2017 NHL Playoffs: Game 5 Winner May be Next Champ

May 31, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban (76)confronts Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) during the second period in game two of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final at PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
May 31, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban (76)confronts Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) during the second period in game two of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final at PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

As the 2017 NHL playoffs start drawing to a close, we could be just two games away from hailing the new Stanley Cup champs. Tonight’s Game 5 is a key game.

The 2017 NHL playoffs are almost over. Tonight the Nashville Predators are in Pittsburgh to face the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Penguins. The series is tied 2-2, so there’s at least one more game besides tonight’s.

However, the results of tonight’s game could yield the next Stanley Cup champion just the same.

If the Pittsburgh Penguins Win

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins right now. They’re attempting to make history, to echo the success they saw in 1991 and 1992 when they had back-to-back Stanley Cup wins. Only one team has managed that feat since, the (despicable) Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.

Besides that, we’re looking at how the current lineup — led by captain Sidney Crosby with his #2 Evgeny Malkin and supporting staff that includes Phil Kessel and Olli Maata — matches up to the historic lineup — led by captain Mario Lemieux with his #2 Jaromir Jagr and a supporting cast that included Bryan Trottier and Kevin Stevens.

However, it all comes down to basics. If the Pittsburgh Penguins win tonight, they only have to keep winning on home ice. That’s the treat of enjoying home ice advantage in the NHL playoffs.

If the Nashville Predators Win

The Nashville Predators are making history every time they step on the ice. The Stanley Cup Finals is the farthest the team has ever gone. This year marks the first they’ve even made it past the second round of the NHL playoffs.

Not to say Pittsburgh Penguins fans aren’t ecstatic about their team, but Predators fans are naturally over the moon. They’re also as over-the-top as their superstar, defenseman P.K. Subban. One fan made waves when he transported a catfish all the way to Pittsburgh to toss it onto the ice when Nashville scored. (He got hauled off to jail, though charges were eventually dropped.)

Now, Preds fans have reached a new level of Catfish Toss:

Not only was said catfish wearing a Subban-style chapeau and biting a penguin, it was wearing a Nashville Predators towel like a regal cape.

It’s a little basic for the Nashville Predators, too. If they win this one away game, they only have to win at home to secure the Stanley Cup. And not only will they have their exuberant fans behind them as a fifth line, they’ll also have the momentum.

Colorado Avalanche Game 5s

Embed from Getty Images

The Colorado Avalanche have faced a few Game 5 situations relatively recently, dating back to their historic Stanley Cup run of 2001.

In fact, let’s start there. In those NHL playoffs, Colorado saw three Game 5 situations. The first came in the second round when they beat the Los Angeles Kings in seven games.

I wish I could say they won that game, but they did not. They were already up by three games when they dropped both Game 5 and 6 to LA before taking Game 7 with a score of 5-1.

The third round only went to five games. The Colorado Avalanche beat the St. Louis Blues in the fifth game in overtime.

The Stanley Cup Finals also went to seven games. The Avs dropped that Game 5, too, with a score of 4-1. By that time they were down 3-1 in the series and facing elimination. Then, Patrick Roy shut the Devils down, Colorado scorers started doing their thing, and Colorado won the series in seven games.

In the following year, Colorado faced three Game 5 situations again. They lost to the LA Kings in the first round and dropped Game 6 again before beating the Kings in Game 7.

Sigh, the Avalanche lost Game 5 in the second round, too, with a score of 5-3 against the San Jose Sharks. They won the next two, though, to beat San Jose in seven games.

The Colorado Avalanche won Game 5 against the Detroit Red Wings in the Conference Finals! Unfortunately, they dropped the next two, getting eliminated in seven games. Detroit went on to beat the Carolina Hurricanes for the Stanley Cup.

The Avalanche didn’t make it past the first round in 2003. They lost Game 5 to the Minnesota Wild and eventually lost the series in seven. The seventh game was Patrick Roy’s last.

More from Mile High Sticking

I’m starting to regret this line of writing, but moving on. Colorado won their first Game 5 with their new goalie, David Aebischer, to eliminate the Dallas Stars in 2004’s first round of NHL playoffs.

They won Game 5 again in the second round but eventually fell to the San Jose Sharks in six games.

The Avs beat the Stars in five games again the next season but got swept by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

By 2008, the Colorado Avalanche had another goalie, Jose Theodore. They were looking pretty different from the last Stanley Cup team, though Joe Sakic was still around. They won Game 5 against the Minnesota Wild, but that hated team was starting to prove to be their Waterloo. They lost in six to the Wild.

By 2010, Colorado was in a decline. They lost Game 5 in the first round against the San Jose Sharks by a score of 5-0. Both Craig Anderson and Peter Budaj were in net for that game. Colorado lost the next game, and the series, to San Jose.

And then we move on to 2014, the last time the Colorado Avalanche were in the playoffs. They didn’t make it past the first round. The series went to seven, though, so they saw Game 5 action against the hated Minnesota Wild.

In fact, they saw Game 5 overtime victory against the hated Minnesota Wild. And then we saw heartbreaking overtime loss in Game 7, a ping that will live in infamy in Avs Nation.

Just for fun, let’s revisit the original Stanley Cup run. Colorado won their first two Game 5s, against the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks. They dropped the next Game 5 to the Detroit Red Wings before beating the team in six.

And then they swept the Florida Panthers for Stanley Cup victory.

Well, strolling down memory lane with the Colorado Avalanche didn’t illuminate much about tonight’s Game 5, but this is a Colorado Avalanche site.

Next: Best Pictures for the 1996 Cup Finals

I’d like to say the Nashville Predators already have the momentum and will take tonight’s Game 5 — and eventual Stanley Cup victory. However, home ice is an advantage in the NHL playoffs beyond what the fanbase adds. Home coaches get to make the match ups they want on ice. And Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan is no stranger to utilizing that power.

Nashville has a stellar defense and a great goalie, but they don’t a ton of firepower. Pittsburgh is more well-rounded.

Despite the fact that the Colorado Avalanche’s experiences with Game 5 situations didn’t offer any illumination, I’m going to stick with my bold prediction. Whichever team wins tonight’s game will go on to win the Stanley Cup.

The game starts at 6 pm MT tonight and is being televised on NBC and CBC. Game 6 isn’t until June 11, same time same networks.