After years of early playoff exits, the Washington Capitals flipped the script on the NHL last season by finally getting over the hump in the postseason en route to winning the very first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Nevertheless, when it comes to odds on which club will win the Metropolitan Division in the approaching campaign, the Capitals are not the front-runners.
At BetOnline, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be the +180 favorites, with the Caps (+240), Columbus Blue Jackets (+600), Philadelphia Flyers (+600), Carolina Hurricanes (+1000), New Jersey Devils (+1400), New York Rangers (+1600) and New York Islanders (+1800) Figuring out the listing.
Capitals eyeing a fourth straight division title
While the Capitals were known prior to last season for their inability to get the job done when the stakes are highest, they’ve been a great stake in 1 regard: Obtaining the Metropolitan Division. The Caps, who have won the division for three consecutive years, will ice largely the same roster from the Cup-winning team, but it remains to be seen if the death of head coach Barry Trotz will have an impact on the group. Former partner coach Todd Reirden was promoted to the role, which seems by the gamers to have been a positive choice.
Washington re-signed star defenseman John Carlson, Michal Kempny, Tom Wilson and Devante Smith-Pelly. On the lookout for a starting role, goaltender Philipp Grubauer was sent off to Colorado, while unproven netminder Pheonix Copley is poised to be the backup. Pittsburgh’s track record speaks for itself, but with the Capitals famously being an excellent regular-season team, I am not quite sure why they are +240.
Penguins poised to return to dominant form Fresh off a 100-point effort in the regular season, the Penguins eventually watched their reign of beating the Capitals in the playoffs end in a thrilling seven-game second-round series. The typical gifted suspects like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang stay, however Matt Murray fought in 2017-18, along with a .908 save percent will not be great enough to guide this team past the Capitals in the branch.
Forwards Matt Cullen and Derek Grant and veteran defenseman Jack Johnson were introduced into the fold in the offseason, with Conor Sheary and Matt Hunwick containing the very notable departures for the Penguins. Any group with Crosby and Malkin up front has a chance to compete, yet Pittsburgh’s depth has come to question, and the offense was criticized as being overly top-heavy. Considering they have won 2 Stanley Cups in the previous 3 decades, it’s understandable for oddsmakers to crown them branch favorites, but I’m much less confident in them as sportsbooks are.
Best of the rest
The Blue Jackets and Flyers are perceived as the two teams who have a realistic shot at creating a Metropolitan run, together with another four teams (Carolina, New Jersey, the New York Rangers and Islanders) back of this bunch. Columbus is in win-now style due to the looming unrestricted free agency of franchise goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and star winger Artemi Panarin, and the group appears to be in line for a major regression if it can’t bring back the pair.
Tabbed by most in the preseason for a non-factor a year ago, the Flyers made a surprising playoff appearance before bowing from the activity to the Penguins in the first round. The future is bright at Philly, but I don’t think this is the season they make a rush to the peak of the branch.
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