NHL Betting Preview: The Pittsburgh Penguins ran away with the Metropolitan Division in 2013-14 as their 51 wins and 109 points was enough for a 13-point cushion ahead of the New York Rangers at the top. The Penguins stumbled against the Rangers in the playoffs but that should serve as added motivation heading in to a new season in which they are the obvious favorites in the Metropolitan once again. Will Pittsburgh hold off the rest of the division to clinch top spot again in 2014-15? The Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers will certainly look to stop that from happening while fellow Metropolitan division stars like Alex Ovechkin and Eric Staal try to lead their teams back to the postseason.
Team That Could Surprise
Ovechkin and the Capitals missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007 a year ago but there is every reason to expect them to bounce back in 2014-15 beginning with the only player to score 50 goals last season in Ovechkin. The hiring of new head coach Barry Trotz gives immediate credit to Washington’s commitment to become a better defensive team and they wasted no time signing Mat Niskanen and Brooks Orpik to long-term deals in the offseason. Those veterans should help stabilize a defense core that includes Mike Green, Karl Alzner, and John Carlson while helping Braden Holtby as he continues to try to prove his self as the team’s No. 1 goalie. The emergence of Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov should help provide secondary scoring up front behind Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. The Capitals finished three points back of the two Wild Card spots last season but the stability that comes with Trotz’s arrival and the improvements made on defense should make them a legitimate contender in 2014-15.
Team That Could Disappoint
Pittsburgh won the division a year ago but it was the Rangers that went to the Eastern Conference final and that will lead to heightened expectations. Henrik Lundqvist remains one of the top goalies in the NHL but New York lost several veterans from last year’s roster including Brad Richards, Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman, and Benoit Pouliot. The news got worse when it was revealed that No. 1 center Derek Stepan suffered a broken bone in his leg in camp and could miss time, while veterans like Martin St. Louis and offseason signing Dan Boyle aren’t getting any younger. The Rangers are banking on that young players like Chris Kreider, Carl Hagelin, and Mats Zuccarello can take on bigger roles this year but after last year’s run this team is more likely to disappoint in 2014-15.
Who’s Most Likely To Win The Metropolitan Division
The Penguins should have no problem living up to their billing as the Pacific Division favorites as long as they stay healthy. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will give Pittsburgh the best 1-2 center tandem in the league and they have done a good job of building their roster around them with scorers like Chris Kunitz, Patric Hornqvist, and Pascal Dupuis. Pittsburgh will need Kris Letang to stay healthy and they added to their defense core with the arrival of Christian Ehrhoff this past offseason. Marc-Andre Fleury bounced back with some impressive stats a year ago and the Penguins brought in Thomas Greiss to back him up. The Penguins once again have one of the most complete rosters in the Eastern Conference and should be a lock to win the Metropolitan as long as they can stay healthy.
Will the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Metropolitan Division?