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Preds Seek Power at Home vs. Pens

Updated: .June 11, 2017

By Charles Jay

The Nashville Predators really took it on the chin in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, to the extent that both of their goaltenders got bombed. They were shut out and maybe a little embarrassed and will try to hang onto their chances on Sunday night as they square off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6, scheduled to begin at 8 PM ET at the Bridgestone Arena, which is without a doubt one of the more “happening” places in the NHL. America’s Bookie customers know that they can take advantage of two different “Live Betting” options in their user-friendly sportsbook interface, and that can make the game even more fun.

The 6-0 result in Game 5 had to be particularly deflating for Pekka Rinne, who was knocked out after only one period, sent to the shower like a pitcher who got shelled. He gave up three goals in just nine shots, and upon relieving him in the second stanza, Juuse Saros, gave up a goal on the very first shot. So basically, nothing worked all that well for the Predators. Their defensemen did not have a very good night, blocking only seven shots, and one of their “Big Four” could be out of this game, as Ryan Ellis suffered what the NHL terms an “upper body” injury and sat out of practice on Saturday.

The Penguins will try to clinch on the other team’s home ice, which, by the way, they have done each of the four times they have won the Stanley Cup. But Nashville has been formidable, to say the least, in its own building, going 9-1 in the post-season – with the only loss in overtime – while Rinne has been brilliant in the irons. He may get very jittery at the PPG Paints Arena, but in Music City he has a 1.50 goals-against average, and he was nothing short of sensational in the two games that were played in Nashville, stopping 50 of the 52 shots that came his way as the Preds evened things up at two games apiece.

In the Stanley Cup betting odds that are posted on this game, the Predators are the favored side:

Nashville Predators -140
Pittsburgh Penguins +120

Penguins +1.5 Goals -255
Predators -1.5 Goals +215

Under 5.5 Goals -130
Over 5.5 Goals +110

The shots were dead even in Game 5, but Matt Murray did a terrific job in goal, and that was important for him, after he allowed eight goals in the two games that were played in Nashville. He wrapped up his second shutout of this post-season, and he could lead this team to a pair of Stanley Cups while still technically being a rookie. And the perception – which is not necessarily all that inaccurate – is that he is playing behind a much weaker group of defensemen, without star Kris Letang. The Pittsburgh backliners exhibited some real difficulty carrying the puck out of the zone in the first four games, as no one even had a 50% success rate in doing so.

On the other hand, the Nashville defensemen are an integral part of the attack plan laid out by head coach Peter Laviolette. This season that group had more goals and points than any other in the NHL, and you can see how critical they are from Thursday’s game, where they had half the team’s 24 shots on goal. The Penguins got only five shots on goal from its defensemen in Game 5 – but to their credit they blocked sixteen shots.

But one of those defensemen is offensive-minded, and Justin Schultz, who can be considered a threat, had the team’s power play goal. Phil Kessel also rose to the occasion; after going six games without a goal, he put one in the net and had two assists. Sidney Crosby, who got involved in a nasty altercation with PK Subban in which he was lucky to get away without a major penalty, had three assists, while Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist. Those guys are the top two point scorers in the playoffs.

The Nashville personnel situation was somewhat uncertain early on Sunday, with Ellis’ injury, and that means something since (1) the Preds don’t get as much from their forwards as Pittsburgh does, and (2) Laviolette doesn’t have great back line depth to draw upon. But forward Colton Sissons, who got a match penalty late in Game 5 for a cross check, has escaped a suspension from the NHL and will be available here.

Rinne has been yanked form his last two road games, but he turns into a different goalie at home, and the Predators are a different team, drawing on energy form the raucous crowd. They have, for the most part, snuffed out the Pittsburgh power play (which is just 2 of 22) and we don’t expect the defense to have another off-night. Malkin has not scored a goal while Subban has been on the ice, and that’s no accident. Nashville is aggressive and can keep Pittsburgh bottled up in its zone, if they are in their groove. We’ll look for the Preds to stretch this thing to a seventh game with a victory, as the Charles Jay / America’s Bookie Challenge continues on Sunday night.

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