Today, on Nashville Predators Pride Day and Captain Mike Fisher’s (aka Mr. Underwood) birthday, the Pittsburgh Penguins descend upon Bridgestone Arena once more for game 4.
Despite leading the series 2-1, the Penguins have not looked good this series. The Predators have been the better team each game thus far. They merely suffered from bad puck luck and freak own goals. Crushing the Penguins 5-1 on Saturday night, the Predators were rewarded for sticking to their game plan that they knew was working, but just not showing quite yet on the scoreboard.
Game 4 is always the most important game of a series. Going in 2-1, either the Penguins will take a commanding 3-1 series lead, or the Predators will put all the pressure on the Penguins as they head back to Pittsburgh tied up 2-2.
The Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins, arguably playing their best game of the series on Saturday night, were not merely defeated, but crushed by the Predators. Not only did Sidney Crosby actually take a penalty (-GASP-) but he and Evgeni Malkin were both held without a single shot. This was the first time in their careers in which neither player registered a shot on goal in a playoff game.
Jake “Who?” Guentzel has continued to be a revalation these playoffs, scoring a rebound goal where Ryan Ellis should have tied him up. After scoring 16 goals in the regular season, he has 13 in the playoffs. However, he’s also riding an otherworldly 29.5 shooting percentage, so one has to believe that he will regress sooner or later.
It’ll be interesting to see who the Penguins start in net, as Matt Murray gave up five goals in game 3. The Penguins are a team with the luxury of having Marc-Andre Fleury as their back up, and he had played extremely well in the playoffs with Murray suffering from injury. My money is on Murray starting, but don’t think that starting Fleury hasn’t been considered.
The Nashville Predators
P.K. Subban guaranteed a game 3 win, and the Predators delivered.
Continuing to rely on a wide cast of players, rookie Frederick Gaudreau scored his second goal of the Stanley Cup Finals to put the Predators up 2-1 partway through the second period on Saturday night. It would prove to be the game winning goal.
Meanwhile, head coach Peter Laviolette replaced Vernon Fiddler and Cody McLeod with PA Parenteau and Harry Zolnierczyk, trying to get more speed in his lineup. It worked wonders. The fourth line was not pinned down in its own defensive zone and doing a bad job at doing damage control, but they rather were aggressive, using their speed to move the puck down into the offensive zone. Zolnierczyk was particularly influential, using his speed to force the Penguins into taking a penalty that lead to Roman Josi’s goal.
Although lines are expected to be the same, Colin Wilson was skating in practice today. Perhaps he makes an entrance into the lineup, pushing Gaudreau back to the fourth line. However, that appears to be unlikely.
No apparent changes to the Predators' forward lines this morning, but you probably already knew that.— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) June 5, 2017
Sights and Sounds
If you can’t make it to the game or the viewing party downtown, the game will be televised on NBC. Alternatively, you can tune in to 102.5 for the radio broadcast.