The season is starting and hockey fans everywhere are rejoicing. The Nashville Predators have two games this week and both of them seem interesting.
While it’s tempting for me to choose the opening game of the season against the Philadelphia Flyers. The second game this week is just too juicy and interesting. The Nashville Predators will have a rematch against the reigning Stanley Cup Champions on Saturday, the seventh. They will play no other than the ones who did them wrong last June, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Of course, the game against the Flyers will be an intense one, but the game against the Penguins will be on another level. The Penguins are a tier above the Flyers, but to add gasoline to the fire, there’s some bad blood left from the finals. This time though, things are a bit different.
Who To Watch
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I’d say watch everyone on the Nashville Predators, but that wouldn’t make for a very good article. So be sure to watch Ryan Johansen, P.K. Subban, and Pekka Rinne. Johansen didn’t get a chance to continue his hot streak into the Stanley Cup Finals against the Penguins. And I think he’s gearing up for a chance to show an offensive impact the Nashville Predators were missing. Subban will also have a big game as he will have to shadow Sidney Crosby again. Subban emerged as top shutdown defenseman last season and will look to continue living up to the title. I don’t expect much from him in points, but he’ll keep points off the board.
Finally, Pekka Rinne… Let’s see if he can post a save percentage over .850 in the 412 area code. Last season the city of Pittsburgh was his kryptonite, but he’ll get a chance to redeem himself this Saturday.
The Penguins are equally loaded on talent. Of course, you should always watch Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Matthew Murray. Crosby is the best player in the NHL at the moment, no matter what anyone else says. He loves to win and he’s looking to captain his team to a three-peat. He’ll most likely play against Subban for what should be an epic re-match of last year, and boy, do they not like each other. Malkin is a bit of a different story, he cooled down in the playoffs last year while Crosby and Murray got hot towards the end. He’ll look to start the season off strong with a couple of points against the Nashville Predators.
Matt Murray looks to cement himself as the goalie of the present and future for the Penguins. No Marc-Andre Fleury means that there is no longer any safety net for Murray to fall back on. But who says that he needs it? Murray will look to shine in the early days of the season.
It’s a fairly obvious one but the story of the game will be injuries. Or rather, a lack of injuries on both sides compared to the finals. The Penguins are currently missing Patric Hornqvist, although he’s a possibility for Saturday’s game. Meanwhile, the Nashville Predators are missing Ryan Ellis till the new year and Nick Bonino is a question mark for this game.
Both teams are much better off than they were in the finals, even with these three injuries. The Nashville Predators actually have a center corp and some wingers while the Penguins actually have a defense. Seriously, they were missing their entire top four in the finals… The question on my mind last season was, “what if these two teams were actually healthy?” I mean goaltending was also a factor but the two teams were so battered and bruised. I’m actually surprised Bonino didn’t skate around on crutches during his shifts.
Now that both teams are mostly healthy, we can finally get to see what could have been. Two Stanley Cup Contenders duking it out with the anger that comes from a seven-game series. Expect fast goals, smart saves, a few big hits, and maybe even a fight or two. I’m personally hoping we get a Listerine match, round two between Subban and Crosby. But that’s just me.
Trust me, you won’t want to miss this game.