Mitch Linsley, Dump & Change Sports | June 11th, 2017 | 1:00pm
NASHVILLE, TN – The Cup is in the building. Tonight at 7pm CT, The Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins will square off at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena in the first elimination game of these Stanley Cup Finals.
After 5 games, Pittsburgh holds a 3-2 advantage in a series where the home team has won every game in blowout fashion. If any game this series is gonna be a close one with overtime potential, it’ll be this one. You can make a legitimate case for both teams to come out on top tonight.
On one hand we have the Predators who have played lights out at home all postseason, posting a 9-1 record in front of a fanbase that has proven themselves to be a major NHL market. These might not be the best fans in hockey, but they could very well be the craziest. Nashville’s home ice advantage could be the strongest in the league which will play a major role in the outcome of tonight match. In home games this series, the Preds have outscored the Penguins 9-2, contrasting from the 16-4 deficit they’ve faced playing in Pittsburgh, including a 6-0 ass kicking in game 5. I think Nashville’s fans are gonna come through tonight, the team hasn’t played in an elimination game all postseason and I think that could pull a new level of insanity out of these fans, not to mention the players. Pekka Rinne elevates his game at home as well. He’s let in just 2 goals on home ice as opposed to sieving out pretty much every game in Pittsburgh and getting pulled twice. I really do think this game depends on Rinne, he’s the only wildcard on this team. The Predators defensive core and forwards have played pretty much the same all series and you know what you’re getting out of them; at this point they are what they are. If Rinne plays like usual at home and Nashville’s forwards can go into that next gear like their defenseman have, the Predators and their fans will live to see another day.
On the other hand we have the Penguins who made it very clear Friday night that they are the best team in the world. This forward group is as good as any I’ve ever seen and they were absolutely on fire in game 5. Captain Sidney Crosby dominated the ice every shift and has been the best player in this series. How many beautiful passes has he made this series, I’ve honestly lost track. He’s had 6 assist so far and all of them could have been on Sportscenter’s top 10. He also makes those intangible contributions that get your team going that only elite hockey minds notice; like defending younger players when they get picked on or beating up on other teams star players by cross checking their head into the ice (cough cough Subban). The rest of the team has showed up to play too. The Pens had over 10 players register a point last game and top goal scorers Evgeni Malkin (3 goals, 1 assist) and Jake Guentzel (4 goals, 1 assist) have been a nightmare for Nashville’s defense, providing elite scoring depth far superior to any team in the NHL. Although this team hasn’t won in Nashville yet, I think we could see their best road performance yet tonight. This is a veteran team that knows what it takes to win a championship. With “the cup in the building” tonight in Nashville and a chance to end the series, I think the Penguins will be playing like a shark that smells blood in the water.
Who to watch:
Crosby/Malkin/Guentzel – need I explain myself?
Matt Murray- he’s played bad on the road this series but came through huge in game 6 of last year’s finals on the road to win theStanley Cup in San Jose. Not to mention the fact that he’s the only goalie that’s posted a shutout in this series.
PK Subban- he’s played like shit pretty much all series and does nothing but bitch and complain about officiating. Hey PK, look in the mirror bud, your boys Ellis and Josi have pulled a lot of YOUR weight on the back end. It’ll be interesting to see how the $9M a year man responds after everyone in the U.S. and Canada saw Crosby kick his ass behind the net well Brad Meier laughed at him. I almost hope they win just to see what he has to say to the media before getting pummeled again in Pittsburgh.
Preds forwards- They have underperformed all series and their bad play has been overshadowed by Pekka Rinne and the defense.
Pens defensemen- Trevor Daley, Justin Schultz and Ron Hainsey have been solid but overall poor play has been overshadowed by stellar offensive performances. Depth players need to elevate their game tonight if they want to take home Lord Stanley’s cup instead of return for a game 7. I’m talking to you, Olli Maatta.
Over/Under- set at 5.5, I think the over hits again, the Pens did it by themselves in game 5. Plus here’s more money to be made there anyways.
3 Stars- 3 players from each team I could see having a career game tonight.
-Nashville: Pekka Rinne, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis
-Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Brian Rust
Winner: Taking Nashville at -150 makes sense because they’ve been unreal at home, but I think the Penguins stay hot and end the series tonight. Pittsburgh has that clutch gene that allows them to win on the road in the biggest spots. They have every component needed to win a championship and are simply a more complete team than Nashville, or any other team for that matter. Take Pittsburgh at +130 tonight to win the Stanley Cup.
Over/Under for Catfish thrown on the ice- I’ll set it at 7.5. I would still take the over on that one which is saying something. I know that the organization told people not to throw shit on the ice but these fans have mad a name for themselves and now have expectations to live up to. Preds fans have branded themselves as these piss-drunk hockey maniacs who throw fish, beer or towels at people every chance they get. People of Nashville: we are all watching, don’t let us down now.