May 28, 2017 by The Waterboy Report
Who would’ve thought that we would be seeing the Nashville Predators representing the Western Conference in the NHL Stanley Cup Finals this year? After sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that has won three of the past seven Stanley Cups, the Predators went on to defeat both the St. Louis Blues and the Anaheim Ducks and are off to their first ever Cup Finals.
The task becomes much more difficult as they will have to dethrone the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins without their number one centre Ryan Johansen and their young winger Kevin Fiala.
Pekka Rinne is the primary reason why the Predators have had so much success during the 2017 postseason. Rinne leads all goalies in goals against average, save percentage and wins in the playoffs. The 34-year-old may be sensing that his years in the NHL are numbered and is doing whatever it takes to lead his Predators to victory.
Another great story coming out of the Preds’ run is that P.K. Subban, who was traded from Montreal to Nashville in the off-season, has made quite an impact on his new team. He is tied for 3rd in points by defensemen in the playoffs, trailing only Senators’ captain Erik Karlsson and teammate Ryan Ellis.
Taking a look at the Penguins, they have had their struggles in the 2017 playoffs. In the second-round, they took a commanding 3-1 series lead against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Washington Capitals. However, they allowed the Capitals to win the next two games and force a game seven, which the Penguins would eventually win. The Eastern Conference Finals also went to seven games where the Senators tied the game late in the 3rd period to force overtime. The Penguins eventually won the game in double-overtime as Chris Kunitz buried his second goal of the game to lead the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals.
Despite the Penguins barely scraping their way to the finals and the Predators winning each of their three previous matchups against the Blackhawks, Blues and Ducks in less than seven games; I still think yet another Penguins championship comes home to Pittsburgh.
The Penguins have Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin who have all averaged at least a point a game in these playoffs. Pekka Rinne has carried the Predators through the Western Conference; however it will be a very tall task to shut down the offensive weapons of the Penguins.
Additionally, without the presence of their top point scorer Ryan Johansen, it may also become a struggle for the Predators to produce consistent offense, especially when going up against two very capable goaltenders in Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray, who have both lead the Penguins to Stanley Cups in different seasons.
The Predators will push the Penguins to the edge and force a game 7, but the Penguins will win their 3rd consecutive game 7 of the 2017 playoffs and win their 2nd consecutive Stanley Cup. Penguins in 7.
By Luke Appia – Statboy