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PHT picks the Stanley Cup winner — 10 reasons it’ll be the Pittsburgh Penguins

Apr 10, 2012, 5:34 PM EDT

Penguins win 2009 Stanley Cup

Picking a Stanley Cup winner isn’t easy. Of the 16 teams that made the playoffs this season, there might be 10 or 11 with a realistic shot to win a championship. And if the 2005-06 Oilers can make it to Game 7 of the finals, who are we to count out any?

But if we can only pick one team, we’re picking the Pittsburgh Penguins, and here are 10 reasons why.

1. Sidney Crosby – He’s the best player in hockey, and he’s arguably better today than he’s ever been. (Which makes sense given he’s only 24.) Consider: over the last two seasons, Crosby’s played 63 games and scored 103 points. Over 82 games, that’s 134 points. Obviously his recent concussion issues make you wonder if he can stay healthy the entire playoffs, but he’s looking pretty healthy now.

2. Evgeni Malkin – This guy’s winning the Hart Trophy. Fifty goals, 109 points, it’s a slam dunk. If Crosby’s the best center in the NHL, Malkin is the second best.

3. The best third-line center in the league – And that would be Jordan Staal. A Selke finalist last year, a lot of teams would kill to have Staal as their number one center. But the Pens are so stacked down the middle that he can focus on shutting down the other teams’ top lines.

4. A Norris-caliber defenseman – Of NHL d-men that played 50-plus games, only Erik Karlsson scored more points per game (.96) than Kris Letang (.82). While he’s not Zdeno Chara or Shea Weber when it comes to shutdown abilities, Letang has turned into one of the elite blue-liners in the league, and he’s more than made up for the loss of Sergei Gonchar, who was so key for the Pens during their trips to the finals in 2008 and 2009.

5. Above average goaltending – Which might be understating it. Marc-Andre Fleury’s numbers (.913 SV%, 2.36 GAA) aren’t up there with the best in the NHL, but he must be okay if he’s made it to the finals twice. With the second-most wins in the NHL (42), and playing goal on a team that likes to trade chances, many think Fleury should be in the Vezina discussion.

6. Special teams – The power play ranks fifth (19.7%) and the penalty kill third (87.8%). Add 19.7 and 87.8 together and you get 107.5. No team has a higher combined rate than Pittsburgh.

7. Scoring depth – When the Pens went to the finals in 2008 and 2009, they relied on Crosby and Malkin for so much of their offense. This year they’ve got a 40-goal scorer in James Neal, plus forwards like Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and Matt Cooke enjoying career seasons.

8. Toughness – For all the talent they boast, you can’t push the Penguins around. Neal, Cooke, Arron Asham, Brooks Orpik, Craig Adams, Deryk Engelland, and Joe Vitale provide the requisite playoff grit. Not to mention Malkin, Crosby and Staal are no shrinking violets.

9. Coaching – Last year Dan Bylsma won the Jack Adams for getting the Pens into the playoffs despite Crosby, Malkin and Staal missing half the season. Bylsma was also behind the bench for the 2009 Cup victory.

10. Experience – With two trips to the finals since 2008, the Penguins know what it takes to win and they know what it’s like to play in big games. Among the current Pens that won rings in 2009: Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, Staal, Letang, Kunitz, Cooke, Adams, Orpik, Dupuis, and Tyler Kennedy.

PHT Stanley Cup Playoffs Links

Eastern Conference previews

No. 1 New York Rangers vs. No. 8 Ottawa Senators

No. 2 Boston Bruins vs. No. 7 Washington Capitals

No. 3 Florida Panthers vs. No. 6 New Jersey Devils

No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 5 Philadelphia Flyers

Western Conference previews

No. 1 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 8 Los Angeles Kings

No. 2 St. Louis Blues vs. No. 7 San Jose Sharks

No. 3 Phoenix Coyotes vs. No. 6 Chicago Blackhawks

No. 4 Nashville Predators vs. No. 5 Detroit Red Wings

More:

Click here for the entire 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs TV schedule (all of which will be televised by NBC Universal).

– To weigh in on who you think will win the Cup, vote in our poll.

– For PHT staff playoff picks (in five words!), click here.

  1. pdmjr - Apr 10, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    That’s a lot of talent, experience and everything else :)

    • letangusespertplus - Apr 11, 2012 at 6:09 AM

      Don’t forget girth. Very girthy squad they put out on the ice every night. Including Richard Park. The stereotype isn’t true about that one.

  2. kingjoe1 - Apr 10, 2012 at 5:44 PM

    They are awesome! We should send them the banner now and forget about the fact that Malkin is soft and Crosby could be on shelf simply by running into a teammate. Fluery is decent, but he has his ups and downs as well.

    • pensswag91 - Apr 10, 2012 at 5:48 PM

      Malkin soft? I don’t know what Malkin you have been watching this season. And as far as Crosby goes, any player can have a freak accident and be out for an extended period of time. The Pens are coming into this playoffs a strong team and undoubtedly the favorites for the cup.

    • jpelle82 - Apr 11, 2012 at 2:16 PM

      decent is an understatement of fleury. you must not watch hockey if you think malkin is soft.

  3. pensswag91 - Apr 10, 2012 at 5:44 PM

    This article pretty much sums it up. There really is no logical argument against the Pens winning the cup this year.

    • biasedhomer - Apr 10, 2012 at 6:48 PM

      Except for the fact there is a more all around talented (on paper) team sitting in the West.

      • itsallniceonice - Apr 10, 2012 at 7:30 PM

        That sure got them far against the Bruins…

    • jond86 - Apr 10, 2012 at 10:41 PM

      Here is one. It is playoff hockey.

  4. lsxphotog - Apr 10, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    Going to be hard for them to win the cup when they don’t make it past the first round….

  5. jdubs21 - Apr 10, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    Too bad Philly is going to take too much out of them to make it all the way

  6. philly4lyfe - Apr 10, 2012 at 5:47 PM

    We’ll be sure to bring all this up again when they go out in the first round to the flyers.

    • danphipps01 - Apr 10, 2012 at 11:31 PM

      Oh, God, I am going to LOVE listening to the excuses you kids bust out when this series ends and Philly comes up short.

    • jpelle82 - Apr 11, 2012 at 2:18 PM

      must be terrible being a philly fan. in the only sports that matter you cant seem to get a win when it counts…eagles and flyers, true winners you have there.

  7. billsfan13594 - Apr 10, 2012 at 5:49 PM

    Malkin always plays great when sid’s out, but honestly, is Malkin better than Datsyuk, Toews, and Stamkos (especially when he doesn’t play as well when crosby is leading the charge)? This season, sure, but don’t try and pawn him off as the second best center in the league. And I don’t think Dupius and Cooke should depended upon as “scoring depth” for a postseason run.
    Should be a great first round series no matter what though.

    • jobotjones - Apr 10, 2012 at 6:10 PM

      Dupuis and Cooke are grinders with 20+ goals in carreer seasons…I’d sure consider that depth.

      • billsfan13594 - Apr 10, 2012 at 8:44 PM

        I think you may have just proved my point. Grinders whose careers’ are peaking in the regular season aren’t scoring depth…it’s a mirage.

      • danphipps01 - Apr 10, 2012 at 11:34 PM

        Yeah, that’s MUCH more likely than the other explanation – that they’re just plain hot right now and are going to stay hot in the playoffs. Seriously, what on Earth is the point you think you’re making? Would you be more intimidated if they were slumping? Is it somehow a disadvantage to be riding a seventeen-game point streak in your mind? I cannot fathom how having them play better than they ever have somehow qualifies as a bad thing.

    • hazlydose - Apr 10, 2012 at 9:25 PM

      Dupuis has the longest point streak in the NHL this year. Oh, and its still active going into the playoffs

    • benzoids - Apr 10, 2012 at 9:35 PM

      Geno played pretty well during the Cup year. Sid was playing then.

  8. govtminion - Apr 10, 2012 at 5:54 PM

    Whichever team gets out of the Battle of PA alive is going to be miserably exhausted. Better hope for a cakewalk second-round opponent! I’m almost sorry we’re getting these two in the first round, it feels almost like we’re having dessert before dinner.

    Oh, and B’s for the Cup. I’m a homer, you see (even though I don’t live in Boston).

    • bmscalise - Apr 10, 2012 at 6:57 PM

      This aspect of the series is overrated. All playoff series will take a lot out of you – period. The Pens went through Philly in the first round in 2009 and weren’t too tired to get through Washington and Detroit.

      And more to the point – that 2009 Flyers teams was tougher physically than this one. The Flyers don’t win by pushing people around physically on the ice (like the Bruins or the Blues); they try and win by agitating and after-the-whistle crap. Those aren’t the same thing.

      The Flyers do have a big blue line, which will be the Pens greatest challenge. But I would argue that the Pens have a greater number of punishing hitters: Orpik, Engelland, Kunitz, Cooke, and Letang and Neal when they need to be. The Flyers have Hartnell, Simmonds, and Rinaldo running around taking cheap shots.

      The emotion of the series will be very high – but the physicality won’t be significantly higher than many of the others. People seem to forget that both of these teams are built primarily for speed and skill.

      • itsallniceonice - Apr 10, 2012 at 7:33 PM

        I completely agree. If this was true then Boston should have been exhausted after Montreal, especially after 7 games, and going down 0-2 right off the bat. They came back after and swept Philly yada yada. Every series is tough and takes a lot out.

  9. biffnasty - Apr 10, 2012 at 5:54 PM

    Silly…firstly, if the pens escape the 1st rd they are going to be so beat up physically they will have nothing left in the tank to make it out of the 2nd round

    • pensswag91 - Apr 10, 2012 at 5:56 PM

      Unless Philly just lies down and gives the series to Pittsburgh.

    • murtdurt - Apr 10, 2012 at 10:34 PM

      Have you not read any of the comments above? Every playoff series is emotionally and physically. If they can’t get up to play in the second round then they don’t deserve to be there but most of the comments are people looking for reasons as to why these 2 teams won’t go far. People forget we are talking about grown professionals who train all year for the next 2 months. Not having anything left in the tank are comments made by people who have never actually played hockey.

    • danphipps01 - Apr 10, 2012 at 11:41 PM

      And like niceonice said, that argument is observably moronic. Let’s just look at last year – hard-fought battles in the East in Boston-Montreal and Tampa-Pittsburgh were followed by sweeps of what were supposedly Cup contenders in Philly and Washington. A hard, grinding six-game battle between one of the toughest and most physically-active teams in Nashville didn’t stop Vancouver from utterly butchering San Jose.

      Hell, let’s go back a bit further. Pittsburgh won their Cup after two vicious battles against Philly and Washington early on. Sure, the Carolina sweep gave them a breather before the Detroit series, but how many people like you were crowing that they were sure to lose to Washington after burning out beating Philly? If the Flyers couldn’t burn them out then, the winner of that battle (whoever it may be) isn’t going to be burned out now. No matter who comes out of it, they’ll be good to go for the next opponent. Simple as that.

  10. nepo784 - Apr 10, 2012 at 5:57 PM

    8. Toughness…. What?!? Lol. That’s comical

  11. id4joey - Apr 10, 2012 at 6:11 PM

    And the Philly fans are whining again…..

    • maalea - Apr 11, 2012 at 12:37 PM

      that’s funny. Comming from the biggest whining team in the league.

  12. id4joey - Apr 10, 2012 at 6:13 PM

    And the Philly fans are whining again. Stop whining and start winning.

  13. pastabelly - Apr 10, 2012 at 6:14 PM

    They might have to beat Philadelphia, Boston, NY, and Vancouver in consecutive series. It’s not happening.

    • napoleonblownapart6887 - Apr 10, 2012 at 9:05 PM

      Welcome to the playoffs – not really an easy road for anyone. Those are four great teams to be certain but it’s not prohibitive of them winning it all…

  14. stakex - Apr 10, 2012 at 6:27 PM

    Above average goaltending? If not for Marc-Andre Fleury the Pens probably would have won at least a couple cups over the last few years. At best its a net neutral… at worst, hes a reason they probably won’t win.

    I personally don’t think the Pens will make it past the Flyers, but if they do they might well take too much of a beating to go all the way. Not to mention most of the rest of the league agrees with what John Tortorella said (and was fined for)… which is just extra motivation against the Pens.

  15. biasedhomer - Apr 10, 2012 at 6:46 PM

    “For all the talent they boast, you can’t push the Penguins around…Not to mention Malkin, Crosby and Staal are no shrinking violets.”

    Crosby is no shrinking violet? Get some objectivity, No one will ever mistake him for a tough, gritty player.

    • bmscalise - Apr 10, 2012 at 7:08 PM

      Are you serious? Well, maybe, but you’ve clearly not watched the Pens play much. Since the day he came into the league, Sid has been dubbed the most talented grinder in history. He makes his living in the “dirty” areas of the ice – and is more than willing to throw a cross-check or slash if it gains him some space. Like him or hate him, no one has ever debated this basic description of his game.

      • kitshky - Apr 10, 2012 at 7:48 PM

        Hey! This is a “debate” between Pens fans and Flyers fans … you can take your “facts”, “objectivity” and “history” and kindly leave.

        (and dont let the illogical hysteria hit ya on the a** on your way out!)

  16. num1eaglesfanyo - Apr 10, 2012 at 6:51 PM

    Stop whining and start winning? Flyers pens 4-2 Flyers! Id say that’s winning douche bag maybe u should start watching hockey rather than reading other peoples posts!

    • murtdurt - Apr 10, 2012 at 10:38 PM

      Typical flyer fan relishing in regular season wins ;)

      • emoser - Apr 22, 2012 at 4:31 PM

        You’re right. Hope you don’t mind if we relish in our 4-2 playoff record instead.

    • crosberries - Apr 11, 2012 at 12:01 AM

      No one should ever take anything you say seriously with the name num1eaglesfanyo wow

    • chizmo - Apr 11, 2012 at 8:20 AM

      no hockey on til tonight :(

  17. Buffalo Grumblings - Apr 10, 2012 at 6:54 PM

    How does 134 points over 82 games make Crosby the best hockey player. Gretzky got that in less than a full season without missed time for concussions. Go back and look at the numbers of guys like Mike Bossy and Bobby Orr. Crosby couldn’t wear their jock straps. He is good, just not the best, now or ever.

    • hazlydose - Apr 10, 2012 at 9:28 PM

      The goalies were horrendous back then…

      • Buffalo Grumblings - Apr 11, 2012 at 1:35 PM

        you started following hockey when?

    • letangusespertplus - Apr 11, 2012 at 6:12 AM

      Thanks for comparing him to the all time greats and then acting like that’s not a good thing. Really helps your point be validated.

  18. DTF31 - Apr 10, 2012 at 7:12 PM

    If the Pen’s get knocked out, it’ll be in round 2. I see they rolling into that series, if they beat Philly, with a lot of bruises and coming off the let down of being removed from your biggest rival (Like how Vancouver appeared to struggle with intensity and focus during Nashville last year after beating the Hawks).

    Once the ECF hits and they’ll be smelling it too much to get beaten there.

  19. hockinj25 - Apr 10, 2012 at 7:22 PM

    All of these articles saying they are the favorites and they are so good are just dooming them. The consensus favorite rarely wins.

    • bmscalise - Apr 10, 2012 at 7:26 PM

      Pfft. 2010 Hawks were rightly the consensus Cup favorite from the beginning of the year.

      • phillyphever - Apr 10, 2012 at 7:42 PM

        Did help that the East was bad that year (and FYI, I never gave the Flyers a shot at beating Chicago that year. It was a damn miracle that they even got there).

      • hockinj25 - Apr 10, 2012 at 9:07 PM

        I said rarely, not never.

  20. phillyphever - Apr 10, 2012 at 7:22 PM

    Dear National Media,

    You do know all of you are just increasing the size of the bulls-eye target on the Penguins right?

  21. neelyisgod - Apr 10, 2012 at 7:35 PM

    To be the Champ, you first must beat the Champs. GO BRUINS!!!

  22. GenoPringles - Apr 10, 2012 at 7:42 PM

    PCT should do a story on the 500 reasons why Filthy smells and how they will never win another cup

  23. nmm66 - Apr 10, 2012 at 7:59 PM

    Typical ‘media-guy from Vancouver’ move by not picking the Canucks.

  24. matthews4 - Apr 10, 2012 at 9:21 PM

    They forgot reason 11, no matter what they do, no Pen will be suspended. Plus it’s been a while since Bettman’s daughter Cindy held the cup.

    • sfbookreviews - Apr 10, 2012 at 10:08 PM

      Google Kris Letang, genius. And so original calling Sid Cindy. I’ve never seen that before.

    • pensswag91 - Apr 11, 2012 at 1:18 AM

      Because suspensions are a common thing in the playoffs…

  25. bleed4philly - Apr 10, 2012 at 10:03 PM

    Say that after they get bounced in the first round. Crosby is one concussion away from another profession.

    • pensswag91 - Apr 11, 2012 at 1:20 AM

      Bryzgalov is about one concussion away from making sense in interviews

  26. kibbee2545 - Apr 10, 2012 at 10:46 PM

    What. Cry baby Crosby win the cup. What a joke. They have not drop the puck yet, it is play off time.

  27. num1eaglesfanyo - Apr 11, 2012 at 12:10 AM

    Yea and crosberries doesn’t contradict the whole soup can thing right? get a life douche

    • letangusespertplus - Apr 11, 2012 at 6:15 AM

      What’s up Jesse Pinkman. YO!

  28. bobhpine - Apr 11, 2012 at 1:23 AM

    For a city that has seen the careers of lindros, primeau and now possibly pronger ended with concussions, the talk about crosby going forever with one is disturbing… maybe it should be expected from the most hateful and pathetic fans in all of sports

  29. bobhpine - Apr 11, 2012 at 2:27 AM

    I make save…my wife humongous siberian husky…she like bear in forest…we people all humongous small…life short

  30. markcycy - Apr 11, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    crosby never makes it through w/o another concussion

  31. mucker87 - Apr 11, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    Amazing how this thread smells rancid from the comments by delusional Flyer fans. There’s only one thing worse than playing for the perennial losers from Eastern PA…that’s being one of their scumbag fans! Pens in 6…LETS GO PENS!! Oh…BTW Buffalo Grumblings your completely FOS! Really!!…comparing Bossy and Orr to Sid??? You probably aren’t old enough to have ever watched them play live…but I have…and Crosby is 5 times the player that the great Mike Bossy or Bobby Orr ever was. Different game….different time…different positions and I’m a HUGE Bobby Orr fan! Sid is a much better athlete than either and would skate circles around them. Ask Wayne Gretzky who the best players are…let me answer that for you dbag…#1 Mario Lemieux….#2 Crosby. I’m going to LMAO when you see Crosby’s numbers at the end of his career. Don’t believe I’ve seen more uneducated hockey fans on one thread before.

    • Buffalo Grumblings - Apr 11, 2012 at 9:24 PM

      OK Skippy (aka mucker87) let me update you. I watched Orr play for the Oshawa 67’s in the old OHA junior league. You must have seen a different player than I did if you think Crosby was a better skater than Orr. Bossy never scored LESS than 50 goals per season for his career. Gordie Howe would have put Crosby into next week if he started his whinning back then. Different game, different time. Yeah, no helmets, no concussions like now. Did you ever see one of Bobby Hulls slapshots in person? And his brother Dennis was harder yet. Hell Bobby Baun played on a broken leg for the Leafs in the ’67 finals. Look at Orr’s +/- rating. Looks like a typo. Did you ever see Curt Bennett fight? Don’t tell me how tough todays players are. You also are assuming that Crosby will play another 10 years. Know your history before you start spouting off at the mouth.

    • phillyphan83 - Apr 22, 2012 at 5:17 PM

      boom! Enjoy the off season loser!!!

  32. sizzle299 - Apr 13, 2012 at 11:20 PM

    Two less reasons…..Games one and two. let ‘em in..

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