2017 NHL Stanley Cup Finals Preview – Pittsburgh Penguins vs Nashville Predators
The 2017 Stanley Cup pits the Pittsburgh Penguins, trying be the first repeat champions since the Detroit Red Wings back in 1998, against the last seeded Nashville Predators, who are making their first Stanley Cup appearance since they began in 1998. Yes, the Predators had their first season after the Red Wings won back to back Stanley Cups.
M2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs W2 Nashville Predators
Season Series: 1-1
Playoff Series History: None
What We Learned: The Penguins can find any way needed to win and the Predators keep defying expectations as the underdog.
Stars to Watch: As Sidney Crosby goes so do the Penguins. Crosby had five points in the Penguins four wins against the Senators and only one point in their three losses. Evgeni Malkin still leads the NHL in playoff scoring and Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Jake Guentzel are also in the top six. Jake Guentzel has three game winning goals this playoffs. The Penguins are deep and have many players that can score. Conversely, Filip Forsberg is the Predators leading scorer at eight. Ryan Johansen comes in at 13, only he’s injured and not available. Which is going to be a big problem against the talented centers the Penguins have. However, the Predators proved they could go up against good centers and win without him against the Ducks. Still, it’s a big loss. Colton Sissons has come on in his absence though and has two game winning goals this playoffs. P.K Subban is third in scoring by defensman for the Predators. If the Predators are to win, he and Viktor Arvidsson will need to deliver more.
Goalie Problem: Marc-Andre Fleury had played well and then had a bad game that wasn’t really his fault. But when you have two starting goalies you have no room for error, even if it’s not really your fault. So in comes Matt Murray, picking up exactly where he left off. I’m actually surprised how well Murray has played. He’s only let in one somewhat bad goal. The Penguins have a luxury of having two Stanley Cup winning goalies. Pekka Rinne has been mostly stellar throughout his Predators career. Now he finally gets to be on the biggest stage. Rinne leads the playoffs with a .941 SV%. Murray actually has a higher one at .946 but he’s played in far fewer games. Needless to say, there might not be a lot of goals scored.
X-Factor: The series will probably be determined by who sets up effective screens the most. You’re unlikely to beat either goalie otherwise. The Penguins and, especially, the Predators have been very effective of using screens and knocking home second and third chance rebounds.
Fun Fact: I’ll reiterate the same fact from the last round, the Penguins have not lost a playoff series under their new coach and they won the Stanley Cup the last two times they beat the Capitals in the second round.
Prediction: This should be an interesting series to watch. You have the more defensive minded Predators against the more offensive minded Penguins. You have the defending Stanley Cup Champions with a lot of playoff experience against the first time appearing Predators with a lot of players with no experience. Although both coaches have Stanley Cups already. Normally when you win Game 7’s you tend to go far and win it all. Which the Penguins have done. Although it’s true the Predators just haven’t played in one yet. It’s hard for me to pick against the Penguins, as this group really hasn’t lost a playoff series. Also the Senators forced the Penguins to make a lot of changes in the last series and they adapted and won. It should be an entertaining and close series but the Penguins star power and experience should prove to be the prevailing difference. Penguins in 7.
Author: Alex Mueller
Alex Mueller graduated from Temple University with a minor in journalism over a decade ago. He’s been writing about NHL hockey, on and off, since the Fall of 2009. He’s written for Pucking Awesome, the Checking Line and now Hockey Recaps. He currently plays goalie in ice hockey at San Diego Ice Arena.