When I was growing up, it was called the Stanley Cup Finals and sometime along the post-lockout world it became the Final; but whatever. Everyone is in the prediction business, so why not go for it myself??
Short and sweet, too.
As much as I loathe the Pittsburgh Penguins, this year they’re trying to be the first back-to-back team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998, which is made especially difficult in a salary cap world. Without Kris Letang and without Sidney Crosby at 100% (and even then he’s 2nd in playoff scoring), guys like Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel have stepped up in a big fashion, while I don’t think we’ve seen the best out of Phil Kessel yet. Hell, Matt Murray is trying for his second Stanley Cup in his rookie season, which is just wacky as hell when you say it out loud like that. However, the Penguins have really showed their depth and showed how their system really could be a model for most teams in the league going forward.
On the other side, the darling of the hockey world has been the Nashville Predators and the fans of Nashville who people are just discovering. While they don’t have the offensive fire-power, they do have some of the top defensemen in the league in Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and PK Subban. Upfront, Filip Forsberg has truly blossomed to the player people thought he was going to be, while Colton Sissons is going to get paid this summer because of his John-Druceian performance this playoffs. Luckily, Pekka Rinne has also came to play for the Predators after an up and down season for him this season. The loss of Ryan Johansen is a big one, but it’s a “next man up” mentality for this team who have really bought into Peter Laviolette’s message.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the Penguins react to having played so much since October 2015, as this is their second straight run of this magnitude. They aren’t the young guns they were back in 2008 and 2009 when they made this kind of run themselves. Coming off of two Game 7s in the past two series, the Pens could be running on fumes; but you can bet they have some gas in their tank saved up just for this.
The Preds, on the other hand, are amazing in team stats in having a +18 goal differential and only have let up 29 goals this playoffs. They’ll be very tested against the top scoring team in the playoffs, but Rinne will probably be equal to the task. As the second Wild Card in the Western Conference, this team is playing with house money. They don’t know they shouldn’t be here and are going to play the next however many games with as much enthusiasm as they did leading up to this.
PREDICTION: It’s really a “head vs. heart” for me because I know what the Penguins can do, but I think the Predators could really pull it out because they have the defense-first mentality that usually gets teams very far in the playoffs.
Predators in 7. Rinne will continue to be hot, the Preds defense will rule the day again, the Pens will feel the effects to all the games in the past two season and not have that extra juice needed to win.