The Stanley Cup Finals start Monday, May 29. Before they get going, let’s have a look back at how the Conference Finals played out.
DUCKS vs PREDS
Entering the league in 1998, the Nashville Predators have finally clinched a berth in the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals. The Preds won 6-3 Monday night to close out the series in 6 games on home ice at Bridgestone Arena. With this 4-2 series victory, we will see the Predators face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Cup Final. Puck drop for that series is scheduled for Monday, May 29.
Nashville’s Colton Sissons recorded a hat-trick, his first in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Netminder Pekka Rinne made 38 stops between the pipes.
The game was tied up at 3 all by Cam Fowler, who beat Rinne while Corey Perry was screening him. This play was challenged by the Predators for goaltender interference. After the analysis in the “War Room”, it was determined to be a good goal.
Sissons lifted Nashville to 4-3 in the 3rd, with just under 10 minutes left to play, on a fantastic one-time.
Anaheim Coach, Randy Carlyle, was happy with the effort his Ducks put forward and stated they didn’t quit until the Preds scored on an empty net. The Ducks were a desperate team from the opening face-off, but they just didn’t have it this year.
Ducks vs Predators, Game 6, Detailed Summary:
The Ducks came out firing in game six, but Nashville scored on their first attempt on net. Austin Watson was on the boards when he threw the puck into the goal crease, had it bounce off Montours’ skate, and sneak by Jonathan Bernier. Only a minute and half into the game, Nashville found themselves on the scoreboard.
As the period progressed, things did not get better for the Ducks. Sissons took advantage of a turnover by Anaheim and beat Bernier to put the Predators up 2-0. Nick Ritchie coughed up the biscuit on a pass from Fowler and this lead to the Preds crossing the blue line with ease and capitalizing on the Ducks mistake. Bernier got beat stick side on the defensive collapse.
The Ducks didn’t play poorly in the first period, overall. After Ritchie picked up a penalty, Anaheim killed that off very nicely. They didn’t give up a single shot as Nashville looked to take advantage of the opportunity and couldn’t capitalize.
Finally, the Ducks got on the scoreboard just under five minutes into the second period when Ryan Getzlaf found Ondrej Kase’s tape to cut the deficit in half.
With not very much success on the power play, the Ducks were unable to create any momentum. Missing two of their power play wingers, Kase got some ice time to help fill the void. Bringing a fresh set of legs into the second line added some creativity for the Ducks. Yet, somehow Anaheim dominated the shot attempts this period, totaling 25 shots to Nashville’s 8 after 40 minutes.
Going into the final frame, the Preds scored just minutes in. With Nashville leading 3-1 on only 9 shots in the game so far, the Ducks never quit. Ducks fans stood behind their team and knew this game was far from over. Chris Wagner, shooting it off Rinne’s head, scores. The play was created behind the net by Nic Kerdiles, who found Wagner right in the slot and with that, Kerdiles records his first career playoff point. As mentioned above, Perry locked himself up with Rinne and that led to Fowler firing the biscuit past the Nashville netminder from the point.
The terrible Ducks power play continued when skipper Getzlaf buckled and gave up the puck in the offensive zone. Sissons found himself open for a one-timer after the Ducks collapsed defensively. Bernier needed to be on his game for this contest but he really wasn’t, allowing 4 goals on the first 16 shots he faced.
We could all see how this one would end. Anaheim had 6 minutes to find an equalizer to force overtime. The Ducks pulled Bernier and couldn’t even get a shot off before Filip Forsberg scored on the empty net. Austin Watson added one more for insurance and that was it. The Ducks season was over and the game was out of reach.
The Nashville Predators are the Western Conference Champions for the first time in franchise history.
PENS vs SENS
Nearing the end of the regular season, Chris Kunitz spent some time nursing a lower body injury, causing much stress for the 37-year-old, thinking his days were numbered in Pittsburgh. Kunitz has been around long enough to know how things like this typically pan out for players his age in the NHL. Regardless of his age, Kunitz found a way to push out a solid effort for the Penguins and even scored the game-winning goal in double overtime. Kunitz’ 2 goals in game seven saw him end a 25 playoff game scoreless drought.
Penguins vs Senators, Game 7, Detailed Summary:
After a scoreless 1st period, Conor Sheary, who was scratched for games five and six, worked a beautiful 2-on-1 with Kunitz, who snuck the puck past Craig Anderson ten minutes into the second frame.
Before the crowd finished cheering Sheary’s goal Ottawa responded when Mark Stone beat Matt Murray with a wrister,. But like they always do, the Penguins kept coming.
In the 3rd Kunitz screened Anderson to see Justin Schultz find the back of the net with just over eight and a half minutes remaining, yet the Pens could not protect a lead.
Just three minutes later, Ryan Dzingel waited next to the right post and cleaned up a rebound from a Karlsson blast that dinged the iron.
Off to overtime, where the first OT session solved nothing. The Pens pushed hard to get off 8 more shot attempts in OT1, but it wasn’t until the second extra frame that Pittsburgh got the goal they needed to advance to the Stanley Cup.
Sidney Crosby sent a backhand pass to Kunitz that couldn’t have been placed any better. Ottawa’s defense seemed to break down and Crosby’s long-time linemate was able to capitalize. Kunitz sniped it sweetly from outside the face-off circle, beating Anderson just five minutes into the second double overtime period.This now puts the Pens well on the path to repeating as they enter the Stanley Cup finals, beginning Monday night. They now have an even greater chance of becoming the first repeat
This now puts the Pens well on the path to repeating as they enter the Stanley Cup finals, beginning Monday night. They now have an even greater chance of becoming the first repeat cup winners since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings.
Pittsburgh Goaltender, Matt Murray, managed to stop 27 shot attempts. Not a bad way to celebrate his 23rd birthday.
Anderson, who the Senators heavily depended on to be solid between the pipes, made 39 stops in the contest. The Senators are now 0-6 all time in game sevens.
While a long off-season now lies ahead for the Senators, don’t count this Ottawa team out for another successful season come 2017-2018. Last year, this Senators team didn’t even make the postseason and many bet on them not to make a deep run in this year’s playoffs. Forcing a game seven and a return to Pittsburgh after winning game 6 at Canadian Tire Centre is no easy feat against the defending champions.
After Anderson collapsed in game 5 and was humiliated by the Penguins, the Sens lost 7-0. Ottawa, on the brink of elimination, took game six and resiliently forced a trip back to PPG Paints Arena.
Senators Coach, Guy Boucher, stressed for his team to focus on the little things for game seven. This formula worked as the Senators eliminated the Bruins and Rangers, but it came up short against the Penguins. For a first-year coach to be one win away from the Stanley Cup Final, Ottawa should likely hold onto Boucher for a while longer.
The next round will be the last round. Either way it plays out, history will be made. Will we see a repeat champion for the first time in almost 20 years? Or will we see the first cup in a franchise’s history?
Get your popcorn ready.