The Pittsburgh Penguins came into the 2017 NHL Finals as favorites. It’s no wonder why either since they’re trying to become the first NHL team to win back-to-back titles since the Detroit Red Wings did it in 1997 and ’98.
The Penguins have done little to make people doubt them, winning the first two games by scores of 5-3 and 4-1.
Can Nashville answer?
All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban thinks so, guaranteeing a victory over the Pens in Game 3.
“There’s no question,” he said. “We’re going to win the next game, and then we’ll move forward.”
Will his prediction come true? Let’s discuss the prospects while looking at the betting line between Pittsburgh and Nashville.
Game 3 Odds between Penguins vs Predators
- Money line at GTBets.eu: Pittsburgh +115, Nashville -135
- Puck line: Pittsburgh 1.5 (-260), Nashville -1.5 (+220)
- Totals: Over 5.5 (+115), Under 5.5 (-135)
- Saturday, June 3rd at 8:00pm EST
- Livestream on NBC Sports Live
Why the Predators will Win
Goaltender Pekka Rinne was yanked after surrendering 4 goals to Pittsburgh – on top of the 5 he gave up in the first game. He was relieved by rookie Juuse Saros, who gave up one goal (negated by offside call) in his Game 2 substitution.
Now, the big question is whether Coach Peter Laviolette will play Saros over Rinne, rather than risk another poor outing.
One one hand, Rinne has played well up to this point, especially when he shut down the high-powered Chicago Blackhawks in the first round. But then again, he has a career 1-5-2 mark against the Penguins.
Regardless of who starts, the defense also needs to play better. Team captain Mike Fisher noted this point after Game 2.
“It’s not his fault by any means,” said Fisher. “We know we can do a better job in front of him. It’s a team game, and everyone looks at shots and save percentage but forget about the quality and who we’re playing. And certain parts of the game where we got to help him out.”
In reality, Nashville hasn’t been as bad as their 0-2 deficit and minus-4 goal margin would suggest. They stopped the Pens for most of Game 1, then hung with Pittsburgh until the third period on Wednesday.
Game 2 is especially notable because the Penguins barely got a shot on net through the first two periods. The defense is playing well – they just need help in the goalie and offense departments to complete the game.
Why the Penguins will Win
While Pittsburgh hasn’t dominated from wire to wire, they did enough good things to win the first two contests.
Rookie forward Jake Guentzel continued his incredible playoff run, scoring twice in what turned out to be a 4-1 route. Guentzel is having an outstanding postseason with 12 goals – just shy of Dino Ciccarelli’s rookie record.
Scott Wilson and Evgeni Malkin also played a big role in breaking the Predators’ spirits, scoring goals just 15 seconds apart.
Goaltender Matt Murray was solid as well, keeping the Pens in the game until they opened things up in the third. He finished with 37 saves and out-dueled Rinne, who stopped 21 of 25 shots before being pulled.
Despite all of the good, Pittsburgh could play better. They were 0-for-5 on power plays through the first 40 minutes. Sidney Crosby and Malkin were unable to get any shots in the first two periods. And Malkin also lost 7 out of 8 face-offs.
These stats aren’t pretty, but the Penguins have enough talent to win regardless. And Malkin – despite his struggles – helped in the win by netting the fourth and final goal that sent Rinne to the bench.
Prediction for Game 3
Sooner or later, Nashville will get their sticks going. The only question is, can they withstand Pittsburgh’s barrage the entire game? Odds are that they won’t completely stop Pittsburgh. But it won’t be surprising if they do enough to win Game 3 at home, where they play better.
Score Prediction: Nashville wins 4-3