The Pittsburgh Penguins have taken a commanding 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final. Can they keep up the pressure in Nashville?
|Penguins vs Predators
ML +115 / -135
Here are tonight’s starting goaltenders, courtesy of LeftWingLock.
As those of you who read my Game 2 predictions article may recall, I happen to be in London, England at the present moment. That means that unless I want to drastically throw off my sleep schedule, I can’t watch the Stanley Cup Final live and instead have to resort to watching what ends up being a condensed version of the games thanks to the beauty of fast-forward.
And man, thank god for that. Because that third period pretty much completely undid whatever other commentary was worth noting.
Nashville struck first thanks to an unreal dangle from Random Stanley Cup Playoff Hero 2k17 Pontus Aberg. Aberg entered the zone without reinforcements, nutmegged Olli Maatta, cut to the inside and deked Matt Murray out of his skates.
Pittsburgh would get a powerplay and a chance to answer back momentarily. At the conclusion of the man advantage, Jake Guentzel banged home an embarrassingly easy goal through Pekka Rinne. How the 6’5″ Rinne couldn’t properly hold the goalpost and prevent the second-chance from glancing off his hip and in is beyond me. It’s a humiliatingly bad blunder.
Better look at how Guentzel’s goal got through Rinne pic.twitter.com/zI2t6TZyQJ
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) June 1, 2017
The second period would come and go without and scoring, but the Predators led in shots 32-19. Perhaps they would be able to steal a win after all. Granted, they had taken five penalties through just two periods but who knows? They’ve gotten this far.
Things unraveled quickly.
Off the opening faceoff, Bryan Rust somehow was able to create time and space for him to enter the Nashville zone with speed on the right wing. He shot low on Rinne and in turn generated the rebound chance he was looking for. Jake Guentzel swooped in and potted his second of the game just 10 seconds into the third.
— NHL (@NHL) June 1, 2017
That’s not just a juicy rebound. That is a succulent filet mignon hand-delivered on a silver platter screaming to be consumed with a copious amount of ketchup type of rebound.
So much went wrong on this play defensively that it’s really quite a wonder, but the bottom line is a goaltender has to be able to position themselves better to kick shots to the wings or corners, not the slot.
Just a few minutes later, Phil Kessel was sprung for a 2-on-1 with Scott Wilson. With Yannick Weber taking away Kessel’s ability to maneuver inside by sliding on the ice, Kessel instead quickly finessed away and hit Wilson with a pass to the crease. Wilson was barely able to get the toe of his stick on the pass, but Vern Fiddler (bless his back-checking heart) kicked the puck through the wickets of his own netminder.
But it’s okay, that wound wouldn’t stay long. Because 15 seconds later Evgeni Malkin charged in with a 2-on-1 and sniped Rinne high glove side to make it 4-1 and three goals in less than 3:30 of ice time.
Exit Rinne. The Preds would play backup goaltender Juuse Saros and he would make two stops. The rest of the third period was a hodgepodge of fighting and sloppy hockey. At one point P.K. Subban got Evgeni Malkin to get into a tussle, but it wasn’t so much a fight so much as it was aggressive hugging with a lot of swearing like a passive-aggressive family reunion.
Final score: Penguins 4, Predators 1.
There’s a lot to digest from this. Firstly, Pekka Rinne was bound to regress at some point. Fans were probably hoping that point would be October and not the final, but it is what it is. Two goals were horribly soft on his part, one was an own goal he allowed through the wickets and one was getting beat clean by one of the best scorers in the world.
It was a bad night. Problem was it was a bad night for the second straight time.
There’s been murmurs that Rinne could sit out Game 3, but I don’t buy it. Dance with the date that brung ya.
Matt Murray, his counterpart, stopped 37 of 38 shots. He’s been sharp and has not made mistakes.
Nashville had a 5-on-3 ruined by a Mike Fisher interference call after a minute of setup and took five penalties in the first two periods. They could have had a lot more because of hits like Matt Irwin’s on Matt Cullen or Mattias Ekholm’s slew of uncalled cross checks. It was a rough game from a team desperate for a win, but the line of discipline was crossed.
GIF: Cullen hit from behind into the boards. No call. pic.twitter.com/LX0udUrnK1
— Benstonium (@Benstonium) June 1, 2017
That’s where Pittsburgh’s leadership has really come into play. The Penguins are an incredibly patient bunch in that they know how to properly extoll their energy throughout a period and a game. They force mistakes and capitalize on them.
Say what you will about Sidney Crosby the player, the agitator, the referee negotiator. He’s the smartest hockey player alive. Watching him work under pressure is a marvel. He’s an incredible on-ice general. I respect the heck out of him as a leader because of the way he sees the ice and how he follows through on what he sets up.
Pittsburgh forced Nashville into penalty woes early on, then in the disarray at the start of the third sparked rush after rush after rush.
They’re playing like a team that’s won before. Maybe it’s cliche to say, but it seems apt.
Not to say the Predators have played poorly, but they simply have had too many glaring mistakes in their game.
Lack of depth has hurt the Predators. What once was their greatest ally has turned into a black hole. Depth was/is amazing with Nashville when Ryan Johansen is in to create a balanced top six. But forcing Aberg or Colton Sissons into a bigger role means lesser players then slide into the bottom lines. While the top six is still a serviceable unit, the fourth line was atrocious in Game 2.
With that said, they are returning home for the first Stanley Cup Final game in Tennessee history. P.K. Subban said the Predators would win Game 3 (I mean what else is he going to say but let the Messier media narrative commence!).
Nick Bonino, who took a slapshot to the foot in the first period of Game 2, was spotted yesterday with crutches and a walking boot. If he cannot play, Carl Hagelin will likely enter the lineup on the fourth line and bounce Carter Rowney up to the third.
The Penguins have now won 10 of their last 12 against the Predators. However, the home team has won the last five encounters now between these two teams.
I called Predators in six in my series preview as an attempt to catch lightning in a bottle. Well, in order for that prediction to hold true, the Preds will need to win tonight.
Taking a chance on a team rejuvenated by a home crowd is certainly not a bad bet, considering the line is not terribly slanted.
Prediction: Take the Predators to win Game 3. Play the over.
To make a play on the Stanley Cup Final, visit our sports book at https://www.betdsi.eu/gms-hockey.
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