Tha Sports Junkies 101

Predators vs Penguins: Stanley Cup Final Preview

Chris Kunitz 2OT Game Winning Goal GAME 7 - Senators vs Penguins (05/25/17)

Chris Kunitz 2OT Game Winning Goal GAME 7 - Senators vs Penguins (05/25/17)


Pittsburgh Penguins (Metro #2 Seed), Nashville Predators (#2 wildcard in west)

Season Series: 1-1

Road to the Stanley Cup Final

Led by the NHL’s golden boy and their captain Sidney Crosby (89P, 75GP) the Pittsburgh Penguins reminded the league why they were the reigning champions during their 2016-17 campaign, taking home 111 points and finishing second overall in the league.

Once the playoffs came around not much changed either, as they rolled through a young Columbus Blue Jackets team in five games.

They then faced the adversity against the President’s Trophy-winning Washington Capitals and a gritty, inspirational Ottawa Senators team in the second and third rounds, respectively. Yet, they managed to persevere in back to back Game 7s en route to the Stanley Cup Final.

The Nashville Predators has had a much different season, to say the least. Coming into the year, many thought this was the team’s time to take control of the Western Conference and become the team to beat. However, the team was having trouble gelling properly.

The Predators might not have even made the playoffs if it wasn’t for a strong mid season push. A slow start and lack-luster finish left them with 94 points, the least amount out of all the teams who made the playoffs this year.

Ever since the postseason started, however, they’ve turned over a new leaf and are showing the league why they are the most exciting team in hockey.

They shocked the NHL by sweeping the veteran Chicago Blackhawks, who looked to be a conference final lock, in the first round. Nashville has since beat out the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks in 6 games to reach their first ever Stanley Cup Final.

Marquee Match-ups

Roman Josi v. Evgeni Malkin:

While Josi is a great player offensively (10P in 16 gp), he is even better defensively. He leads the team in ice time, while simultaneously having only four penalty minutes.

Many would think that he should be assigned to Crosby, and while the Pens’ captain has been phenomenal with 20 points, Malkin has been Pittsburgh’s biggest offensive threat.

Malkin is leading the playoff scoring race with 24 points. If Josi can shut down Malkin, then things will be much tougher for his linemate, Phil Kessel. This will leave the bulk of the scoring up to Crosby.

Justin Schultz v. Fillip Forsberg:

The Penguins would have much rather had Kris Letang, their number one defenseman, covering Forsberg. However after his season ending neck surgery, Justin Schultz will have to do. Schultz recently came back from an injury himself, playing a key role in Game 7, scoring a go ahead goal in the third and assisting on Chris Kunitz’s game winner.

He will likely be in charge of Nashville’s greatest weapon, Filip Forsberg.  The Swede leads the Preds with 15 points and the league with a plus/minus of +17 these playoffs. He runs the offense, as far as the forwards are concerned, and it’s in Pittsburgh’s best interest to keep him quiet.

Pekka Rinne (12-4, 1.70 GAA, .941 SV%) v. Matt Murray (3-1, 1.94 GAA, .946 SV%):

This is undoubtedly the most important matchup of these finals.

Murray was ousted by Marc-Andre Fleury for a period of time due to injury, but its clear that this is his job now. Despite only playing five games in the playoffs, Murray has returned to his rock steady regular season form. He will be responsible for stopping Nashville’s “Four Karlssons” as Kunitz put it (referring to P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis, Josi and Mattias Ekholm).

Pekka Rinne had a tougher regular season, but has picked up the play when it’s mattered. He’s number one in the playoffs in goals against average, save percentage, wins and shutouts. His play, coupled with Nashville’s high powered offense, could spell the end for Pittsburgh.


Nashville: Kevin Fiala (Day-To-Day, Fractured Femur), Colin Smith (Day-To-Day, Undisclosed), Ryan Johansen (Out for Playoffs, Thigh), Mike Fisher (Day-To-Day Undisclosed)

Pittsburgh: Patrick Hornqvist (Day-To-Day, Undisclosed), Chad Ruhwedel (Day-To-Day, Concussion), Kris Letang (Neck Surgery, IR)


Nashville in 7.

This will be a tight, back and forth series but ultimately Pekka Rinne and Nashville’s firepower will lead the Preds to their first ever Stanley Cup.

TSJ Sports Predictions

Cody Rusan (NHL Writer): Penguins in 6

Carlos Medellin (Head of NHL Dept.): Nashville in 7

Aldo Colon (NHL Social Admin): Nashville in 7

Nathan Farewell (NHL Writer): Penguins in 6

Seth Askelson (NHL Writer): Penguins in 5

Tate Bowen (NHL Writer): Penguins in 7

Game 1 goes Monday May 29th at 8 PM EST in Pittsburgh and can be caught on NBCSN or CBC.