Mystique vs. mayhem in unlikely Stanley Cup Final

They went on a late season tear, winning nine out of 16 games, to make the playoffs.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will meet the Nashville Predators in the NHL Stanley Cup Finals starting on Monday night in Pittsburgh this week. It's worked out beautifully for both sides. While the Predators have made the right moves to put themselves within four wins of a Stanley Cup, the Capitals' postseason fortunes haven't changed as they brace for another offseason of searching for a solution. But despite the Penguins' general unwillingness to tout their big-game chops, there was at least one veteran who did point to it as a definite advantage against Nashville. He leads playoff goaltenders in all three categories. No team has repeated as Stanley Cup champion since 1998, but the Pittsburgh Penguins feel that they have a chance to pull off the rare feat with superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin leading the offence. "We had our meetings prior to hiring Peter as to where the game was going and what we wanted to do and how we thought we could be better".

Crosby set up Kunitz's series victor against the Senators and had six points over the final five games of the series.

"More than anything, I think we were built in order to get to this point".

Now, in his first season with Nashville, he's going to a Cup final while the team that didn't want him exited in the first round.

Hornqvist isn't the only former Predator on the Penguins. No one in the league has more.

The Preds will need similar contributions from the likes of James Neal, Colin Wilson, Pontus Aberg and even Game 6 hat trick hero, Austin Watson, given that Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson will likely have to line up either against Crosby and/or Malkin.

Bowman believes winning two in a row today is inherently more hard because of the salary cap and resulting parity of the league.

Forsberg, Washington's 2012 first-round pick, was just 18 at the time. The Penguins are 5-0 in their last 5 games playing on 3 or more days rest and the under is 8-1 in Penguins last 9 Stanley Cup Finals games while the over is 7-1-1 in Penguins last 9 games playing on 3 or more days rest.

And, when the final goal has been scored and all is said and done, it might very well be the key edge that leads the Penguins to a second consecutive Stanley Cup. Defenseman P.K. Subban, a former Norris Trophy victor, has also contributed 10 points in the playoffs and will work with Nashville's excellent cadre of blueliners to stymie Pittsburgh's offense and prevent them from getting shots on goaltender Pekka Rinne, who is having an excellent postseason. Both Laviolette and Sullivan have stressed the series is about the players, but there's no denying the ability of both men to cut through the noise.

They're missing their top center in Ryan Johansen, who had emergency surgery after Game 4 of the conference final after suffering compartment syndrome in his left thigh.

Bowman guided the last repeat victor in Detroit with the Red Wings winning by sweeps in 1997 and 1998.

Everyone knows of the BIG trade that reshaped both franchises sending then Predator captain Shea Weber to Montreal and Subban heading to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne gives Nashville no less than a saw-off in nets against the Matt Murray/Marc-Andre Fleury tandem. Goaltender Pekka Rinne is playing the best hockey of his career at 34 (1.70 goals against in the playoffs) while the Predators' defense seems to know when jump in the fray. He has a 1.70 goals-against average and.941 save percentage in 16 starts.

Nashville's series of risks had paid off, firing the only coach the organization had ever known in exchange for a more proven one, and then trading away several valued players on the roster because the organization was committed to a new identity and the personnel best suited to install it. First they swept the Blackhawks in the first round, hardly breaking a sweat with the Chicago team that has won three Cups in the past eight years. "I think they've got a great chance". "But for whatever reason, it didn't happen. I always felt that one day we would be in this situation", Rinne said, per NBCSports.com's Adam Gretz.

"I think these guys are ultimately driven to win championships", he added of his two stars.

  • Julie Sanders