The Stanley Cup title defense is now in full effect for our Pittsburgh Penguins. Just like last year the team enters the tournament in the 2nd spot of the Metropolitan Division. But other than that, this team’s identity is certainly different. That doesn’t mean their goal can’t be accomplished again, though.
Firmly, I believe that the 1st round matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets will dictate whether they make a return to the finals or not. By that I mean I feel that if the Pens were to advance past them it catapults them to the finals once more.
Columbus this year has been a thorn in the Pens side. They’ve played as well against Pittsburgh as any other team has. Winning 4-1 should be a hopeful turning point of things to come.
In recent years, the trend has been for the defending Eastern Conference or (Stanley Cup in the Pens case) champion representative to get knocked out in the Eastern Conference finals in 7 games the next year. Tampa Bay did it to the Rangers in 2015 and the Pens accompanied that favor the Lightning the next year, I don’t see that happening this time because the Atlantic Division has never been this unintimidating.
That’s why I think getting past Columbus should set the Pens on the path for where they wanna go.
I know everyone’s picking the Capitals (haven’t you heard “its the Caps year”) but I’m still gonna believe the Capitals will always choke until they prove me otherwise.
I’m aware Washington has defeated the Pens sometimes handily this year but it always struck me as this inside joke that only Pittsburgh players knew. That joke being they’ll let the Caps have that 1, get over confident, than the Penguins take it to them in playoffs as they have done before.
As stated before, the Atlantic Division is not as good as advertised this year so more of winning the 2nd round is the ticket to a Cup final.
There’s only a few questions on this team and most of them pertain to the culpability of the it with returns of some players and how they test with non returns of guys like Kris Letang.
What players will be paired with Evgeni Malkin?
Whose along side Justin Schultz on defense?
Can they overcome the injury to Letang?
Will Phil Kessel be reunited with Nick Bonino?
How can Patric Hornqvist be moved to the 3rd line?
My biggest concern really is defensive continuity.
There have been some chances given up on this year that seems to easily let loose. We have Olli Maatta coming back and Trevor Daley has a few games under his belt again so these concerns might be gone soon. No team other than the Blackhawks really concerns me in the Western Conference. It would be nice to get a bounce in our favor.
If they play the Blackhawks: Chicago in 7.
Any other Western Conference opponent: Pens in 6.
Playoff time! Buckle up!