May 30, 2017

Penguins Win Game One of 2017 Stanley Cup Final

The Pittsburgh Penguins escaped with a 5-3 victory over the Nashville Predators in game one of the Stanley Cup final. 

The game was both weird and dull.  Maybe it was the lack of emotion as the Stanley Cup final lacks the conference rivalry? Maybe the two teams are not familiar enough with one another that they spent much of the night feeling each other out? I'm not sure, but for a series that promises a lot of excitement between two entertaining teams, this may have been the worst played game I've watched this post-season.

It was weird in that Pittsburgh scored five times on just twelve shots. That won't happen on Pekka Rinne again this series. At one point went Pittsburgh went 37 minutes of playing time between shots, and scored on both. 

The Penguins were so lackluster that they became the first team in NHL history (at least since 1958 when the stat was officially record) to go without a shot on goal in an entire period (period two) of any game played in the Stanley Cup final.

Pittsburgh was lucky to get out to a 3-0 lead in the first period, thanks mostly to a disastrous opening stanza for the Predators. It started with a disallowed goal by PK Subban due to a controversial missed off-side call. That was followed up by two quick Pittsburgh tallies and a late period fluke that saw the puck pinball wildly behind Rinne.

In the second and third period Nashville was the stronger team at both ends of the ice, eventually tying the game at three. They looked far from their best, either, but at least the Predators should know that they can play with the Penguins. On most nights they would have played well enough to win.

Cue Pittsburgh star rookie Jake Guentzel. With just a little over three minutes left the Omaha, Nebraska born Guentzel regained the lead for the home towners with his league leading 10th Stanley Cup playoff goal, and his first in nine games.  Only four other rookies in NHL history have reached double digits in goal scoring in the playoffs - Dino Ciccarelli (with a record 14 goals in 1981), Claude Lemieux, Jeremy Roenick and Brad Marchand.

Guentzel's goal was also a league-leading fourth game winner, which equalled a NHL rookie record set by Lemieux in 1986 and Chris Drury in 1999.

Playing on Sidney Crosby's wing should give Guentzel a shot at a couple more Stanley Cup rookie records. He now has 17 total points, just 4 shy of Ciccarelli's and Ville Leino's record of 21 points. He only needs one point to equal a record for most points by a US born rookie. Joe Mullen and Jeremy Roenick had 18 points in their rookie campaigns.

Despite their poor play, there is lots of good news for Pittsburgh.

Winning game one is seemingly vital to series success. Since the Stanley Cup final went to a best of seven format in 1939, the team winning game one has gone on to win the Stanley Cup 77.9% of the time, including in each of the last five years.

The other good news for the Penguins is that they probably have played their worst game of the series and got away with it.

Here's some Loose Pucks from the NHL's Morning Skate media release:

Nashville’s Ryan Ellis scored his fifth goal of the playoffs, tied for the League lead among defensemen with teammate Roman Josi . . . Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin (1-0—1) and Sidney Crosby (0-2—2) registered their League-leading 25th and 22nd points, respectively, of the postseason . . . Predators forward Colton Sissons (1-0—1) picked up his 11th point of the playoffs (6-5—11 in 17 GP), one more than his total from the regular season (8-2—10 in 58 GP) . . . Penguins forward Nick Bonino (2-0—2), who posted the tiebreaking goal with 2:33 remaining in Game 1 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final vs. SJS, recorded his second career multi-goal postseason game (74 GP) and first since April 27, 2014 w/ ANA .

Game two of the Stanley Cup final goes on Wednesday night.

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