In just over three weeks, the 2020-21 NHL will get underway after months of uncertainty. Once the news broke late last week that hockey was on the horizon, news surrounding the new season slowly started to trickle out and we are still learning more and more with each passing day.
One piece of information that was officially confirmed after being long rumored was the temporary divisional realignment for the upcoming season. For the Pittsburgh Penguins, not much changed from their permanent home in the Metropolitan division.
They will still do battle with annual rivals the New York Islands, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, and Washington Capitals. The only change will come with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes being replaced by the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres.
On paper, this division looks like an absolute slog where survival of the fittest might be the only way to determine who makes the Stanley Cup playoffs come May. If you take into account the Qualifier round from last season’s playoffs, six of the eight teams made it to the Toronto bubble.
Despite having to play in this gauntlet of a division, Vegas is placing the Penguins among the favorites to skate away with the division crown once all the dust settles in the spring.
Trailing just the Bruins and Flyers in the early odds, the Penguins are a popular pick to not only survive the divisional fight, but come out on top. If you ask me, this feels about right given what we know about the Penguins and their upcoming opponents.
Only the Bruins stick out as a team that seem a step better than the Penguins as the new season approaches. There are certainly teams who may be even with the Penguins, but it’s hard to totally discount a team that features Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
While these early odds are certain to change once the puck drops and we learn more about what each team brings to the ice, there seem some big believers in what the Penguins are capable of even if there are some within the Penguins own fanbase who aren’t very high on the Penguins prospects this upcoming season.