6/3/17- The Biggest Day in Nashville Sports

The new car outside the Bridgestone Arena, home of the Nashville Predators, is decorated as their opponent in the Stanley Cup Final.  If you are new to this, you might be wondering why they would have that outside their arena.  The answer, it is their next Smashcar.  It is becoming tradition for Nashville Fans to decorate a car of their opponent to smash it, hoping it replicates what the team does to their opponent.

The music city will be having their largest party outside the game they have had.  The fans want this to become a series.  The fans at the Bridgestone Arena have been electrifying, and the Predators have fed off this energy from them, and look to continue that in these next two home games. There is a reason why this team is 7-1 at home in the postseason this year.

Will Nashville get swept 4-0? Will they split their home games and go 1-1? Or will they tie the series back at 2-2.  We will have to wait and see.  Star defense man P.K. Subban turned into Mark Messier, as he stated “We will win game 3”.  When the Rangers had played the Devils in 1994, Messier guaranteed a win heading into game 6, and he ended up scoring two goals and the game winner.  P.K. is a confident guy, and his team has no problem with his confidence level and will attempt to feed off of that heading into the next game.

Coach Peter Laviolette has not stated which goaltender would be playing in game 3.   He was asked two days in a row, and continues to keep it a mystery.  Let’s not fool ourselves though, we all know Pekka Rinne will be playing.  He is going to need to play the best hockey of his life, the hockey he was playing the whole post season, before the Stanley Cup Final, if he wants to get his team back in the series.

 

 

 

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Pittsburgh’s Offense Explodes; Pens Take 2-0 Series Lead

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Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final started off fast paced.  Nashville’s Pontus Aberg scored his second goal of the playoffs, and put Nashville on the board with the first goal of the game 13 minutes in.  Three minutes later, Jake Guenztel scored his second goal of the series, which tied up the game at 1-1.

There was surprisingly 0 goals scored in the second period, despite a number of penalties and powerplays for each team.  Both teams have good powerplays, but also have strong penalty kills. Penguins were 0/7 on the powerplay, while Nashville was 0/4 on the powerplay. Defensive hockey is fun to watch.

It looked like we were in a defensive battle between both teams, and the game was going to be close, potentially heading to Overtime.  Until the start of the third period.

The penguins offense exploded for a three goal burst in 3:18 again, just like they did in game 1 with three goals in 4:00.  Jake Guentzel scored his second of the game, and what would turn out to be his second game winning goal of the series, off a rebound from Bryan Rust just 10 seconds into the period.  Scott Wilson of the penguins scored two minutes later as a 2 on 1 evolved and the rebound banked off of a Predator.   Another 2 on 1 transformed and Evgeny Malkin sniped Pekka Rinne bardown on the glove side 18 seconds after.  It was insane to see. Nashville kind of collapsed.

Pekka Rinne was eventually pulled from the net again, and the pens were on the winning side of the game again.

The series now shifts to Nashville as they look to use their home ice to claw back into the series after being down 0-2.  Pittsburgh is 2 wins away from winning it all again.

Next game is at 8 EST on Saturday, 5/3/17.

Preds vs. Pens: Bounceback or commanding lead?

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As game two approaches us within the next few hours, the big question is will the Pens win both home ice game and take a commanding 2-0 series lead, or will Nashville tie the series up after a strong game one performance despite losing.

Nashville played solid defense as expected. They exceeded expectations on defense in game one however.   After giving up 8 shots in period 1 (3 goals), they did not allow the Penguins to get another shot on goal until 37 minutes later.  Unfortunately, that shot near the end of the game was the game winner, as Jake Guentzel fired a laser top shelf.

Nashville has nothing to be ashamed of for their game one performance,  only allowing up 11 shots on their goalie. They dominated possession, erased a 3-0 deficit surrendered in the first period, and played stellar defense.

It is the Penguins that have that have recognized that they must be better than the poor performance they showed in game 1.  Team Captain Sidney Crosby said, “the real test is how we bounce back in game 2.”  Well said, and if the penguins are going to win game 2 2 and take a 2-0 series lead, they will need to play a full 60 minutes, and play way better than they did in game 1.

The predators will definitely bring a better game than what they played in game 1, which will be hard to top, but they know they must do it to win.  This group of Nashville Predators is a calm, cool, and collective team that is coached well by Peter Laviolette.

I predict Nashville to tie the series up at 1-1 after game 2 ends.

Penguins Sneak Out of Game 1 With a Win

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The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Nashville Predators in a thrilling game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.  Pittsburgh did not deserve the win as much; however; good teams find a way to win, and they are three wins away from winning the cup in back to back years.

The game started out to a fast pace, and neither side really had an advantage early on.  That stayed truthful until P.K. Subban fired a shot through a screen and scored on Matt Murray.  Subban’s goal would eventually be challenged by Head Coach Mike Sullivan of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and after review the goal was overturned due to as there was a player who caught the puck entering a zone offsides.  Nashville was not letting this put their heads down, and they came back off the faceoff and almost scored.  Matt Murray was partially shaken up after the play due to a collision with teammate Ron Hainsey.

When the Penguins retrieved the puck after Murray was shaken up, they took the play to Nashville hard.  A zone time of nearly two minutes led to Nashville taking two penalties on the same play, which brought a 5 on 3 powerplay for two whole minutes to the Penguins.  The penguins capitalized on one of the powerplays, giving them a 1-0 lead from Evgeny Malkin’s goal.  The penguins also scored from Conor Sheary, and Nick Bonino near the end of the period.  Pittsburgh’s offense exploded for three goals in a little over four minutes.  3-0 Penguins after period 1.

If you thought this game was over, you thought wrong.  Nashville stayed calm, cool, and collected and displayed arguably the best defense a team has ever played in the Stanley Cup Final.  They did not allow a shot the whole second period, and managed to score one goal on a powerplay, which gave them more momentum and allowed them to start mounting their comeback.

As the third period started, Nashville was still bringing it to the Penguins.  Nashville scored two quick goals about halfway through the period and tied the game at 3-3.  Nashville did not allow a shot in the third period until around three minutes minutes were left in the period.  A impressive total of 37 minutes they had not allowed a shot on goal.

It all seemed like Nashville was going to make an insane comeback from a 3-0 deficit and win the game, Jake Guentzel of the Pittsburgh Penguins scored their first shot on goal in 37 minutes, making it 4-3 Pittsburgh with three minutes left to play. The penguins eventually scored an empty net goal from center ice as Nick Bonino lofted the puck into the air and into the net.  The Penguins won 5-3 in game one with only 12 shots.  That winning recipe will not work again, and the Penguins need to pick up their slack if they expect to game 2 of the series.

 

Penguins Dynasty vs. Smashville

2017-stanley-cup-final-web-1495806934Only two of sixteen teams remain in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Those two teams are the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Predators.  Both teams have had remarkable seasons and a bumpy ride to get to the finals, but here they are.

Will the Pittsburgh Penguins be the first franchise to win back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships in about twenty years, and the first team to repeat since the salary cap era started in 2005? Pittsburgh is four wins away from making history and cementing their dynasty in stone.

Or will we see the Nashville Predators lift the Stanley Cup at the end of the series?  Nashville finished as the #16 seed of the playoffs, they are on the verge of winning it all.

This is the first Stanley Cup Final that Nashville has ever made it to since they joined the league.  Their post-season dominance has been evident through the three playoff series they have won. Nashville made a statement in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, sweeping top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks in four games.  In the second round, the faced the heavy hitting, unbreakable defense of St. Louis and won in six games.  Much like round two, the next round Nashville faced the Anaheim Ducks, who are just as heavy hitters as the previous team, and better offensively.  Nothing slowed the Predators down, as they went on to win in six games.   Nashville is battle-tested, and they look to take on the Penguins on 5/29 at 8 P.M. EST.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are also battle-tested.  They have had an extremely hard road to the Stanley Cup Final.   They had to face the Columbus Blue Jackets in round one, Washington Capitals in round two, and Ottawa Senators in round three.  The first two rounds were major rivalries,  where the Penguins came out on top against two top teams in the league.  Ottawa provided the hardest fight shockingly for the Penguins, taking them to double overtime in game 7 before the Penguins scored the winning goal to advance to the finals.

What is extremely impressive about this post-season run for the Pittsburgh Penguins  is they have made it through the entire playoffs without their world class defender Kris Letang on the back end.  Kris Letang was a major part of the 2016 championship team of Pittsburgh, and suffered a neck injury that kept him out of most of the regular season and will be keeping him out keeping him out of all of the 2017 playoffs as he needed season ending surgery on his neck.  Kris Letang logged around thirty minutes per game in the playoffs in 2016, and without him, there has not been a true number one defender on Pittsburgh to replace him, all the more impressive.  It will be a battle with Nashville just like every other series has been for the Penguins to win the cup.

David Poile, GM of the Nashville Predators shocked the hockey world last summer, by trading his captain, cornerstone defender Shea Weber for P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens. At the time, nobody knew who won the trade, but as of now, it looks like Nashville won the trade.

Nashville is built on defense, and goaltending, which is said to win championships.  Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has the best offense in the playoffs. Which playing style will lead to victory?

My prediction for the series is Penguins in 7.  We can expect an exciting series!