The 2017 NHL playoffs have been one of upsets and mishap as teams that hockey fans probably would not have guessed are in the conference finals vying for a spot in the Stanley Cup Final. With Nashville clinching their first ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the Eastern Conference features one team (Pittsburgh) that many expect to win it all and another team (Ottawa) that no one really expected to be here. Let’s dive into the action and break down why each team has a legitimate chance to win it all.
Oh the Pittsburgh Penguins. The team that everyone enjoys to hate because they are in a position to win every year since the arrival of perennial All-Star Sidney Crosby in 2005. This team is fueled by power-play opportunities (ranking third in the league) and putting the puck in the net at a high rate (ranked first in goals scored). The defensive side of the puck is where Pittsburgh is struggling, as they rank in the bottom half of the league in both goals against and penalty kill percentage. The Penguins are currently up 3-2 in a series against the Senators and look to close things out with a win on Tuesday night.
After punching their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history on Monday, the Predators turn their attention to the winner of the Senators/Penguins series. The squad started off the NHL playoffs by shocking the world and sweeping the Blackhawks 4-0 in the first round, followed up by a 4-2 series win against St. Louis in the second round. The Predators again took care of business against the Ducks when everyone was doubting them. Nashville closed out the series in six games after a dominating 6-3 victory. Many are starting to cheer on the Cinderella story as they are one of the lowest seeds to ever make a Stanley Cup Final. Will the team keep playing their best hockey of the year or will their fairytale have a not-so-happy ending?
The Senators are another team not many expected to be here. Facing off against the Penguins, no one initially gave them a chance. Ottawa came out firing and took a 2-1 series lead. Since then however, the Senators have dropped two straight and are on the brink of elimination Tuesday night against Pittsburgh. Ranked 22nd in goals/game, power play percentage and penalty kill percentage, the Senators make their money defending, allowing only two and a half goals per game, good enough for tenth in the league. The Senators will have to play great defense in order to win two-straight against Sidney Crosby and company.
There is plenty of good hockey remaining this season. With one Conference Finals series complete giving us Nashville’s first ever birth in a Cup Final and another that might head to seven games, keep your eyes on these games as they will be highly enticing.