The Pittsburgh Penguins’ fourth Stanley Cup win last season saw the Eastern Conference snap a run of dominance from their Western rivals that had stretched four campaigns.
With three wins from their opening six games of NHL 2016/17, their title defence has started steady, if nothing else. The Penguins can be backed at 9/1 to reign supreme once again this time around.
To emphasise the obstacle the Penguins are vying to scale though, no franchise since the Detroit Red Wings of 1997/98 has successfully retained ice hockey’s most coveted prize.
Indeed, no team since the Red Wings of 2008/09 has appeared in the Stanley Cup showpiece having accomplished the formidable task of raising the trophy the year before.
Based on their performances and those of their peers, here are the numbers the Penguins and their competitors must post in order to feature in this year’s final.
Excluding the 2012/13 edition, which was significantly reduced due to a lockout imposed by franchise owners, would-be finalists over the past decade need a regular season win percentage of 57% in the east and 60% in the west.
Eastern Conference outfits aren’t required to overcome divisional foes with the same frequency as their Western counterparts, who are expected to win 62% of regular season altercations with mini-league opponents, as opposed to 53% on the other side of the divide.
While Western Conference teams need a greater number of regular season victories, those battling to reach the showpiece in the east must score more goals.
With 3.02 scored per game on average, the east is the more prolific conference; the west trails with an average of 2.89 goals per game.
Looking at the post-season results, representatives from both conferences can’t afford more than five play-off losses according to the averages.
Again, though, it’s the Eastern Conference serving up the most exciting matches, with a mean of 54 goals scored by the would-be showpiece-maker and 40 conceded. In the west, those figures dip to 53 notched and 38 shipped.