Nashville Predators: Penalty-free play will be key against Penguins

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

It’s game day! With the second game in the Stanley Cup rematch this season, the Nashville Predators must keep five skaters on the ice all night.

It may be the most talked about game of the season in Nashville so far. After the excitement brought through acquiring Kyle Turris, there is new life engulfing the Nashville Predators. With the team as close to full-strength as possible – the only exception being Ryan Ellis out – the Predators take the ice with one goal in mind.

Beat the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The task is a tall one no matter how you look at it. The Penguins are two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions. They sit fourth overall in the Eastern Conference, with 20 total points on the season. And let’s not forget the 4-0 thrashing they put on the Predators in October.

But, this is a different Predators team than back on October. Heck, it is different from it was last week. In order to win tonight, the Predators must stay out of the penalty box.

Keep it clean

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Looking back to the game on October 7, it was clear the Predators wanted to make a statement. They were not backing down from the fight against Pittsburgh. It was a hard game to watch if you like new-school hockey. But, if you like fights and a bit of dirty play, that game was just what you wanted.

The Predators cannot afford a repeat performance tonight. In the first game, 46 minutes in penalties were called against Nashville. Pittsburgh accumulated 36. While it seems fairly balanced, playing three-quarters of the game with only four skaters is not winning hockey.

Both teams are among the worst in even-strength scoring this year. As a matter for fact, they are tied with 27 goals at even-strength. However, the Penguins have played three more games. However, where the Predators allowed only 26 goals during these moments, opponents found the net 48 times against the Penguins. It is worth noting the Penguins have a -17 goal differential this year.

That being said, the Predators have allowed opponents 73 power play opportunities. Thankfully, they kill 83.56% of all penalties. The two teams rank first and second in penalty minutes per game. However, the Penguins boast one of the best power plays in the league. Should the Predators commit penalties tonight, the Penguins can – and will – take advantage.

Let the Penguins make the mistakes. Allow them to get penalties. But, their struggles come at even strength. Matt Murray is not the same goalie he was last year. Skaters like Ryan Johansen, Kevin Fiala, and Craig Smith need to fire at well and see what happens. Let Scott Hartnell clean up in front of the net.

Next: Is A Pittsburgh Rivalry On The Horizon?

To quote Ric Flair, “to be the best, you have to beat the best.” The Penguins are the NHL’s best. They hold the title belt. A win for the Predators will only boost their confidence. However, penalties will keep them from success tonight.