A look at how the Predators and Penguins stack up against one another.
The Penguins beat the Senators in Game Seven in double overtime on Thursday night to punch their ticket to their second straight Stanley Cup Final. Pittsburgh knocked off the Blue Jackets in five games during round one and took down the Capitals in seven games in round two.
As for the Predators, after sweeping the Blackhawks in the opening round then winning their past two series in six games, they have played in three fewer games this postseason (16) compared to the Penguins (19).
Nashville and Pittsburgh met up twice during the regular season with the Predators winning 5-1 at home back on Oct. 22 and the Penguins winning at home 4-2 on Jan. 31.
What’s interesting about this series is both teams share a similar playing style in the fact that they like to get up and down the ice, particularly on the outside, and push the pace in a major way. The Penguins play an aggressive style of hockey offensively as do the Predators up front and with their blue line pinching and creating high-quality scoring chances any opportunity they can get.
Among the teams the Predators have taken on this postseason, the Penguins most resemble the Blackhawks, but the big difference is Pittsburgh is far more deep in its bottom six compared to Chicago.
Pittsburgh enters the Stanley Cup Final with three of the top four scorers we’ve seen these playoffs. Evgeni Malkin leads the way with seven goals and 17 assists while arguably the best player in the world, Sidney Crosby, is just behind him with seven goals and 13 helpers in 18 games. Crosby missed one playoff game due to injury. Phil Kessel rounds out the deadly bunch sitting fourth in playoff scoring with seven goals and 12 assists.
Speaking on the Penguins depth, Jake Guentzel is tied with Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg atop the NHL in playoff goals with nine. The 22-year-old had 16 regular season goals in 40 games played. Bryan Rust also has six goals this postseason while Patric Hornqvist has four in 13 playoff games.
The Predators depth is nothing to scoff at by any means either as this team’s mentality has been the next man step up and there was no better example of that than in Game Six against the Ducks with Colton Sissons netting a hat trick and Austin Watson scoring a pair of goals. Nashville’s leading scorer this postseason has been Filip Forsberg who has eight goals and seven assists in 16 games.
With players like Kessel, Malkin and Crosby one can assume the Penguins power play is a very lethal one and it certainly has been this postseason with a success rate of 25 percent (14-of-56). The edge in that category goes to the Penguins in a major way as Nashville’s power play has struggled for the most part ticking at 14.9 percent (7-of-47).
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Looking at the other side of special teams however, the Penguins penalty kill hasn’t necessarily been bad, but it has shown its weaknesses this postseason with a penalty kill percentage of 85.5 percent. Nashville’s penalty kill has been extremely strong killing off 88.1 percent of the penalties it has faced these playoffs. It is worth noting that Pittsburgh killed off 19 of the 20 Senators power plays it faced and Nashville killed off 16 of the 18 power play chances the Ducks had last series.
One thing noticeable about the Penguins this postseason has been the amount of shots on goal they have allowed per game. Pittsburgh has allowed 32.6 shots per contest and has given up 30 or more shots in 12 of 19 playoff games. Nashville is giving up nearly three shots on net less per game with an average of 29.7. For comparison, the Preds have given up 30 or more shots in nine of their 16 postseason contests.
As for throwing shots on goal, the two teams have been neck-and-neck this postseason with Pittsburgh averaging 30.2 shots per game and Nashville 29.9 shots per game.
While the Penguins have averaged more shots on net during all situations, the Predators have thrown plenty more pucks towards the net during 5-on-5 play. Nashville is averaging 48.2 total shot attempts per contest while the Penguins have managed only 43.3 total shot attempts per game.
Another glaring statistic shooting wise is that Nashville has led the NHL this postseason with a shooting percentage of 8.7 percent.
The players stopping those shot attempts that find their way to the net for the Penguins have been both Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury.
Fleury was the man in net every game during the series wins over the Blue Jackets and Capitals and for Game One and Game Two against the Senators, but was pulled during Game Three after allowing four goals on nine shots in 12:52 of play. In stepped Murray, who led the Penguins to the Cup a year ago, and the 23-year-old has looked solid in net.
It’s a luxury to have two Stanley Cup winning netminders to choose from, and the Penguins have gone with the hot hand, Murray, for the last four and three-fourth games. Murray has posted a .946 save percentage allowing just seven goals on 130 shots faced in his 310:06 of playing time this postseason and should be the man in net to start Game One on Monday.
The Preds don’t have the same Cup winning netminder luxury on their side, but Pekka Rinne has been the most impressive puck stopper around the league during these playoffs. The big Finn boasts a .941 save percentage and a 1.70 goals allowed average to go along with his two shutouts this postseason.
Pekka Rinne. pic.twitter.com/Gl5XJ02NLT
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) May 21, 2017
The last thing to look at between these two teams are their injury lists and both teams are missing key pieces heading into the series.
Nashville will be without Ryan Johansen and Kevin Fiala for this series while Craig Smith and Mike Fisher are optimistic to return to the lineup but remain day-to-day.
For the Penguins, defenseman Kris Letang is out after having neck surgery in April while former Pred Patric Hornqvist is day-to-day but did take warmups on Thursday night. Winger Tom Kuhnackl is also listed as day-to-day and missed the entire Senators series.
Game One between the Predators and Penguins will take place on Monday night in Pittsburgh with the start time set for 7:00 p.m. CST.