Nashville Predators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Game 1
Date and Time: Monday, May 28, 2017, 8 p.m. ET
Location: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
NHL Playoff Odds: Penguins -140, O/U 5
Predators vs. Penguins Game 1 TV Coverage: NBC
Had we told you that one of these teams needed 21 games to get into the Stanley Cup Finals, while the other needed just 16, you would have guessed Pittsburgh to have the easier route, right? Wrong. The Predators swept Chicago and took out both St. Louis and Anaheim in six games to reach their first ever Stanley Cup Finals. Pittsburgh finished off Columbus quickly in just five games, but it had to go the distance against both Washington and Ottawa.
The concern if you're the Penguins is all of the extra stress you've put on yourself. Not only have the Pens had to play 21 games, but they've also had to play seven potential close-out games and are just 3-4 in those duels. All those extra games could come back to haunt them when push comes to shove, and it could show early in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Chris Kunitz, the hero of Game 7, very astutely called Nashville a team that has "four Erik Karlssons." We're not sure that anyone else really is Karlsson, but Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm are darn good and are huge threats both on the offensive and defensive ends of the ice.
The real key is going to be all of the bumping and grinding these four do to setup the fellow grinders in the de facto paint. It's almost like the Preds play basketball, taking long shots and setting up for offensive rebounds around the goal. If Nashville can free up these looks from the point, there are essentially two great opportunities in every possession to score, one coming from the actual first shot itself, and the second coming from any potential deflections or rebounds that might occur.
The Penguins did a great job of blocking shots against Ottawa, but outside of Karlsson, the Sens really didn't bring to the table a true sniper like Subban. There were times that Matt Murray really looked lost at the end of that series, flailing around very early on shots to anticipate, only to be caught off-guard and sitting on the ice. John Gibson did the same thing against Nashville in the last round, and we see how well his last series of the season ended up going.
Predators vs. Penguins Game 1 Free Picks
It's really hard to pick against Pittsburgh in Game 1, but we really didn't like the way it struggled against Ottawa. The Senators had a great series, and Craig Anderson should be offered a tip of his cap for as well as he played. But if we're being honest, the rest of that team flat out wasn't that good. This Nashville team is much different, and especially if captain Mike Fisher is back in the fold for Game 1, this could be a nasty one that teaches the Penguins some lessons.
We were willing to go with Ottawa in virtually every spot in the Eastern Conference Finals, and we might do the same with Nashville here in this series. We're not convinced that the team with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel is the better one on the ice, and that might show in Game 1.
Predators vs. Penguins Game 1 Pick: Predators +110 at BookMaker.eu
Predators vs. Penguins Game 1 Score Prediction: Predators 4, Penguins 1