Last time we saw the 2009 Stanley Cup champions they were skating off the Mellon Arena ice for the last time in disbelief after a 5-2 loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Montreal.
It was a long offseason for hockey fans in Pittsburgh as the loss lingered. However, as October approaches anticipation is at a fever pitch for the Penguins, who will play in two new home venues this season: their new arena and Heinz Field for the Winter Classic.
The venues may change, but the players putting butts in the seats remain the same: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The pair not only gives Pittsburgh two of the top players in the world, but it also makes the team a free agent destination. General Manager Ray Shero was recently rewarded with a five-year contract extension for his ability to surround the superstars with complementary role players. Shero has an easy job as most salesmen would if their sales pitch could include Crosby and Malkin.
The offseason may have been the hardest on goalie Marc Andre-Fleury. A hero in the Penguins march to consecutive Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009, Fleury was the goat this past spring when he was burned for five goals in less than two periods against Montreal in the deciding Game 7 that he would watch the conclusion of from the bench. Maintaining his confidence will be of the utmost importance this season.
The Penguins finished with 101 points last season, two shy of division champs New Jersey and for good reason. The Penguins were 0-6 against the Devils last season. This season the Pittsburgh Penguins schedule has them off to New Jersey, of all places, for their first road game. The Penguins will christen their new arena Thursday night Oct.7 against Philadelphia with a rematch against Montreal looming as the second game of the season. The most anticipated game of the regular season is the Penguins’ New Year’s Day game at 65,000-seat Heinz Field for the Winter Classic.
The obvious offseason move for the Penguins is moving down Washington Place from their old barn, Mellon Arena, to their new digs, the CONSOL Energy Center. In terms of personnel Pittsburgh welcomes forwards Mike Comrie (Edmonton) and Arron Asham (Philadelphia) and Shero made good on his promise to beef up the defense with the signings of Paul Martin from New Jersey and Zbynek Michalek from Phoenix. Salary cap casualties include veterans Bill Guerin (Philadelphia) and Sergei Gonchar (Ottawa).
Pittsburgh Penguins Predictions: Outlook
The Penguins are expected to challenge for the Atlantic Division crown and a top seed entering the playoffs. Anything shy of an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals will be underachieving for this talented group.
The Penguins know what they are going to get from Crosby and Malkin. It’s the play of players like Jordan Staal and Pascal Dupuis that will go a long way in determining if the Penguins can finally earn a top seed.
The pieces around Crosby and Malkin have proven to be just as important as the two stars and Shero seems to have worked offseason magic again. This Penguins team is as well prepared as any to contend for another cup.
Pittsburgh Penguins Futures Odds
The Penguins are favored to win the Atlantic Division, where they are priced at -150. To win the Eastern Conference the Penguins are listed at +325 behind only Washington (+250). And to win the Stanley Cup the Penguins have the second best odds at +550 behind, once again, Washington (+500). Their season win total ‘over/under’ is 48.5, fourth highest in the league. Odds are courtesy of BetUS.
NHL Predictions for Pittsburgh Penguins
There’s very little value with the Penguins at –150 to win an Atlantic Division they have only won once (2008) since joining the division in 1997. While they have won the division only once in 12 years, the Penguins have won the conference twice in the past three seasons and the odds for them to make it a third time are +325 and there is plenty of value there.
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