The Pittsburgh Penguins finished the 2016-2017 NHL regular season with 111 points, which was good for second most in the entire league. Yet, they were forced to play in consecutive seven-game series, barely getting past the Ottawa Senators at home in double overtime in Game 7 at home last night. They are the defending Stanley Cup champions, led by some of the highest scoring players in the game, including Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Jake Guentzel, who are four of the six highest scoring players in the playoffs. Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury have made for a formidable 1-2 punch in net, and the Pens are in the Stanley Cup Finals for the fourth time in the Crosby era.
Pittsburgh will host the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals starting on Monday night. The Preds were the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, yet have been on a tear throughout the postseason. After knocking off the Chicago Blackhawks in a shocking four-game sweep, Nashville has eliminated the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks in back-to-back six-game series. Pekka Rinne has been the star for the Predators, shining brightest in net in the playoffs, yet the team will certainly be without some offensive firepower, as Ryan Johansen will be unable to return to the team following a brutal injury earlier in the series against the Ducks.
While these two have taken very different paths to get to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Penguins and Predators continue to prove that anything can happen in the NHL Playoffs. During the 2016-2017 regular season, the Pens and Preds split their two meetings, with each winning at home. Nashville defeated Pittsburgh 5-1 on Oct. 22, while the Penguins won 4-2 on Jan. 31. Here is a look at the schedule for the Finals:
Game 1, Monday, May 29: Predators at Penguins (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports)
Game 2, Wednesday, May 31: Predators at Penguins (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports)
Game 3, Saturday, June 3: Penguins at Predators (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports)
Game 4, Monday, June 5: Penguins at Predators (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports)
Game 5, Thursday, June 8 (If Necessary): Predators at Penguins (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports)
Game 6, Sunday, June 11 (If Necessary): Penguins at Predators (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports)
Game 7, Wednesday, June 14 (If Necessary): Predators at Penguins (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports)
The Penguins will be seeking their fifth Stanley Cup championship, while the Predators are looking to capture their first. It is also worth noting that the Pens are looking to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings nearly 20 years ago to capture back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. They are already the first NHL team in the past 50 years to make consecutive Finals appearances on three separate occasions (1991 and ‘92, 2008 and ‘09, and now 2016 and ‘17.) Eleven different NHL franchises have had a shot at winning back-to-back Cups over the past 18 years, but only three have even managed to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, with the last being the 2009 Red Wings. Detroit lost in seven games.
If this series is anything like the rest of how the postseason has gone, then it should be full of one-goal differences and a few overtime contests.