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The 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final is underway

Jake+Guentzel
Jake Guentzel

Jake Guentzel

CBC.ca

CBC.ca

Jake Guentzel

Matthew Polek, Sports Editor

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The 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final is underway. Game 1 between the Nashville Predators and the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins took place last night in PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

The schedule is:

Game 1 5-3 Penguins

Game 2 5/31 in Pittsburgh

Game 3 6/3 in Nashville

Game 4 6/5 in Nashville

Game 5 6/8 in Pittsburgh (If Necessary)

Game 6 6/11 in Nashville (If Necessary)

Game 7 6/14 in Nashville (If Necessary)

The Nashville Predators have had an amazing run through the playoffs to this point. Making the western conference playoffs as the 8 seed they faced the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round. Nobody told Nashville they were the 8 seed playing the 1 seed, as the Predators swept the Blackhawks in 4 games, outscoring them 13-3 in those 4 games.

The second round matchup for the Predators was against the St. Louis Blues. The Blues put up a better fight than the Blackhawks, taking the Preds to 6 games, but still falling short as Nashville won the series 4 games to 2, sending the Predators to the Western Conference Finals.

In the WCF, the Predators took on the Anaheim Ducks. After winning game 1 in overtime, the Predators lost game 2. They bounced back to win game 3 and after losing game 4 in overtime to tie the series at 2-2 they came out and finished the Ducks off, winning games 5 and 6, outscoring them 9-4 in the last two games.

The Penguins had a much harder run to the finals this year than Nashville. Round 1 wasn’t too bad, as the Pens took care of the Blue Jackets in 5 games. Rounds 2 and 3 for Pittsburgh would be long and challenging.

Round 2 Pittsburgh took on the Washington Capitals. The Pens got out to a commanding 3-1 series lead before Washington won games 5 and 6, outscoring Pittsburgh 9-4, to tie the series up and force game 7. In game 7, the Penguins won 2-0 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, hoping to make it back to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The ECF was anything but easy for the Penguins. Taking on a very good Ottawa Senators team, the Pens had their work cut out for them if they were going to make it to the finals again. The series was close through 4 games, each team taking 2 games. Game 5 the Penguins absolutely dominated, winning 7-0, taking a 3-2 series lead. The Senators came right back in game 6, winning 3-2, forcing another game 7 for the Pens.

Game 7 of the ECF was one for the ages. The Penguins scored first, finding the back of the net about midway through the 2nd period. Just 20 seconds later, the Senators answered, tying the game at 1 with 9:45 left in the 2nd. In the 3rd, the Pens scored with just over 8 minutes left, but once again Ottawa answered, tying the game at 2 with 5 minutes to go. That would be the score for about 30 minutes of play, through the end of regulation, and a whole OT period. About 5 minutes into the 2nd OT, Chris Kunitz found the back of the net for the 2nd time in the game, this time sending the Penguins to their second straight Stanley Cup Final.

That shot set up the SCF, Nashville Predators, trying to clinch their first ever Stanley Cup, VS the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins who are trying to become the first team to go back to back since the Detroit Red Wings did it in 1997 and ‘98.  

If game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals was what we are going to get for the whole series then most fans will be pleased. The Predators played amazingly through the first ten minutes, getting off triple the shots the Pens did, just never finding the back of the net. The Penguins got the scoring started with a 5 on 3 power play goal late in the 1st. They added 2 more goals and took a 3-0 lead into the 2nd period.

After the Pens’ third goal they went a full 37:09 without another shot. They didn’t get one shot in the 2nd, the first time in Pittsburgh playoff history they went a whole period without a shot. The Predators took advantage. Scoring one goal in the 2nd, and two in the 3rd, the came all the way back to erase a 3-0 deficit and deflate the crowd in Pittsburgh.

Then experience took over. The Penguins are in the SCF for the 2nd year in a row. Nashville has never been here before. That showed in the final 5 minutes. The Penguins had been outplayed all game and when the Preds tied the game, they buckled down and started playing their game again. With 3:17 left to play Jake Guentzel found the top right corner of the net to give the Penguins a 4-3 lead. Pittsburgh would add another empty net goal and win game 1 5-3.

The Penguins only had 12 shot attempts all game, the fewest ever a SCF game by a winner. Nashville played better, just didn’t execute. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. And last night, the Penguins were lucky. Game 2 will be Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

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The 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final is underway