It’s do-or-die time for the Nashville Predators at home tonight. Thanks to a convincing win in Pittsburgh for the Penguins, they have a chance to finish the Stanley Cup Final, and hoist Lord’s Stanley Cup. It would make for the third time in Sidney Crosby’s career that he’s won the Cup.
Evgeni Malkin also has an opportunity to win his third Stanley Cup. And don’t look now, but Phil Kessel will be looking for his second Stanley Cup. Kessel played a pivotal role in their success last year, and while his impact hasn’t been as noticeable, he’s still helped this team out in the 2017 NHL Playoffs.
If you’ve taken the home team in every game this series, congratulations, you have a perfect record and made some good coin. We enter tonight with a record of 4-1 in the Stanley Cup Final. Home ice has held firm, with each team winning in their own arena. If the Predators can’t buck the trend, they can forget about it. Even if they win tonight at the Bridgestone Arena, they must go to back to Pittsburgh and win again.
If I’m the Penguins, though, they should go for the jugular tonight and put an end to this series. Never mind their useless play in Nashville in Game 3 and 4, because anything can happen in a Game 7. Yes, Rinne has looked like garbage in Pittsburgh, but all it would take is one quality game on the road for the Predators to have a legitimate chance of winning.
Game 5 was in fact the first game I was impressed by the Penguins. It was the first game of the series that they outshot the Predators and looked like the much better team. I really didn’t see the real Penguins until Game 5. If the Preds lose this series, you can go back to Game 1 and blame it on that game, or if I want to be specific, blame Rinne.
I don’t like blaming goaltenders, but there’s no one else to look at early in this series. Rinne played extremely well at home in Game 3 and 4, so we’ll see if he can find that same groove tonight back in Nashville. He will need it for two more games, including back in Pittsburgh. Let’s head right into the pick for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Nashville Predators Game 6 Pick
The Predators played well in Pittsburgh for the first two games of the series. It’s Rinne who let them down. Unfortunately, against a team of the Penguins’ calibre, slip-ups like can ultimately be the difference. Choking a game away in the first-round against an inferior opponent may be fine, but when the Penguins are off their game, you have to jump on the chance. Like I said, the Pens finally found their stroke in Game 5.
The shots were tied at 24 shots apiece, but it didn’t seem that way at all. The Penguins were the aggressors and much better team in Pittsburgh. Instead of sitting back like they did in games prior, they forced the issue and put together some nifty scoring chances.
Another positive for the Pens was the emergence of Malkin. Malkin was invisible for much of this series, but his impact was felt with a goal and an assist on the evening. Kessel notched a goal and 2 assists, while Crosby had 3 assists. The playmakers for the Penguins came to make plays, and make plays they did. Scoring chances were there, and the Pens took advantage of them.
It wasn’t all Rinne’s fault this time, either. The defence left him out to try, and allowed the Penguins to have glorious scoring chances all night long. Rinne got yanked, but this time, unlike the first two games in Pittsburgh, he had an excuse. The Predators look like the logical pick in this game. However, I think the Penguins found something in Game 5. As a fan I want this to go to a Game 7, but the Penguins have a better chance than +120 at ending this home win trend in the Stanley Cup Final.
PICK: PENGUINS (+120)