Ok, my Nashville friends will be all over me about this one for sure, and even though I firmly believe that their chances aren’t as good without Johansen in the line-up due to the leg injury. I still believe that this will be a knockout, fight till the death scenario for the Preds. Without Johansen the Preds lose one of their top forwards which is a huge blow to the offense for the Preds, but with the emergence of Arvidsson, and Sissons still doesn’t solidify what the Preds are about at this time. The blue liners are the key to beating the Pens who have a depleted defense in my eyes right now.
Nashville’s blue line offense has been the key to their success to the point where you want to force them to play pucks down low and make the offense do the work. Having four guys on the back end who can score are an attribute that’s not really heard of in this day and age in hockey, oh and lets not forget about the physical aspect of their game too. Nashville has been extremely aggressive on the forcheck throughout this playoffs, not only beating teams down and wearing them down through the course of a game but the series as a whole. So I have to give the defensive advantage to the Preds on this one because it’s nice to have Ellis, Ekholm, Subban and Josi to not only generate offense but to be able to hit and play sound defense as well. The Pens on the defensive side have been plugging players in left and right due to the injuries they have sustained this post season. Schultz who was injured for a while and Maatta who spent some time on the IR have given opportunities to guys like Rowney, Strait, and a few others as well.
Goalie wise I don’t know how to measure this one, Pekka Rinne has been stellar leading the post season in GAA and save % and carrying his team to the finals. On the otherside of the rink, going up against 2 Stanley Cup winning goaltenders in Matt Murry and Marc Andre Fleury. Do I give the edge to the guy who’s performing like none other or do you give the edge to 2 guys who have been there and done that! I mean Rinne has a solid case for Conn Smythe finalist for the Preds as of now, and the case with 2 starting goalies who have won Cups as starters and Fleury carrying the Pens to the first 9 wins before Murry replaced him in the Senators series. So this is a toss up really for me, and I consider this match-up a draw.
Now Nashville has gone through some pretty big names so far in the west knocking off Chicago by sweeping them, rolling through St. Louis pretty swiftly, and handling a Ducks teams without much of a fight, but now have the ultimate test in handling Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel. Pittsburgh who had a tough road to get to the finals went through and up and coming Columbus team, the President’s trophy winners in the Capitals, and a long 7 game series with the Ottawa Senators. So offensive fire power will one of the keys to success in the Cup finals. Which I have to give the advantage to the Pens. Don’t get me wrong I do think Nashville have some pretty damn good scorers on the roster, but lack the depth of scoring all around. I give the Pens the advantage here just because of the depth, not just Crosby and Malkin, but Bonino, Rust, Sheary, and Guentzel, oh and Kessel too. There is so many ways for the Pens to create offense with Kunitz, and Hornqvist as well, the list just goes on and on for the Pens in the offensive department.
Overall I have to say that the Pens could win this series in 6 games and become the first team in 20 years to repeat as champions since the 97-98 Redwings. Who knows how this will all play out in the next week and half and I am totally buying this Cup finals this year. I can already tell that Pens fans are hoping for one for the thumb, while the Preds are trying to capture their first.