Mystique vs. mayhem in unlikely Stanley Cup Final matchup

Claudine Rigal
Mai 30, 2017

ABOUT THE PREDATORS (53-32-9-4, 44-42 O/U): The daunting challenge of trying to match up against Crosby and Malkin is exacerbated by the absence of top-line center Ryan Johansen (thigh), lost for the rest of the playoffs after Game 4 against Anaheim.

The pair is already on the exclusive list of USA coaches to win the Cup: Bill Stewart with the Blackhawks in 1938, "Badger" Bob Johnson with the Penguins in 1991, Tortorella with the Lightning in 2004, Laviolette with the Hurricanes in 2006, Dan Bylsma with the Penguins in 2009 and Sullivan with the Penguins a year ago.

Welcome to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final Buzz, your daily look at the stories impacting the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators.

The Predators stumbled at first away from their Bridgestone Arena home this season, going 1-5-2 in their first eight games on the road. A midseries switch back to Murray helped lift Pittsburgh past Ottawa in seven games in the Eastern Conference final. "We're not flawless on some nights by any stretch".

Crosby ranked the win among the best he has played in.

They had six days off after sweeping Chicago in the first round and five days after beating the Blues in the second round.

But this postseason has already been a grind. The Penguins feature four of the top six point producers in the playoffs including Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Jake Guentzel.

The common thought would be that the retooled Rangers would await in the conference final, but they were upset by the Senators in the second round, when Ottawa's trapping style and opportunistic offense forced the Blueshirts into a handful of late-game meltdowns and a series loss in Game 6. Nobody had even made back-to-back finals since the 2008-09 Wings-Penguins rematch.

"Those guys will be game-time decisions, Patric Hornqvist will play", said Sullivan. "Everyone knows that on the planet".

The former Predator 7th-round draft pick has played the last three seasons with Pittsburgh, winning the Stanley Cup last season with the team. They are trying to win their third Stanley Cup in that span.

In the nets: Nashville's Pekka Rinne is one of the league's longest-tenured goalies and gets his first chance at a final.

It certainly is a stern test for the Penguins, and they know it.

And while you ponder that 56-15 point differential in Pittsburgh's favour, consider this, too: Malkin, Crosby, Cullen and Bonino are just 50 weeks removed from sipping that oh-so-sweet succulent champagne out of the Stanley Cup.

"If I win one more, Mario wins one more", he said. "And when it does, when a team like ours puts itself in the position like we have, we have to maximize this opportunity".

Speaking of Subban, the Predators defense is extremely unsafe offensively. "At the same time, you can't think just because they haven't won it before that they're not going to be ready". "They're about desperation. And there's a lot of that on penalty kills".

At some point, the Predators are going to come back to earth, right? It doesn't hurt to have a good power play, as the Penguins showed in getting some big goals with the man advantage, but it's far less important in the chase for the Stanley Cup than strong 5-on-5 play.

Regardless of the outcome of the series, Nashville will make a donation to Operation Stand Down Tennessee, while Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh will make a donation to the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania. It will be interesting to see whether the officials allow the Predators to punish Sidney Crosby the way the Senators were allowed to abuse the league's signature star.

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