The NHL season is finally reaching its business end, as the Stanley Cup playoffs commence soon. Two dozen teams await their challenge – Only eight teams will survive the Qualifying Round and advance to Round One and battle on of the top four teams for a spot in Round Two, the conference finals and eventually the Stanley Cup Final
The Pittsburgh Penguins are one of those teams with a legitimate chance to play into late September or even October to add a fourth Stanley Cup since the turn of the 21st century.
Fans and bettors can refer to the bet365 sportsbook in New Jersey for odds on the Penguins, who are offered at 13/1. Long but valuable odds, indeed, and comparable to the Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, and Vancouver Canucks 13/1, 24/1 and 34/1, respectively.
If it’s shorter odds fans are after, then the St Louis Blues are priced at 8/1 and the Philadelphia Flyers 11/1 by the same bookmaker.
When last did the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup?
In the Eastern Conference, the Penguins are faced with a taxing qualifying series schedule against the Montreal Canadiens. If they can get through this relatively unscathed, and maybe not even need the full five games, after all, it’ll be a promising sign for what’s to come across the rest of their campaign.
Jake Guentzel’s return will be a key factor, as will the combination of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Max Domi might be absent for the Canadiens, which could play right into the hands of the Penguins.
Mean machine Malkin
Malkin will be a characteristic kingpin for the Penguins. A playmaker of note, there’s something in his tone that all but pledges a big series from the soon-to-be 34-year-old.
“I’m rested. I’m glad to be back on the ice. It’s my job, it’s what I do all my life. We understand how important this year is for each player. I’m focused right now on my game. I sleep well and work hard every day and am practicing as hard as I can. In my head and my heart, it’s all about winning,” he said recently.
Mind the goal, Murray
And then there’s Matt Murray. Should he start, and he probably will, the large goaltender’s performance will be crucial to the Penguins. T
The Canadiens offense can come at the opposition pretty hard, and the Qualifying Round won’t be any different.
“You can’t really focus on the results. You have to focus on the process. That’s especially important right now, being patient with yourself but at the same time, trying to get on top of things as quickly as you can,” insisted Murray. “Because it is just a much shorter ramp-up period. It’s a unique situation, and you just have to do the best you can every day to try and get a little bit better and get prepared for game one when the puck drops,”
Beware that man Julien
The Penguins will need to overcome a chief tactician in Canadiens head coach Claude Julien, who has been at the fore of some clever line management of late. He’s arguably at the top of his game at the moment – a key juncture for Montreal and an ominous sign for Pittsburgh.
Who else is in the Eastern Conference qualifying round?
- Carolina Hurricanes
- New York Islanders
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Florida Panthers
- New York Rangers
Bustin’ the Bruins and Blues
It was tough to hold a candle to Boston Bruins and Blues during the NHL regular season, but the Penguins remained there and thereabouts throughout. They now have their chance to go even further, proving that the initial legwork could result in another proud title.