this speed over the course of an entire season won’t be simple, but Pittsburgh should nevertheless be among the best displays on ice this season.
They turned into 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 complete the regular season and finished top 5 in goals per game in each of the last 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 per month during the regular season.
Here’s a look at their odds Going into the season:
Stanley Cup +1000
We don’t see many repeat winners at the NHL like we do at other professional sports leagues. The last to accomplish this was the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998, but using the heart of last year’s team coming, this might be the year the 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 drive to the Cup was fueled by an incredible ability to bounce back, as they finished the season with a 19-1 record in games after a loss. That is far from a coincidence — it’s a mentality instituted by Sullivan and the coaching staff and if it’s something they can carry forward into this season, they’ll be hard 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 happen more often. It last occurred with all the — you guessed it — Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008 and 2009. Just three teams 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 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 may have caught a bit of a break in the series 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 however, the Washington Capitals are hot on their heels in +195. Unless the New York Rangers can get their act together, this will probably be a two-team race. Since the new division realignment three seasons ago, the Pens, Rangers and Caps have all 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 times. Of note seeing their stiffest competition from the division, the Capitals have won their division six times 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). Either side of the wager come in at -115. Not such as the strike-shortened period of 2012-13, Pittsburgh has really gone over 103.5 points in four of their previous five complete seasons. Taking that into account and also considering how dominant they had been through their Cup run, the OVER looks like a fantastic bet.
Read more: sportscoverage.net/smarkets/