This is a historic Stanley Cup Final for a couple of reasons.
- The Nashville Predators are looking to become the 24th team to win the Stanley Cup in the 124-year history of North America’s oldest major Professional Sports Championship Trophy.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins are looking to become the first repeat Stanley Cup Champion in 19 years, and the first to do so in the Salary Cap era.
- This will be the first Stanley Cup Final to feature two American-born Head Coaches (Peter Laviolette was born in Franklin, Massachusetts; Mike Sullivan was born in Marshfield, Massachusetts)
The Nashville Predators earned their way here by sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks in four straight games, beating the St. Louis Blues in six games, and then beating the Anaheim Ducks in six games in the Western Conference Final. If you take a look at the Preds, they are the most balanced team in the NHL. They have the best defensive core; their goaltender, Pekka Rinne, has been the best goaltender in the playoffs;, and despite losing Ryan Johansen to injury, a team that has been historically defense-first, is actually offensively balanced, thanks to forwards Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, and Pontus Aberg.
The Pittsburgh Penguins got here by beating the three toughest teams in the Eastern Conference: the Columbus Blue Jackets in six games; the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals in seven games, and the stingy Ottawa Senators in seven games. Despite having numerous injuries sustained in the playoffs, headlined by defenseman Kris Letang, the Pens’ resiliency, along with their best players coming up big when it mattered the most, have brought them back to the Stanley Cup Final, with a chance to become the first team in 19 years to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions.
Now there are a couple of things I’m looking for throughout the series. For Nashville, can they contain the Penguins’ two centers, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin? Can they shut down the Penguins’ Power Play? Can Pekka Rinne keep his performance up for one more best-of-7 playoff series? For Pittsburgh, can they slow down the Predators top line? Can they find a way to put a chink in the Predators defense? Can Matt Murray do it again after playing the last four games of the Eastern Conference Final? Can the Penguins take advantage of a Predators that haven’t played in a week? If you take a look at experience, only one person on the Predators has had Stanley Cup Final experience: Mike Fisher was playing for the Ottawa Senators when they lost to the Anaheim Ducks ten years ago. This will be the fourth time the Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final in the last ten years. They’ve been here before. They’ve experienced a lot. They know what it takes to win. They have what it takes to win. The potential of repeating as Stanley Cup Champions in the salary-cap era will be be a huge achievement. It could be the potential start of a legit dynasty. Either way, this series is gonna be a great one, unlike that other league where they have the same Finals matchup for the third straight year.
Prediction: PIT in 6