PITTSBURGH, PA – MAY 26: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in action against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 26, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

3 reasons why the Pittsburgh Penguins will win the Stanley Cup

The San Jose Sharks and the Pittsburgh Penguins will face off in this year’s Stanley Cup Final. The two teams enter the Final with very different stories and backgrounds, but both are more than capable of claiming the title.

As a result, this two-part series will look at why each team could win the Cup, beginning with the Penguins. We’ll soon put out Part 2 which will look at three reasons why the Sharks are going to hoist the Cup.

Here are three reasons why the Penguins could win the Cup:

1. Crosby and Malkin are gaining momentum

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have been the faces of the Penguins franchise for the last decade. The duo has been among the league’s best almost every year when they’re healthy. Each endured slumps and rough patches at different times throughout the 2015-2016 season. Malkin was battling injuries for most of the year and was limited to only 57 games. Crosby wasn’t the same for the first part of the season, but went on a tear after the All-Star break and finished 3rd in league scoring with 85 points.

While Malkin and Crosby weren’t on their games consistently throughout the regular season, the Penguins’ depth carried them forward. Now, Crosby and Malkin are starting to pick up their games and the entire Penguins offense is rolling. Malkin had six points and Crosby had five points in the seven-game series against the Lightning.

The Penguins have had three solid lines for most of the playoffs and with Crosby and Malkin getting better and better, the team’s offense is going to be hard to stop. Crosby and Malkin have been to this stage before and their experience will be a great asset for the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Sharks.

2. The HBK line

The “HBK line” comprised of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel has been a pleasant surprise for the Penguins since the line was formed. Since the trio were assembled on March 13th, they’ve had impressive stat lines in the 29 games (playoffs included) in which they’ve skated alongside each other.

Kessel: 13 goals, 17 assists, 30 points
Bonino: 7 goals, 21 assists, 28 points
Hagelin: 11 goals, 13 assists, 24 points

The HBK line has been the team’s most consistent line during this year’s playoffs and is a big reason why the team has made it this far. Each player has rediscovered their game playing alongside each other and has made the Penguins a matchup nightmare. In particular, Kessel is continuing to make Leaf fans weep with his point-per-game pace and has emerged as a dark horse Conn Smythe candidate.

The Sharks have a very equipped defensive core, but they’ll have a headache dealing with superstars Crosby, Malkin and the HBK line. If the HBK line can continue playing the way they have been, it’ll be hard for the Sharks to contain the Penguins high flying offense.

3. Matt Murray isn’t your average rookie

If you told someone before this year’s playoffs that the Penguins would make it to the Stanley Cup Final without Marc-Andre Fleury in net, you’d probably garner a few laughs in your face. The 21-year-old has crushed expectations and has been a steady and reliable option between the pipes for the Penguins during their playoff run.

“He’s a real hard competitor, and I think one of his biggest strengths is just his ability to stay in the moment and not get overwhelmed by the circumstances surrounding him,” Head coach Mike Sullivan told Yahoo.com.

The Penguins have been riding the hot hand and it has worked well for them. Murray has faced three teams that have had high-volume scorers and the Sharks are no exception. This may be Murray’s biggest test yet, but who says he and the Penguins can’t handle it?

About Jacob Stoller

I'm a freelance writer currently holding down writing gigs at Puck Drunk Love, Arctic Ice Hockey. I am the Managing Editor and Lead Writer of the Dump 'n Chase Blog ( dumpandchasesportsblog.com) & the co-host of the Sports Fanatics Podcast. Give me a follow on twitter: @NHLStoller