The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup a year ago with a combination of speed, razor-sharp offense and enough physical play to keep opponents off balance. However this season they have struggled to find those elements of their game and put them on display consistently this postseason.
Those issues disappeared Sunday, as the Pens rolled over the Ottawa Senators 7-0 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final to take a 3-2 lead in the series.
The Penguins followed much of the same formula the Senators used in Game 3, when they took a 4-0 first-period lead en route to a 5-1 victory. The Penguins built the 4-0 first-period lead this time and eased to the win.
The Senators may have been blown out in the game, but they will return home Tuesday night for Game 6 with a chance to even the series. The size of the loss may have brought one benefit for head coach Guy Boucher in that the Sens did not play superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson over the final 24 minutes of the game.
Sportsbooks reassessed the futures odds after the Pens’ smackdown of their Eastern Conference Finals opponents and have pegged the defending champs as the odds-on favorites. But don’t let this deviate you from your objective, monitor odds and take into consideration every aspect of performance.
Yes, the Pens are one game away from winning a seventh consecutive series something that hasn’t happened since 2009, and yes, they’re looking to become the first team to repeat since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings but getting this thing with Ottawa to 3-2 has not been easy and it would be dangerous to just write the Sens (+1000) off after all they’ve done this postseason.
Pittsburgh has been an impossible team to read through their 17 playoff games and I’m not prepared to just crown them champs. That opinion, however, could change very quickly if they put their competition away in Game 6 with any kind of authority.
The story has been shaping up similarly to that of last year’s run to the Cup for the tuxedo birds. Marc-Andre Fleury floundered, Matt Murray stepped up and the rest was history, as they say. Murray, who’s technically still a rookie, has looked phenomenal since relieving his counterpart in Game 3 and will give the Pens some incredible momentum if he’s able to once again keep the Sens at bay in Ottawa on Tuesday.
You should be able to get a similar price if they do happen to finish the job and get back to the penultimate series, though, so betting them in Cup futures right now seems a bit silly. Of the two favorites, the Preds at +180 seems a better choice.
Both teams are one game away from clinching, the difference? Nashville is at home, Pittburgh is away. Sign up at Heritagesports.