Stanley Cup Final: Game 2
Nashville Predators at Pittsburgh Penguins (PIT leads 1-0)
Wednesday, May 31, 2017 - 8:00 p.m. ET
PPG Paints Arena - Pittsburgh, PA
Watch: NBCSN - NBC Sports App - NBCSports.com
SBN participant blogs: Pensburgh - On the Forecheck
Keys to Victory
- Play Disciplined Hockey: Game 1 was put away in the first period after the Penguins scored three unanswered goals. However, sloppy play and unnecessary penalties led to two power-play goals for Nashville. This allowed the Predators to grab momentum and tie up the game, making it more exciting for fans but also making more work for the Penguins in what could have been an easier win without the mental lapses. Without Jake Guentzel’s game-winning goal, the storyline could have been all about the Penguins failures on the penalty kill.
- Contain P.K. Subban: The Preds’ defensemancame out of the gates strong early to score a goal that was later disallowed due to Filip Forsberg carrying the puck into the zone offside. If it had been ruled a good goal, the momentum of the game would have immediately swung to the Preds and taken the air out of the building under five minutes into the game. With last change, the Pens have to get their best matchup on Subban or they are in trouble. They can’t take a shift off when he’s on the ice.
- Shoot the puck! Going out on a limb here: the Pens’ Game 1 shooting percentage over 40% isn’t going to happen again. When Pekka Rinne does show up to the finals, the Pens will be in trouble if they only have 12 shots in a game. This can be a little bit of a double-edged sword because more shots will allow Rinne to get into a better rhythm, but 12 shots is unacceptable. Pittsburgh can’t keep relying on crazy bounces and 5-on-3 power plays to get their goals. The Pens need to be the team they have been in the regular season, which led the league in shots per game with 33.5, a long way from their playoff average of 29.3. -Zeke Lukow
- Rinne's Response: He was really only at fault for one or two of Pittsburgh's five goals in Game 1, but four goals allowed on 11 shots is a downright dismal performance. Be it getting cold from the lack of shots against or just a rough night against a lucky and opportunistic team, Pekka Rinne knows more is expected of him. So expect him to come out with more focus, as he's done following every playoff loss his team has suffered this season. His team did him plenty of favors by limiting the shots (understatement of the year) in game 1, so with an on-brand Rinne in the crease, it should be a Predators win.
- Mental Toughness: Game 1 was a testament to the power of momentum. The Predators dominated at first and scored the game's opening goal, until it was waved off for a still controversial offsides call. From there, Nashville turtled, and Pittsburgh stepped up in a big way, potting three goals before the end of the frame. The Preds were rattled by the questionable call and let the powerful attack of the Pens overwhelm them for 10 minutes — just enough to open a big lead. Credit where it's due, Nashville fought back to tie the game, but gave up the winner just minutes later. Their mental toughness has to be better in Game 2. They'll be responding to a poor result from their first outing, but they will also need to adjust to in-game momentum swings like missed calls, bad bounces, etc., because another brief lapse could have them wind up in an 0-2 hole going home.
- "Depth" Production Continues: With key injuries mounting up, both teams are playing with more than a few AHLers and lesser-known NHLers on hockey's biggest stage. Nashville's dark horses played a key role in their comeback in game 1; after Ryan Ellis' opening goal for the Preds, Colton Sissons scored his fourth goal in two games to bring them within one, and a crucial 50/50 battle won by Austin Watson led to Frederick Gaudreau’s game-tying goal. Though Ellis is well known for his role on the League's top playoff defense, Nashville's scoring from the blue line has been important to their success so far. And for guys like Sissons, Watson, and Gaudreau to be seeing big minutes in the Stanley Cup Final speaks to their talent and the desperation mode their team is in; if they can continue the pace they've had so far, it could go a long way towards evening up and eventually winning the Cup. -Peter Dewar