Just as we did in round one, we will get one game seven to end round two of the Stanley Cup playoffs. After staving off elimination in game six, the Nashville Predators will look to return to the conference finals for the second straight year as they clash with the Winnipeg Jets at home.
It will be the first time in the history of the Predators organization that they have hosted a game seven at home. Last season, they made a magical run to the finals where they ultimately fell short against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Competing in two game sevens in the process. This season, they entered the tournament as the President’s Trophy winner as the best team in the regular season. Now, it’s do-or-die for both the Predators and Jets.
The two teams entered the series as the two best in the entire NHL this past regular season with 117 and 114 points respectively. This series has been nothing short of a showcase as to why that is the case. Through six games, shots (117) and attempts (338) are deadlocked between the two teams. Neither team has won back-to-back games in the series which bodes well for Winnipeg. Especially given the fact that they have already won 2-of-3 in Nashville during the series.
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Why The Predators Will Win
The Predators finished the year as the second-best defensive team in the league allowing the second-fewest goals. A large reason for that has been the play of the ageless perennial Vezina Trophy finalist, Pekka Rinne. However, his play has slipped a tad in the playoffs (.927 save percentage down to .907). In addition, the Jets have been able to score in Nashville, notching 14 goals in the three games at Bridgestone Arena thus far. However, as shown in games four and six, the Predators have the ability to put the clamps on the Jets offense. It starts with two of the best defenseman in the league in P.K. Subban and Roman Josi. The Predators will need both Subban and Josi (third and fifth on the team in points) to be just that if they look to advance.
On offense, the Preds are being led by the same guys that drove their success in the regular season. Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidson, and Ryan Johannsen were the team’s three top scoring forwards in the regular season and continue to be in the postseason as well. They will have to keep the pace from game six (the trio collected eight points in the win) to be the first team in this series to win back-to-back games. Starting fast will be crucial for the Predators who don’t want gain some early momentum on the road. This is where playoff experience can be a huge edge. Something the Predators have plenty of.
Why The Jets Will Win
As mentioned before, the Jets have not been flustered by the crowd in Nashville. In fact, it has brought their offense to a level in which they look unstoppable. That MUST continue for the Jets in order to win this game. The Predators were able to dictate the pace of play in game six and certainly are capable of doing so again in game seven. Mark Schefele has been a force all series for the Jets and that must continue in game seven. The 24-year-old centerman has nine points (five goals) in the series and leads all Jets playoff scorers with 14 postseason points.
Pekka Rinne is a nice piece to have if you’re the Predators. However, the Jets have a Vezina finalist of their own in Connor Hellebucyk. His play has remained consistent from regular to the postseason. In addition, he has allowed just three goals in two wins in Nashville so far in the series. With that said, just as with his counterpart at the other end, he has been vulnerable. Hellebucyk will have to play like the Vezina finalist he is from the get-go to calm the crowd, which, by all accounts, should be quick raucous tonight.
This game seven has the makings of a classic playoff game between the two best teams in the league. There has been no rhyme or reason for some of the trends in this series (like the road team dominance at times), therefore it makes sense that this game and series will be settled in a double overtime thriller.
Winnipeg wins 4-3 in double overtime.