After last night’s epic double overtime game seven of the Eastern Conference Final, things are finally set for the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. The defending Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins will represent the East while the upstart Nashville Predators will represent the West.
The Final is set to begin on Monday, May 29 and you have to wonder how the layoff will affect the Predators, who clinched their spot this past Monday. They will have a full week off to prepare while the Pens will only have four days.
That could help the Penguins in that they get right back on the horse and do not have time to over prepare for the Preds, but it could also hinder. The Pens are banged up, no doubt about it. Sidney Crosby suffered a concussion earlier on in the Washington series and that is only the tip of the iceberg. There is little doubt that the Pens have had a bit rougher path to the Final, having survived Columbus, Washington and then a seven game series that took two OTs to decide with Ottawa. The Capitals series also went seven games and both the series with Washington and the Senators were wars. How will this grind affect the Penguins in the long run?
By contrast, the Preds cruised by the Blackhawks in the first round and dispatched St. Louis in six games in the second. They took out Anaheim in six to advance to the Cup Final. While those series were just as brutal as anything the Penguins played, they did not last as long and that may give the Predators an edge in the Cup Final.
If there was one team that could have used a week off to recover from their wounds, it would be the Penguins. The Pens also took a regular season’s worth of abuse, playing in the much tighter Metropolitan Division.
None of this is to discount what the Predators have done. They are in the Final for a reason. Although finishing sixteenth out of the sixteen clubs that make the playoffs, they have gotten on a roll at the right time and have gelled. Shrewd trades have allowed the team to get to where they have gotten. Picking up PK Subban from the Montreal Canadiens in a blockbuster trade last summer that sent the popular Shea Weber to the Habs has paid off in dividends. Subban is a dynamic player who gives any team a bit of energy when he is there. But it was smaller stuff like getting veterans Vern Fiddler and PA Parenteau from the Devils that also built towards this run to the Cup for Nashville.
One thing working in Pittsburgh’s favor is definitely the experience factor. They have been there and they know what it is like to win. Nashville is largely doing this for the first time. They will also be doing it without left winger Filip Forsberg, who injured his thigh in the Ducks series, requiring surgery and will miss the Final.
So, the series will likely come down to who can stay healthiest and whether the Penguins can remain resilient. Also, can the Predators continue the magic in one of the loudest and best atmospheres in the NHL at Bridgestone Arena? Answers to these and more questions will begin to become clearer beginning this Monday night.
Some miscellaneous fun facts about this series are that this will be the first time two teams with yellow as one of their primary colors will be facing off in the Stanley Cup Final. Nashville uses yellow and navy blue while Pittsburgh just switched back this season to yellow and black, traditional colors for Pittsburgh, from black and Vegas gold. Also, Pittsburgh has repeated as Wales/Eastern Conference champions for the third time in their history. All of their trips to the Final have come in pairs: 1991 and 1992, 2008 and 2009 and 2016 and 2017. They are five and one all time in terms of series wins in the Stanley Cup Final.
Congratulations to both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Predators and their fans for getting to the Stanley Cup Final. Let’s hope it is a great series!