2017 Stanley Cup: Colorado Avalanche Fan’s Finals Predictions

Jan 31, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) makes a save against Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Patric Hornqvist (72) during the second period at the PPG PAINTS Arena. The Penguins won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 31, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) makes a save against Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Patric Hornqvist (72) during the second period at the PPG PAINTS Arena. The Penguins won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Though the Colorado Avalanche are busy preparing for offseason moves, two teams are about to battle for the Stanley Cup — the Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Colorado Avalanche are gearing up for the NHL Scouting Combine (May 29 to June 3), Expansion Draft (results announced June 21) and the Entry Draft (June 23 – 24). Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh and Nashville two yellow-clad teams are getting ready to battle it out for sports’ ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup.

I’ve had some trouble picking this year’s bracket. I had a team that’s appeared in the Cup Finals a lot recently doing so again, but I thought it would be the Chicago Blackhawks. And I thought they’d eventually lose to the Washington Capitals.

When the Blackhawks got eliminated, I figured it would be the Anaheim Ducks facing the Caps eventually. However, once the Caps were eliminated, I did figure it would be the Pittsburgh Penguins.

I never guessed it would be against the Nashville Predators, though.

Let me just get this out of the way: The Pittsburgh Penguins are going to win. Let’s look at why.

Why the Pittsburgh Penguins will Win the Stanley Cup

The Pittsburgh Penguins will win the Stanley Cup because they’re annoyingly good — they’re the Chicago Blackhawks of the Eastern Conference. Not only do they have two of the top players in the NHL — Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin — but they know how to win at the top levels. They just did it last year.

It should come as no surprise that Crosby and Malkin are the leading scorers on the Penguins in the playoffs. Malkin has 24 points (7 goals, 17 assists) in 19 games, while Crosby has 20 points (7 goals, 13 assists) in 18 games.

By contrast, Filip Forsberg leads the Nashville Predators in playoff scoring with 15 points (8 goals, 7 assists) in 16 games. Ryan Johansen is next on the list with 13 points in 14 games (3 goals, 10 assists). Unfortunately, Johansen is laid up for the remainder of the playoffs after undergoing surgery following a compression injury to his thigh:

As an Avs fan, I just have to ask a quick question: Why is it we get everything else from the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the Colorado Avalanche couldn’t score Ryan Johansen?

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Anyway, the problem for the Nashville Predators is that their top center is out for the remainder of the playoffs. What’s more, their captain and leading center, Mike Fisher, has been out for the entire playoffs. Don’t get me wrong — he’s played in 14 of their 16 games, but he’s failed to record a single point.

In other words, there’s no way the Nashville Predators can match the Pittsburgh Penguins for offense.

The one thing that at least is going to make this a good series, if not actually steal the thing for the Preds, is the old adage: Defense wins championships. And the Nashville Predators have one of the, if not the, best defenses in the NHL.

The Preds have a top-four defense with P.K. Subban and Roman Josi as the cornerstones augmented by Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm. Together they’ve scored 32 percent of Nashville’s playoff points — 39 points (11 goals, 28 assists) total.

And then there’s the ridiculous play of Pekka Rinne. I know I’ve already said it, but a hot goalie can win you the Stanley Cup. (Ahem, Patrick Roy and his “No More Rats” of 1996.)

In 16 games Rinne has 12 wins and four losses. He’s allowed just 28 goals through three series, which is good for a 1.70 goals against average. His save percentage is crazy — .941. If anyone can stop Crosby and Malkin, it’s Pekka Rinne right now.

Desire for the 2017 Stanley Cup

I’d prefer the Nashville Predators to win the 2017 Stanley Cup.

I used to be a Penguins fan, back in the early 1990s before Colorado had a team. The Penguins and their back-to-back Stanley Cup wins were what got me into hockey. I still have my Jaromir Jagr Pens jersey — with the 1990s logo.

In a way, it would be cool to see the Pens do it again. Here’s the thing, though — Sidney Crosby annoys me. He’s so talented, yet he’s such a whiny baby on the ice. When he dives or goes crying to the refs, I just want to tell him to nut up already.

I’m so glad our star center, Nathan MacKinnon, hasn’t learned those bad habits from his Cole Harbor mentor. Maybe it’s his Irish temper, but when someone does MacK a wrong, he loses his temper:

I maintain to this day he had to go to the locker room to cool his blood down — look at his body language! Crosby would have turtled in that situation.

And MacK isn’t going to go whining to the refs every time someone touches him. He’s just throw down:

Jonathan Ericsson is one big, ugly goon, but Nate didn’t hesitate. Extra points for MacKinnon fighting a Detroit Red Wings player! (No, MacK didn’t win, but he’s a skill player and Ericsson really is an enforcer.)

Anyway, the point is, if I wanted to watch diving and crying, I’d be a soccer fan. They’re so much better at it than Crosby anyway.

Plus, there’s the other Irish boy connection (or he might be Scottish), Cody McLeod. I certainly have nothing against old Double Nickels, and according to Adrian Dater, he has nothing against us. Why shouldn’t we wish our ex some success.

Related Story: McLeod Going to the Cup Finals

Then there’s the P.K. Subban trade.

There was just something about Subban that the Montreal Canadiens didn’t appreciate. When his contract was about the move into No Trade territory, Montreal dealt him to the Predators for a relatively weak return — essential Shea Weber.

That’s not an exact replica of Le Trade, when the Canadiens lost their minds completely and dealt their Hall of Fame goalie, Patrick Roy, for chump change because said goalie didn’t get along with the head coach. However, Roy went on to lead his new team, the Colorado Avalanche, to Stanley Cup victory right away.

P.K. Subban ain’t Patrick Roy, but it would still be a nice bit of alliteration to see the same thing happen again after a silly Canadiens trade.

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Schedule for the Stanley Cup Finals

Game 1: Monday, May 29, at Pittsburgh

Game 2: Wednesday, May 31, at Pittsburgh

Game 3: Saturday, June 3, at Nashville

Game 4: Monday, June 5, at Nashville

Game 5: Thursday, June 8, at Pittsburgh (if needed)

Game 6: Sunday, June 11, at Nashville (if needed)

Game 7: Wednesday, June 14, at Pittsburgh (if needed)