June 23, 2017

Mystique vs. mayhem in unlikely Stanley Cup Final

30 May 2017, 03:25 | Tami Weber

Nashville is poised to make an incredibly strong final stretch for the Stanley Cup. The D-Core of P.K. Subban, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi have been lights out all season, and when they have a goaltender like Pekka Rinne manning the pipes, it doesn't seems to be such a shocker than Nashville got to where they are.

The formula that head coach Peter Laviolette would like to see his team employ is getting off to an early lead, press the attack with scoring from the back line and then receive superb goaltending from Pekka Rinne.

Fisher's potential addition to the lineup gives a boost down the middle to the Predators, who are without Ryan Johansen for the remainder of the playoffs.

The Predators began their first three play-off series away from home this year and won Game One each time on the way to their first Stanley Cup Final.

What we need in these Finals is for Matt Murray to play like he did a year ago and for Marc-Andre Fleury to play like he has been in the first two rounds of these playoffs. Down 2-1 in the Eastern Conference final, the Pittsburgh Penguins spoke about the dangers of blowing an opportunity to reach the Stanley Cup final.

With a handful of familiar faces on both sides. Nashville a city never known for supporting a hockey team has rallied behind this team.

"I mean, we certainly aren't calling ourselves that", said Predators forward Colton Sissons, "but we've been looking at ourselves with a bit of that underdog mindset, that attitude that we're proving everybody wrong...we just fully believe in ourselves, whatever anybody on the outside of our room wants to call us".

The Penguins have the NHL's best one-two center combination in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. "It is just another game for us, that is the way we look at it". "Over here we're going to make the most of it". "I think on the ice, he's a piece of garbage", said Scott.

While the two teams aren't that far apart in terms of post-season penalty-killing numbers, the Penguins have a significant advantage in power play stats. The standout defensemen and unheralded centers of the Nashville Predators.

Matt Murray, Jake Guentzel, and Olli Matta are all big parts of this Penguins team, and they are all under 25 years of age. But Filip Forsberg, no relation, is seeing his name recognition grow in this postseason. Entering Thursday's game, Kunitz had two points, both assists, and was averaging little more than one shot on goal per game. Just the first meeting we had, like, 'What are your goals?' He leads the team in scoring with 15 points in 16 games. If the Penguins take the first game or even the first two, I can see Pittsburgh repeating in 4 or 5. The Predators have gained some rest as they took the Ducks out in 6 while Pittsburgh had a few more days to fight for their 2nd straight Cup berth and had to win a double overtime game. Colin Wilson hopes the team can respond well. The NHL now has only six American-born coaches. MacLellan fortified the defense with the signings of Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, and then a year later, he bolstered the forward corps with the additions of T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams. He could eclipse even Mario with a third Cup (Lemieux has added two as an owner) and add to an already storied legacy, which includes a Conn Smythe Trophy.

The Predators opted for a bold move the Capitals hadn't considered. Nashville swept Chicago in four games and continued their rampage beating St. Louis and Anaheim in six games to win the Western Conference.

Should be one heck of a series.

"I know what he's going through and what he dealt with", said Kessel. "But for whatever reason, it didn't happen. But obviously, right now, I'm going to a team that wants me and the Montreal Canadiens felt they had to take it down a different path", Subban told ESPN after the trade.

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