Well after shaky at best track record of predictions in the first two rounds, I went 2-for-2 in the conference finals, picking the Nashville Predators over the Anaheim Ducks in six games and the defending Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh Penguins over the Cinderella team of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Ottawa Senators, in seven games. And then there were two.
No team has repeated as Cup champs since the salary cap was installed in 2005-06 and not since Steve Yzerman and the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998, has there been back-to-back Stanley Cup champions.
Note: I miss Gary Thorne calling hockey!
It was a wonderful feat then, but now with the cap, the parity, a younger and arguably more skilled league, it’s almost impossible. But leave it to Penguins captain Sidney Crosby to achieve the impossible and that’s just what he and his teammates will do in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, beating the Predators in seven games.
Yes the Predators have been the most dominant team in the playoffs thus far, going 12-4. They swept the Blackhawks and then beat the Blues and Ducks each in six games. They have an all world goalie in Pekka Rinne who is having a Tim Thomas-like (but with more structure) playoff run. They also have a defense with as Chris Kunitz said following his team’s Game 7 Eastern Conference Final win over the Senators, “Four [Erik] Karlsson’s”. But what they’re lacking and what is absolutely crucial at this time of the playoffs, is the center depth — both in size and skill — of the Penguins.
Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen will prove to be too much for a Preds team who will realize just how much they miss Ryan Johansen in this series. Throw in the firepower on the wings the Pens have and the recipe is there for a repeat and be ‘Walking On Sunshine’ again! But while Nashville may be thin up the middle, they’re never thin in heart and grit, and that’s why this one is going the distance.
Prediction: Pens in 7
Conn Smythe Prediction: Evgeni Malkin