Well, the time is here. The Stanley Cup Finals are upon us. Since October, 32 teams have made their way along the long journey that is the regular season. 16 teams began the playoffs in March, and now it is down to two final teams: the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Predators. This series of 7 has the potential to be the best and most exciting hockey of the year.
The goal of the next few posts is to provide a recap of each game as soon as possible, as well as give some analysis for next steps for each team. I am going to try to be as unbiased as I can in an effort to merely keep you informed. So with that, here we go.
(All times shown is time remaining in the period)
12:47 – Nashville goal by P.K. Subban ruled offside following an excellent possession play on the fore check with multiple scoring chances by the Predators. During the play, 2 shots were viable scoring chances concluding with the goal. However, the game remains 0-0.
9:47 – After a collision in the goal-crease, Penguin’s goalie Matt Murray stays down for 30+ seconds before returning to his feet. It appears his right leg was hit by a skate and then he hit his left leg on the goalpost.
6:10 – Penguins Power Play – James Neal and Calle Jarnkrok sent off for interference. Penguins have a 2 minute 5-on-3.
4:28 – Pittsburgh goal. Evgeni Malkin scores the first official goal of the series on the power play from a pass on the point. Malkin’s shot sailed just above the left pad of Rinne and slightly below the glove.
3:23 – Pittsburgh goal by Conor Sheary. After Pekka Rinne made some incredible saves, a great pass by Chris Kunitz gave Sheary a near empty net one-timer from mere feet away on the right side.
0:16.1 – Pittsburgh goal by Nick Bonino. Bonino slid the puck toward Rinne with a one-handed shot which simply bounces off but then ricochets into the net off of a Nashville defenseman. Pittsburgh leads 3-0
Nashville came out strong with crisp passing plays and good scoring chances produced by a variety of players. However, the momentum changed after the recalled goal leading into the 5-on-3 power play. At this point the Penguins simply dominated the rink for the remainder of the period including scoring 3 goals on 7 total shots in the period. If the Predators want to rebound they need to settle down and not take careless interference penalties. If they play as they did in the first 6 or 7 minutes, Nashville has skill to perform well in this series.
16:17 – Nashville Power Play – Olli Maatta is sent off for interference on Filip Forsberg.
14:17 – Although the Predators are able to distribute from the point, Nashville is unable to break the perimeter or convert.
13:21 – Nashville Power Play – Ian Cole sent off for roughing.
12:21 – Roman Josi has two one-time shots on the power play from the right faceoff dot that barely miss the mark.
11:39 – Nashville goal by Ryan Ellis on the power play. Viktor Arvidsson had the screen in front of Murray while Ellis shot from the left faceoff dot. Predators trail 3-1.
The Predators looked much better in the second period, similar to how they were playing at the start of the first. They ended up with 9 shots on goal while not allowing any shots from the opposition. The play style that was shown in the second from the Predators is a foundation for them to build upon for the remainder of the series. On the other hand, the only thing that needs to change for the Penguins is simply to get shots on goal. They were out-shot in the first 11-7 and they did not have any shots in the second. While they are ahead in the goal column at this point, a team simply cannot win if they don’t put the puck on net.
10:24 Nashville Power Play – Evgeni Malkin sent off for slashing P.K. Subban.
9:54 – Nashville goal on the power play – Roman Josi fires toward the net on a cross ice pass that bounces off of Colton Sissons’ knee into the back of the net. Nashville trails 3-2
8:36 – Pittsburgh Power Play – P.K. Subban sent off for delay of game.
6:31 – Nashville goal – Frederick Gaudreau ties the game on a feed from Austin Watson. Watson beats 2 Penguin players behind the net shortly after the power play ended, wrapping around the back of the net and tossing it to the crashing Gaudreau who fires right to beat the goaltender.
3:17 – Pittsburgh goal scored by Jake Guentzel. After the puck is sent forward to him by Matt Cullen, Guentzel takes it up the right wing past Ryan Ellis and then rips the puck past Rinne in the high near side. Pittsburgh leads 4-3.
1:30 – Nashville pulls Pekka Rinne for the extra attacker.
1:02 – Pittsburgh goal – Clear by Nick Bonino finds the empty net.
If the Predators are able to play as they did in the second period then they will have a hard time being beaten in this series. The Predators were able to prevent the Penguins from taking any shots on goal in 37 minutes and limiting them to a grand total of 12 shots. However, these statistics also speak to the skill of the Pittsburgh players as they now have a 42% shooting accuracy compared to Nashville’s 12%. I noticed some impressive passing plays from the Predators that left huge areas of ice open for exploitation. If they can keep up that kind of pressure and play, they will continue to find the back of the net. The main reason why Pittsburgh was able to win tonight was their increased pressure at the end of the first. Without those 3 goals in 4 minutes, Pittsburgh loses the game. Pittsburgh’s goal for game 2 should be to focus of offense and getting more scoring opportunities.