Penguins, Predators Look to Make Stanley Cup Final History
The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final. The reigning champions look to repeat after dispatching the Ottawa Senators in a second overtime period in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. They would be the first team to win back-to-back Cups since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-1998. The last team to do it previous to that? The Penguins, in 1991 and 1992.
While the Red Wings were repeating as champions in 1998, a new expansion team joined the NHL. The Nashville Predators finished 12th in the West that year, and wouldn’t qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs until the 2003-2004 season. It wasn’t until 2010-2011 that they won a playoff series. But they’ve won them all so far this season, sweeping the mighty Chicago Blackhawks before beating both the St. Louis Blue and the Anaheim Ducks to earn their first ever Stanley Cup Final berth in franchise history. And they have turned heads along the way.
It will be a Final clash of two very different teams. The Penguins have some of the league’s most visible stars, including Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel. They’ve won two Stanley Cups in the last eight years and hail from a sports city known for its rabid fan base and championship pedigree. The Predators made a splash in the off-season when they traded for star Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban. And while perhaps lesser known to the neutral fan, the Preds have a number of other dangerous weapons like captain center Mike Fisher — who is healthy for the Final — as well as goaltender Pekka Rinne, who is enjoying a historic run in the Stanley Cup playoffs to this point, and young winger Filip Forsberg. Sadly, the Predators will be without center Ryan Johansen, who was their leading scorer until being sidelined with a scary thigh injury in the Western Conference final.
After benching Marc-Andre Fleury for rookie goaltender Matt Murray, the Penguins will be looking to get some defensemen back healthy themselves and tighten up their defense for the Final. But with the kind of firepower the Penguins possess, this Final figures to be a strength-on-strength contest as the Pens’ high-flying lines look to battle the staunch and hard-hitting defense of the Preds.
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