NHL Stanley Cup Preview
Regulars Season Record: Tied (1-1)
The Final Round of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup is now set in motion and who could have guessed this match up. This script and outcome is probably already in production to be a Hollywood feature film. The Pittsburgh “Not them again” Penguins arrive in their 4th Stanley Cup Final since the inaugural Sidney Crosby era (2005) in which they have since never missed the playoffs. As the defending Stanley Cup Champions and Western Conference Regular Season champions they are poised to steam roll any and every team in their playoff run and so far they have lived up to expectations.
On the other end we have the Nashville “You’ve got to be joking!” Predators. Really not much can be said about them other than that, the Predators have never made it to the Western Conference final in team history, never mind the Stanley Cup final. The Preds. barely made the playoffs, not only did they get in as a wild card team, but they were the 2nd wild card spot in the Western Conference, 4 games behind the 1st wild card spot; Calgary Flames. However, since the playoffs began, the Predators found new life, where most teams seem to die out. They started with a rather easy 4 game sweep over the 1st place Chicago Blackhawks. Then struggled past the Blues and the Ducks, finding their way into the Stanley Cup finals in the same way they found their way into the playoffs.
The Predators and Penguins are polar opposites, not just in team history, but in team strategy as well. The Penguins are easily the best offensive team in the NHL, with stars upon stars scoring goals, even the no-name players are putting up big points. The Penguins are so dominant on offence that they regularly abandon defence all-together.
So when we hear that the Penguins have 4 injuries on defence including defensive leader Kris Letang. It’s easy to just shrug it off, when we hear the Pens win even after giving up 40-shots a game. They make-up for it on offence, which we know is hot, when the leading scorer is Jake Guentzel, among the likes of Malkin, Crosby and Kessel.
Nashville is like a mirror-image of the Penguins, even as far as strategy. They have such a strong defence that it doesn’t matter that they lost their points leader Ryan Johansen to injury, or anyone else on their rag-tag offence. The defence will literally do it all, even put up the points. as Ryan Ellis and P.K. Subban have proved over this playoff run.
Then cap off the back-end with goalie Pekka Rinne who is on a record setting pace for post-season goal tending with a .94 save percentage through 16 games. Only 16 goalies have ever won the Conn Smythe trophy, and Pekka Rinne may be the front-runner for 17. He leads all goalies in every major statistic even the goalies who never made it out of round 1.
If Nashville is going to be stopped. It’s going to take an unstoppable force to crack the Predator barrier they’ve set up. That being said, Pittsburgh is to dominant and to experienced to be phased by an 8th seed team no matter how good the defence. You’re pick to win the cup, should be determined by how firmly you believe the common phrase, “ Offence wins games but defence wins championships", As it seems this old adage will certainly be put to the test one more time!