The Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators begin the last seven game series of the season in a quest to obtain hockey’s ultimate prize. The Stanley Cup.
This is the Predators first trip to the Finals in franchise history. Pittsburgh is making appearance number six, coincidentally each time the make the Finals, they do it again the next year as well. Pittsburgh is 4-1 in the previous Finals appearances Losing to Detroit in 2008, and winning in 1991, 92, 2009, and of course last year.
Game Date Time (ET) Pittsburgh vs. Nashville Networks
Game 1 Monday, May 29 8 p.m. Nashville at Pittsburgh NBC, CBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Game 2 Wednesday, May 31 8 p.m. Nashville at Pittsburgh NBCSN, CBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Game 3 Saturday, June 3 8 p.m. Pittsburgh at Nashville NBCSN, CBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Game 4 Monday, June 5 8 p.m. Pittsburgh at Nashville NBC, CBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Game 5* Thursday, June 8 8 p.m. Nashville at Pittsburgh NBC, CBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Game 6* Sunday, June 11 8 p.m. Pittsburgh at Nashville NBC, CBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Game 7* Wednesday, June 14 8 p.m. Nashville at Pittsburgh NBC, CBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
KNOW THY ENEMY
The Predators got here by sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0, then they silenced the music of the St. Louis Blues 4-2. In the Western Final they pulled out the old Nintendo Entertainment System and went on a Duck Hunt, taking out Anaheim 4-2.
Pekka Rinne is 12-4 in these playoffs so far. The Nashville netminder has a GAA of 1.70 and a save percentage of .941. Eve-popping numbers and leading the league by far this Spring.
Nashville has a Top 4 on the blue line like no other. PK Subban, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm, and Roman Josi, they can play the game any way you want. They can lead the rush on their own, start a breakout with a crisp pass, get physical, or just shut you down with their defensive abilities.
This will be the biggest test for the Penguins who currently boast three of the top 5 scorers in the NHL this post-season in Crosby, Malki, and Kessel.
Nashville is led offensively by Filip Forsberg, he of 8 goals and 7 assists. Their second leading scorer, Ryan Johansen has 13 points but will not add to that total as he is out for the rest of the playoffs. Johansen had emergency surgery on his thigh during the last round.
Mike Fisher, another center is recovering from a concussion, but is expected to be available starting tomorrow.
In the absence of those two players, Colton Sissions and ex-Penguin, James Neal have carried the offense from the forward position. Pittsburgh will have a HUGE advantage up front and especially at the Center spot.
For Nashville to win this series, they will need to rely heavily on their back-end and Rinne as well. Nashville plays a more open free-flowing style than Ottawa presented. Given the Preds d-men loving to activate into the offensive zone, the Penguins may very well have a ton of odd man breaks IF they are smart and sound in their own defensive zone.
The Good Guys
Pittsburgh comes in at 12-7 so far this Spring, taking out Columbus in 5 games, the Washington Capitals in 7, and likewise for Ottawa.
The Penguins were physically beat up during the Ottawa series and had trouble emotionally getting right after a big time series with the Caps. The Penguins fought through it all and eventually found their game in the last four of the Sens series, dominating the Sens in play and needing a heroic effort in Game Seven to finally vanquish Craig Anderson and company.
You could say the Pens hit a wall at the beginning of it, and found their way through and started to play some of their best attacking hockey of the Spring.
The Pittsburgh defense is a patchwork crew, with Justin Schultz and Trevor Daley returning in the last round, it certainly has stabilized the unit in the absence of Kris Letang. Olli Maatta, despite having a rough Game 7 vs Ottawa, has been a big player for Pittsburgh in the first three rounds.
Jake Guentzel still leads the NHL with nine goals this Spring, but has hit a wall it seems. It will be interesting to see what kind of ice time the rookie gets to begin the Final round.
Patric Hornqvist appears to be ready to go after taking full part in Sunday’s team practice. Hornqvist missed most of the last series with what is believed to be a hand injury.
In net, Matt Murray has returned to the pipes as he took over for Marc Andre Fleury during the Sens series and been his usual solid self. He is 3-1 with a 1.35 GAA and .946 save percentage. Murray is looking to win his SECOND Cup in net, as a rookie.
The teams split the regular season series with both teams beating each other at home. Nashville 5-1 in Music City, Pittsburgh 4-2 at PPGPA.
Mike Warren dropping knowledge:
I expect this series to have a faster pace than the Pens/Sens matchup. Pittsburgh will find more open ice and room to operate. If the Penguins can maintain possession and generate in the offensive zone, the chances for success will be very high. Taking advantage of the powerplays given will also be key. Nashville is the best defensive team in the playoffs, and Pittsburgh is the highest scoring offense. The irresistible force meets the immovable object.
Nashville has lost one time on their home ice, so the Pens holding serve at home will be a key as well.
The last thing is the experience factor. Pittsburgh has been here on this stage last year. They know what to expect, I fully believe this will be a huge factor in the first two games until Nashville gets up to speed. It happened with the Sharks last year.
I’ll take Pens in 6. Once again winning the Cup on road ice and completing their dynasty with Sid and Geno and pushing past the greatness of the Lemieux, Jagr, Francis era.
Mike: Penguins in 5, back to back Stanley Cup Champs