Pittsburgh better be on alert—the Predators are coming in full force and firing on all cylinders. The Penguins took an exciting Game 1, but Game 2 will be just as exciting as the Predators try to take a redemption game in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins know they escaped Game 1 with a fortunate win. Before scoring on an opportune deflection off of Predators’ defensemen Mattias Ekholm, the Penguins also aided by an iffy call that sent Preds’ James Neal into the penalty box along with a penalty for interference on Calle Jarnkrok, giving Pittsburgh a much-needed 5-on-3 power play. The Predators came out swinging and were doing damage on Penguins goalie Murray. They even knocked him down, made him play stickless, and took relentless shots time and time again. Predators feel cheated out of a win after Subban’s opening goal of the Cup was waived for a highly questionable offsides call on center Mike Fisher. After the dismal 1st period, Predators went on a 37-minute defensive lockdown, allowing 0 shots on goal. The terrifying Penguins offense ended the night with under ten shots on goal for the game, a Stanley Cup low. Yet, the Penguins hung in strong after the Predators equalized and took a 4-3 lead late with a slap shot from Jake Guentzel.
The Predators will enter Game 2 feeling angry and confident, knowing that they can steal a game and take the series back home where they have been almost unstoppable behind the NHL’s loudest rink. The Penguins should be happy about the Game 1 win and understand that even at their worst, they can beat the Predators.
Game 1 gave some insight on who to keep your eye out for in the series. Penguins center Nick Bonino was all over the ice in the opening game. Credited for two goals, Bonino was speedy while the Predators lost sight of the center many times during the night. Bonino showed great poise and showed a propensity to get the puck in the right place at the right times multiple times during the night. Bonino can help Malkin and Crosby as they attract much attention from the Predators defense. If his scoring onslaught continues this series, the Penguins might be too overpowering for Nashville.
On the other side, Predators center Mike Fisher was electric. After missing much of the conference finals, Fisher returned to the lineup and was energetic, hitting the boards and taking good valuable shots. Despite the waived goal, Fisher had many solid scoring opportunities through the night and felt faster than anyone on the ice at all times. Keep an eye on Fisher in Game 2. If he finds his touch, the Preds will find a much-needed boost without the injured Johansen.
To say both goalies underperformed might be an understatement. Coming into the Stanley Cup Final, Predators goalie Pekka Rinne was on a historic run, making a statement as the best goalie performance in Cup history. However, during the Predators’ horrific first period, Rinne looked a little jumpy. While it’s tough to pin the blame on the power play goal, Rinne had a solid chance to stop the puck and put an end to the power play. In another goal, Rinne let a defendable shot through, sinking the Preds chances at a comeback when the Penguins went up 4-3. While Rinne is going to recover and get back to his stellar play for the Predators to have a shot. Penguins goalie Matt Murray had a tough night as well. He was bullied by the Predators all night long. He was knocked down and struggled to keep the game in control even with a 3-0 lead. Murray stayed in all game and showed resilience but struggled mightily, especially when the Penguins defense couldn’t hold the Predators’ deeper shifts. Both Murray and Rinne will need to perform better for their teams to win.
Prediction: Predators 2, Penguins 1