The defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins had little turnover to their roster this offseason. The only notable departures from last year's team, which provided Pittsburgh its first Stanley Cup since the 2008-09 season, were veteran defenseman Ben Lovejoy and backup goalkeeper Jeff Zatkoff (4-7, 2.79 GA). The loss of the productive Lovejoy would seem a hit, but coach Mike Sullivan has tabbed 2012 eighth-overall pick Derrick Pouliot as ready for action. Other than that, this is virtually the same team as a season ago.
Pittsburgh Penguins 2016 NHL Outlook
It has been almost two decades since an NHL team has repeated as Stanley Cup champs (Red Wings, 1997-98). The Penguins franchise itself has once accomplished the feat, earning back-to-back titles behind the legendary Mario Lemieux in 1992.
Repeating in today's salary-capped NHL is a huge challenge, but it seems not as tough when you possess the world's greatest hockey player. That's the role re-established by Sidney Crosby in the Pens run to the Cup. The "Kid," along with the Pens in general, were treading water in the first three months of last season under coach Mike Johnson. But once Mike Sullivan took over on Dec. 12, the light bulb flashed. Crosby torched the NHL for 66 points in the final 52 games, including 30 goals, and would also hoist the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.
The Penguins remain a dominant team entering the 2016-17 season. They now have two Stanley Cup-winning goalies in Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray, who was brilliant as a rookie last season when taking over for the injured veteran in the playoffs. That depth between the pipes will be stunted early, however, as Murray broke a thumb in the World Cup of Hockey and will miss the first few weeks of the season. But with that, add Crosby (36 G, 49 A), Evgeni Malkin (27 G, 31 A), Phil Kessel (26 G, 33 A) and the offensive firepower that scored the third-most goals in the NHL last season (2.94 GPG) and you have a dangerous squad.
Pittsburgh Penguins 2016-17 Schedule
The Penguins play the first three games and six of the first eight at Consol Energy Center, which sounds promising, but this won't be an easy stretch. Coming to town opening night is Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, who led the NHL in points (120) by a wide margin last regular season; followed by the Western Conference-contending Anaheim Ducks; and then a week later a rematch of last year's Stanley Cup Finals when the San Jose Sharks visit. Could there be a championship hangover early in Pittsburgh?
Pittsburgh Penguins NHL Future Odds
The Pens are listed at +1000 to again hoist the Stanley Cup, which behind the favored Chicago Blackhawks (+750) is tied with the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning for the second-lowest price. At +180, they are slightly favored over the Capitals (+195) to win the Metropolitan Division and at +400 they are the favorite to win the Eastern Conference.
2016-17 Pittsburgh Penguins Predictions
The Penguins have a stacked unit, featuring the best player in the world, which obviously respects and responds to the coaching staff. Its second-line center behind Crosby, the overshadowed Malkin, is one of the most potent scorers in the league having averaged a point a game last season. There are really no discernible holes with the defending Stanley Cup champs. The question for bettors, as always, is whether the +1000 offered on the Pens drinking from the Cup once again provides any value. Given the Eastern Conference looks as strictly a three-team race (Lightning, Caps, Pens), 10-to-1 seems a square price.
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