Certainly an unexpected Stanley Cup Final matchup, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators will be fighting for the NHL’s top spot — along with some additional hardware
The only thing the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators care about entering the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, which kicks off Monday in Pennsylvania, is taking home the Stanley Cup. That’s priority A through Z for these squads, as the Pens will aim for their third title in nine years and the Preds will seek their first ever.
Of course, it’s not the only piece of hardware up for grabs. The Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, will be awarded at the end of the Final. Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby is the current holder.
It’s typically awarded to a player from the championship team, but there have been five occasions since 1965 when it was given to an athlete from the losing squad (Detroit’s Roger Crozier in 1966, St. Louis’ Glenn Hall in 1968, Philadelphia’s Reggie Leach in 1976, Philadelphia’s Ron Hextall in 1987 and Anaheim’s Jean-Sebastian Giguere in 2003).
Who will take home the Conn Smythe Trophy this season? Blackhawk Up offers the odds for potential winners:
Sidney Crosby — 2:1
P.K. Subban — 5:1
Filip Forsberg — 5:1
Evgeni Malkin — 5:1
Phil Kessel — 10:1
Pekka Rinne — 15:1
Matt Murray — 15:1
Roman Josi — 20:1
Jake Guentzel — 25:1
Viktor Arvidsson — 25:1
Chris Kunitz — 30:1
Conor Sheary — 40:1
James Neal — 40:1
Patric Hornqvist — 40:1
Someone on Pittsburgh’s defense — 50:1
Bryan Rust — 50:1
Colton Sissons — 50:1
Ryan Ellis — 75:1
Nick Bonino — 75:1
Matt Cullen — 75:1
Marc-Andre Fleury — 100:1
Mike Fisher — 100:1
(Writer’s note: If I were in charge of this award, I’d strongly consider giving it to Fleury. The Penguins probably aren’t here without his efforts in earlier rounds. But he won’t start in the Final, and he may not even see the ice, so little chance he actually gets the award — unless he plays in this series.)
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What to expect in this Stanley Cup Final
This is the most interesting Final we could have gotten considering the four possible teams, in my opinion. A Final with Anaheim would have featured too much idiocy on the ice, and a Final with Ottawa, while intriguing, would be unlikely to bring out the best in any opponent.
We’re going to get a team aiming for the first salary cap era repeat versus the we-should-have-seen-it-coming team. The Penguins have their made stars coming off a Cup, while the Predators have a team full of strong supporting players led by the likes of Subban and Forsberg.
It’s a really interesting matchup, also because the Preds are missing key guys like Ryan Johansen and Mike Fisher — though the latter is trying to play in this series. Even without those two, however, the team has extremely potent speed and shutdown capabilities.
We saw it against the Chicago Blackhawks, and we saw it in later series these playoffs as well. The Preds have done a fantastic job of of gumming up opponents’ scoring chances all over the ice. While Anaheim did find ways to break through by piling up shots in certain games of the conference final, the Ducks still had trouble scoring goals.
The Penguins, meanwhile, have relied more on offensive output and the saves of either Murray or Fleury in net. There’s always a possibility the latter could make an appearance in this series, especially given how quickly the Pens were willing to swap goalies during the conference final.
I’m still giving the Penguins the edge in this series, based on two things: experience and Murray vs. Rinne in net. If Rinne goes off and stops everything in his path, this could be a very different series. But right now, I’m taking the Pens in a seven-game thriller.