Point/Counterpoint: Which NHL team is the preseason favorite to win the Stanley Cup?

BY DI STAFF | OCTOBER 09, 2014 5:00 AM

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Pittsburgh Penguins

For the first time since their Stanley Cup victory in 2009, I feel confident in saying that the Penguins are a legitimate Cup contender in the NHL.

Everyone knows the story: for five years, a star-studded Pittsburgh lineup endured numerous injuries and playoff failures that culminated in the hiring of a new coach and general manager this offseason.

And while they are far from a perfect team, the pieces are there from which to build a legitimate threat as the season progresses.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, when healthy, are the two most dynamic players in the NHL, and are now entering their primes of their respective careers.

Since coming into the league, the duo have combined to win four out of the last eight scoring titles, a figure that would be higher had Crosby not missed 15 months with a concussion.

In the past, the Penguins were basically limited to what those two could do on the ice, getting little production from their third and fourth lines.

An improved group of depth forwards along with a new up-tempo system under head coach Mike Johnston should make the Pens a more well-rounded and dangerous team.

They also have the luxury of playing in the Eastern Conference. While the Blackhawks or Kings (who I’d consider to be the two best teams in hockey) will have to slug it out with the likes of Dallas, Colorado, Anaheim, San Jose, and St. Louis in the West, the East is essentially a three-team race between Boston, Pittsburgh, and Tampa Bay.

A weaker quality of competition will only go so far though. If the Penguins do manage to get out of the East (again, big if), they have the speed and talent to go toe to toe with just about anyone in a seven-game Stanley Cup Final.

— By Ryan Rodriguez

Chicago Blackhawks

Big names win championships, and the Blackhawks have plenty of big names. Chicago is returning stars like Corey Crawford, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and, tell me when to stop.

With so much talent, the Blackhawks are the favorite to hoist their sixth Stanley Cup and third in the last five years.

The Hawks also added more big names this offseason. The addition of Daniel Carcillo, who spent time with Stanley Cup winners the LA Kings, and the New York Rangers, who were runners up, from free agency will provide them with more even more depth on the left side that is already loaded with the likes of Bryan Bickell, Brandon Saad, and Patrick Sharp.

Another player to watch will be Tuevo Teravainen. Teravainen, only 20, is regarded as the Hawks top prospect and was injured for much of the preseason.

Corey Crawford is still one of the best goalies in the league, and with the addition of an added four feet to the restricted goalie zone, Crawford should be better than ever, with more room to move and more room to see.

The biggest challenge facing the Hawks will be the second half of the season; the Hawks opened up 27-7-1 before New Years, but then struggled mightily the second half of the season, limping into the playoffs in the fifth spot in the West.

The bandwagon is light right now, but If they can stay healthy, and the stars can continue to play as a team like they have in the past, look for stragglers to jump on and ride it all the way to the hoisting of another Stanley Cup banner. 

— By Ian Murphy

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