On Monday night in Pittsburgh, the 2016 Stanley Cup Final gets underway and the Penguins will look to win their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history. The Penguins opened as -120 favorites over the San Jose Sharks to win the series, and I think they’ll get it done.
They’ve already beaten the best
The Penguins have had the toughest road to the Stanley Cup Final in recent memory.
In Round 1, they had their way with the team that knocked them out of the playoffs the previous two seasons, the New York Rangers. In the five games, Pittsburgh outscored them 21 – 10.
Next up was the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals. After dropping Game 1, the Pens won four of the next five, winning Games 4 and 6 in OT.
The Eastern Conference Finals saw the Pens face more adversity than they faced all season against the defending Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Not only did they drop Game 1, they also lost two games in a row — something that hadn’t happened to them since mid-January. Throw in the heartbreaking Game 5 loss at home where they coughed up a lead late in the third equals every bit of momentum working against them in this series, but they overcame it and won in seven.
The points is, whether it was a former foe that’s had their number, the top regular season team, or momentum sucking losses that most teams would crumble under, Pittsburgh has taken on the best the league has to throw at them and have come out on top.
It doesn’t matter what your name is
Lundqvist, Holtby, or Vasilevskiy — it didn’t matter if it was a former Vezina Sportsbook, the regular season’s win leader, or a 21-year-old looking to make a name for himself. A hot goalie is often the deciding factor in a playoff series, but the relentless offensive attack of the Penguins didn’t give the opposing goaltenders much of a chance.
Averaging 35.1 shots per game in the playoffs so far (seven more than the Sharks), the Pens are applying a level of pressure that’s producing results. In Round 1, the unthinkable happened when the Rangers were forced to yank Henrik Lundqvist on two separate occasions after not being able to stop the puck from getting behind him. In Round 2 against Holtby — the likely Vezina Sportsbook — they scored three or more goals four times. Next up, the Lightning couldn’t do much to help their young goalie, as the Pens outshot them in all seven games, including three games where they had 20 or more shots on net.
Martin Jones will just be another name to add to the list.
History is on their side
History has a lot of good things to tell us about teams who are coming off a seven game series win in the conference finals.
Over the last 20 years, teams who win a conference finals in seven games are 9-3 in the Stanley Cup Final. However, two of the three that didn’t win were playing another team that won their conference final in seven games. So, it’s only happened once in the last 20 years that a team who won a conference finals in seven games lost in the Final when not facing an opponent who won their conference final in seven.
A lot to take in, and maybe something you'll have to read twice, but this is a historic trend that heavily favors the Penguins.
My prediction – Penguins in six