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Pittsburgh Penguins: Three teams standing in the way of the three-peat

As the 2017-2018 NHL season approaches, the Pittsburgh Penguins will look to defend their title for the second straight season.  With all players signed, and a trade for a third line center in the works, the Penguins look poised for another strong season.

Every season, different teams rise and defy odds.  This year, it was the Nashville Predators, who threatened the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final.  Heading into next season, I expect three teams to give the Pens all they can handle in their quest for a third straight Stanley Cup.

Tampa Bay Lightning

After missing the playoffs this past season, the Lightning are looking for a bounce back year.  Captain Steven Stamkos missed the majority of the season, which led to the downfall of his team.

The Lightning made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015 and battled the Penguins in the 2016 Eastern Conference Final, which went seven games.  Recent playoff success could lead to another long postseason for the Bolts.

Ex-Penguin Chris Kunitz signed with the Lightning this offseason, which could lead to an interesting Eastern Conference Final if the two teams meet again.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Although the Leafs are still a young team going through the maturation process, they are turning into the fastest team in the league.  In 2016, the Penguins were the fastest team, which led to their first Stanley Cup.

The Maple Leafs took the Presidents Trophy winning Washington Capitals to six games, including five that went to overtime.  The Leafs showed that they have what it takes to go deep in the playoffs.

With young stars Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner leading the way, the Leafs could give the Penguins a taste of their own medicine by using speed and skill.

Edmonton Oilers

The final that everyone wants to see.  Crosby vs. McDavid.

The Oilers fell to the Anaheim Ducks in the second round of last years’ playoffs, but they showed signs of promise.  The Ducks are a very experienced team with great defense, and the Oilers were able to take them to seven games.

With Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl leading the way offensively, the Oilers can score at will.  Similar to the Penguins, the Oilers have depth scoring, with all four lines contributing offensively.

Speed kills

The Lightning, Maple Leafs, and Oilers all have one common element.  Speed.  Skill and speed are taking over in the NHL, which is leading to more teams ditching the physical style that the Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins used to win their Stanley Cups.

The Penguins have speed, but it’s just a matter of time before another team outskates them.

Yardbarker: NHL