Stanley Cup Final: Game 5
Pittsburgh Penguins at Nashville Predators (Series tied 2-2)
Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 8:00 p.m. ET
PPG Paints Arena - Pittsburgh, PA
Watch: NBC - NBC Sports app - NBCSports.com
SBN participant blogs: Pensburgh - On the Forecheck
Keys to Victory
- Shooooooooooooooot! Pekka Rinne appears to be back in full form, so to win the Penguins must get shots to the net. I know I'm repeating myself here, but their 24 shots in Game 4 is their most in any game of the series. With just 91 shots over the first four games in the series that comes out to be 22.75 shots for per game, the fewest of any team in any playoff series this year. On the contrary, the Predators have 123 shots on goal, averaging 30.75 shots per game. Without the puck luck of the first two games, the Pens have slowed.
- Paging Mr. Maatta, Mr. Olli Maatta: Losses aren't on any one player, and Maatta's play isn't the main reason that the Penguins have lost two in a row, but when you are getting absolutely undressed in front of your net once per game, it doesn't help. Maatta's now-signature move of putting his back to a defender led to the first goal in Game 4. His questionable positioning led to Pontus Aberg's dangle in Game 2. Going backwards against an attacker in Game 1 led to the game tying goal. The Penguins may have to make some shuffles on defense to help alleviate the situation.
- Don't Overreact: it's important to remember that the Penguins still have home-ice advantage. Much like the Predators going from Game 2 to Game 3, it's important to stay the course and not freak out. The Penguins got to the Cup in 2016 with great play from Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Matt Murray who are all still healthy. Crosby looked great in Game 4, including two breakaways and a goal. All the Pens need is to have Malkin or Kessel to have an above average game to be within one game of winning back-to-back Stanley Cups. -Zeke Lukow
- Road Trip: Despite their success, there remains an elephant in the Nashville Predators locker room. To win the Stanley Cup, they'll have to win at least once in Pittsburgh —something that seems like an Achilles’ heel given their difficulties in Games 1 and 2, but this is a different team with a rejuvenated goalie. To take their first lead of the series, Nashville will need to bring the same energy they had on home ice into PPG Paints Arena to stifle the Pens’ attack as they did in Games 3 and 4. Pekka Rinne will need to be at his home-ice best to steal Game 5. He obviously put up some sub-par performances in the first two games, and another of the like would see his team in serious trouble once again. But if the Predators' dominance in the last two games is representative of their play as a whole (not just on home ice), it could be Nashville with a chance to win the cup in front of their fans in Game 6, and what a party that would be.
- Powered Up: Special teams play can often dictate a team's success or failure. The good news for Nashville is that it has largely played in their favor in the Final, as they've held Pittsburgh to a dismal 6.3% conversion rate on the power play, while their own man-advantage unit has tallied once in every three power plays (33.3%). That kind of PP-PK ratio is obviously largely inflated from any regular-season statistic, but still represents a distinct edge in the Predators' favor. Both teams have been goaded into some ridiculous penalties in this series; if the Pens wind up in the box too often, you can bet the Predators will make them pay.
- Shine Bright: While the contributions from players like Frederick Gaudreau, Colton Sissons, and Pontus Aberg have been welcome and crucial, it was a bit concerning for Predators fans to see their stars like Filipr Forsberg, James Neal, and Viktor Arvidsson without much presence in the first two games. With all three scoring their first goals of the series in Games 3 and 4 (first goal since the first round for Arvidsson), they should have newfound confidence going into Game 5 having gotten the proverbial monkeys of their backs. Nashville has done a great job keeping Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin quiet for much of the series; another solid performance against those two coupled with more contributions from the Predators' stars could see then through to a 3-2 series lead. -Peter Dewar