De­fence, or of­fence, wins cham­pi­onships

Pen­guins will pit star power up front against blue line, goal­tend­ing of Preda­tors


One team can re­peat, mak­ing a claim as a mod­ern-day NHL dy­nasty. The other can take the Stan­ley Cup to places it has never been.

One team has Sid­ney Crosby, Canada’s favourite hockey player who has a chance to eclipse Mario Lemieux in the an­nals of hockey his­tory, and Ev­geni Malkin, who can also eclipse Lemieux but some­how re­mains over­looked and un­der­rated in hockey’s an­nals.

The other team has P.K. Sub­ban, the favourite cast­away from the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens and a for­mer Nor­ris Tro­phy win­ner who some­how isn’t even the best de­fence­man on his club.

The Stan­ley Cup fi­nal, fea­tur­ing the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins and the Nashville Preda­tors, has no short­age of sto­ry­lines: Steel­town vs. Mu­sic City; the de­fend­ing cham­pion against the 16th seed; a fran­chise that al­most moved in 2005 against a fran­chise that al­most moved in 2007.

The Pen­guins were the bet­ter reg­u­lar-sea­son team, go­ing 50-21-11 and fin­ish­ing with 111 points. The Preda­tor (41-29-12) lost as many games as they won. But the sea­son se­ries be­tween the teams ended 1-1.

Only one thing is for cer­tain: An Amer­i­can coach born in the Bos­ton area will get his name en­graved on the Cup. Will it be Mike Sul­li­van, from Marsh­field, Mass., or Peter Lavi­o­lette, from Franklin, Mass.?


Pitts­burgh: The Pen­guins fea­ture the top three scor­ers in the post-sea­son: Ev­geni Malkin (seven goals, 17 as­sists), Sid­ney Crosby (seven goals, 13 as­sists) and Phil Kes­sel (seven goals, 12 as­sists) . . . Those three and rookie Jake Guentzel have com­bined for 79 points in19 games and have scored or as­sisted on 42 of the Pen­guins’ 58 goals . . . Old-school warriors like Pa­tric Horn­qvist, Matt Cullen and Chris Ku­nitz blend well with younger, faster play­ers like Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary and Carl Hagelin.

Nashville: Filip Fors­berg leads the Preda­tors with 15 points, in­clud­ing eight against the Ducks in the West fi­nal . . . With Fors­berg on the ice, the Preda­tors have outscored op­po­nents 17-4 dur­ing 5-on-5 play . . . Nashville lacks depth at cen­tre, es­pe­cially with top gun Ryan Jo­hansen gone for the se­ries. . . Austin Wat­son, Harry Zol­nier­czyk, Pon­tus Aberg and Fred­er­ick Gau­dreau started the year in the AHL. Wat­son, Aberg and cen­tre Colton Sis­sons, who cap­tained Milwaukee last sea­son, com­bined for seven of the Preda­tors’ last nine goals against Ana­heim. Edge: Pen­guins


Pitts­burgh: The Pen­guins’ blue line has been dec­i­mated by in­juries, but seems to have fared quite well with­out No. 1 Kris Le­tang (neck surgery) and is get­ting healthy at the right time . . . Justin Schultz, who missed most of the East fi­nal, has thrived with big­ger min­utes. Trevor Da­ley has been a force when healthy.

Nashville: Ryan El­lis, Ro­man Josi, P.K. Sub­ban, and Mat­tias Ekholm have com­bined for 39 points (11goals, 28 as­sists) in 16 games. They weren’t in­tim­i­dated by Ana­heim’s big cen­tres and will be just as much trou­ble to Malkin and Crosby . . . The Preda­tors like their de­fence­men join the rush to put pres­sure on their op­po­nent. They move the puck well. One pass and they’re in tran­si­tion. Edge: Preda­tors


Pitts­burgh: Matt Murray, who suf­fered a lower-body in­jury in the warm-ups be­fore the Pen­guins’ first play­off game, is back as the starter. Murray, who back­stopped Pitts­burgh to the Cup last year, is 3-1 with a 1.35 GAA and .946 save per­cent­age since tak­ing over in the East fi­nal. He uses his size and chal­lenges shoot­ers to beat him with a good shot. Marc-Andre Fleury, 9-6, 2.56, .924 af­ter fal­ter­ing in Game 3 against Ot­tawa, is the best backup in the se­ries.

Nashville: Pekka Rinne’s .941 save per­cent­age is the 12th-best recorded among goalies who have played at least10 games in a sin­gle play­off year. Rinne got hot in April, stop­ping 95 of 99 shots in his fi­nal three reg­u­larsea­son games . . . Rinne, how­ever, is 1-5-2 with a 3.57 goals-against av­er­age and .880 save per­cent­age in eight games against Pitts­burgh . . . His re­bound con­trol is su­pe­rior and he is a su­perb puck­han­dler. Edge: Preda­tors


Pitts­burgh: With one Stan­ley Cup to his name, Mike Sul­li­van is praised as a de­ci­sive, in­tu­itive coach who has play­ers play to their strengths, which en­dears him to his play­ers. His de­ci­sions have shaped the Pen­guins, pulling Fleury chief among them.

Nashville: Peter Lavi­o­lette is in the fi­nal for a third time with his third team. The only oth­ers to lead the three teams to the Cup fi­nal are Scotty Bow­man, Mike Keenan and Dick Irvin. So is he an elite coach like those three, or does he wear out his wel­come with a loud, bark­ing style that de­mands a lot of his play­ers? Edge: Pen­guins


Pitts­burgh: Ex­pe­ri­ence. Most of the Pen­guins have played in a Cup fi­nal, and it is the fourth ap­pear­ance for many of their core.

Nashville: Destiny. The Preda­tors had won a to­tal of three play­off rounds in their his­tory be­fore win­ning three play­off rounds this sea­son . . . Nashville is the third bot­tom seed to make the fi­nal since 2006. Edge: Even.


Nashville in six.


Pitts­burgh for­wards Ev­geni Malkin, left, Sid­ney Crosby, right, and Phil Kes­sel are the Pen­guins’ lead­ing scor­ers with a com­bined 63 play­off points.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.