Here we go again…
Stanley. Cup. Finals.
The hardest trophy to win in sports is just 4 wins away for two teams. The Preds were the pre-season favorites, and I wanted to pick them in my (abysmal) playoff bracket. The Pens have had some highs and lows through the regular season and playoffs battling some significant and lengthy absences from everyday players.
This could be the last set of games for multiple players in a Penguins uniform and a couple more may choose to retire. Matt Cullen is looking for his third cup ring and might very well hang them up at the end of the year. Kunitz, a guy I have constantly said the Penguins should trade, is going for his fourth, and without him the Pens might not be in this situation. Kunitz may very well cement himself in grinder history with his Cup rings and Olympic Gold, and who would blame the 37 year old forward? Stories like these are what push the Pens. Hagelin stated after ECF G7 that he looked at Cullen sitting beside him on the bench and didn’t want his last NHL game to be a Game 7 loss.
Most analysts break down series by comparing the teams Goaltending, Defense, and Forwards against each other. I think if you compare Rinne vs. Murray, Preds top 4 D vs. Pens patchwork backend, and the Top 2 lines of both teams, I don’t think anyone can say the Predators are NOT the favorite to win Lord Stanley’s Mug.
Murray doesn’t face Rinne head to head. The D-men don’t go out there to match up against Subban & Josi.
The Penguins have rolled their lines all season so expect then to do that early in games and when they have a lead. They go four centers deep and with a few tweaks and some hopeful injury reports have speed and grit on every line. How will the Preds D withstand a constant attack? Rinne can stop anything at points in his game, but if the Penguins can keep enough pressure and throw the kitchen sink at him, will he remain a brick wall? The Penguins blueliners have done an excellent job insulating Murray who has been nothing short of fabulous since returning. This patchwork-6 goes out, does a yeoman’s work and waits for their next opportunity. Murray is calm beyond his years, thrives under pressure, and has excellent hair.
Looking from this point of view, I find it much harder to pick a favorite. The ’08 Penguins making their first SCF got shellacked in their first 2 games against the Red Wings and couldn’t scratch their way back for a third win. From this homer (not to be confused with Homer [Iliad] or Homer [Simpsons]) I’m looking for the Penguins to come out strong and keep their home ice advantage.
Whatever you do, whomever you root for, just watch the games and enjoy!