2017 Stanley Cup Predictions: How Pittsburgh Wins Back-to-Back

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Sunday, May 28, 2017 1:50 PM GMT

From the 1940's thru 1998, it was commonplace for an organization to create an outstanding club and repeat as champions. That happened 13 times over five decades, with a few assembling three or more titles in a row.

However, since Detroit went back to back in 1997-98, nobody has been able to pull that tough trick again. Pittsburgh did it in 1991-92 with the great Mario Lemieux and has another superstar looking to make history in Sidney Crosby.

Most sportsbooks opening NHL odds for the Stanley Cup have Pittsburgh as a -150 favorite over Nashville. The Penguins path has been grueling, having to defeat the third-best team in the NHL (Columbus), the best team in Washington and far and away the grittiest bunch in Ottawa. The last two series have gone seven games, but Pittsburgh was not denied its chance to repeat.

What do the Penguins need to do to hoist another trophy?

 

Maintain Rapid Fire Offense

Make no mistake, Pittsburgh players are thrilled they will not see Ottawa's 1-3-1 trap defense again until next season. While the Pens will see a more conventional defense in Nashville, it could be even tougher to score on.

The Predators are only permitting 1.81 goals a game, while the Penguins offense is scoring 3.1 GAA in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. What Pittsburgh has to do is combine what they do best and add some of what Anaheim did to Nashville.

Coach Mike Sullivan has dynamic point producers like Crosby, Evgeni Malkin (24 points, leads the playoffs), Phil Kessel and Jake Guentzel. What Sullivan will want to do is have his troops maintain the pressure on goaltender Pekka Rinne and keep averaging the over 30 shots they have in the past eight contests.

After mostly dominating puck possession in their first 13 games of the postseason, the Predators were under siege the last three confrontations against the Ducks and were visibly worn down from the hitting they absorbed. Pitt does not have as many big bodies as Anaheim, yet can still deliver body blows with their speed and has far more players who can find the back of the net.

 

Curtail Nashville's Offense Zone Speed

It is a tribute to Pittsburgh they have even gotten back to this juncture with all the defensemen they have lost. Coach Mike Sullivan has been a master at finding matchups that work and making exceptional in-game and game to game adjustments to protect, yet utilize his stop troops most effectively.

The best way to slow the Predators speedy forwards is to engage them at the blue line whenever possible, forcing them to stop and start. If Pittsburgh does this, goalie Matt Murray is capable of doing the rest.

 

Build Leads and Peddle to the Metal

These two split their regular season meetings, with the home teams taking both. Pittsburgh knows what is required to take home the hardware, which helps, but guarantees little. It would best suited the Penguins grab early leads and keep the pressure on Nashville to always be catching up.

While the Predators will say this it is just the next step, having to live it and play through it is another matter. And if they are under the gun and frequently trailing, that can be mentally and physically taxing.

If Pittsburgh plays this way and you believe they will, they are the choice for NHL picks and will keep the Stanley Cup in the Steel City.

 

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