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Nashville Predators

2017 Stanley Cup Final: Questions Abound Ahead of Game Six

USATSI_10098019_154158418_lowresWhen a team wins in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, a team really wins.

Consider the scores: 5-3, 4-1, 5-1, 4-1, 6-0.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators haven’t exactly been playing close games throughout the series, with the Penguins ahead three games to two going into Game Six.

Pittsburgh is hoping to convert once more, but they’ll have to do it in Nashville and that means taking the crowd out of it early.

The Penguins seemed to run out of scoring in Game Three and Game Four, but they found their touch in Game Five and demolished the Predators with scoring through the entire roster. Even Ron Hainsey had a goal.

Pittsburgh has outscored Nashville 17-13 in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Penguins are used to being in this position. They won the Stanley Cup last year in Game Six, defeating the San Jose Sharks by a final score of 3-1. Kris Letang had the game-winning goal. The top defenceman isn’t in the works, but Pittsburgh has shown a capacity to overcome adversity that has served them well this year.

“I think it says a lot about the people that we have,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “I really believe this group of players is a unique group of players. They have a unique chemistry. They really care about one another. They’re a close-knit group. They play hard for one another and they have an appetite to win.”

The Predators have their work cut out for them in Game Six, but they’ve also shown an ability to dominate as well.

One issue for the home team is goaltending, which is hardly surprising.

Pekka Rinne allowed three goals on nine shots in Game Five and was pulled after one period. He hasn’t been able to pull off a win in Pittsburgh in the Final, but he does play well at home and that could tilt the balance. He’s 2-0 in Nashville, with a .962 save percentage and a 1.01 goals against average. Contrast that with an -0 record in Pittsburgh, with a .756 save percentage and a 5.40 goals against average.

Another issue for Nashville is Ryan Ellis, who sustained an undisclosed injury in the second period of Game Five and may not be in the lineup for Sunday’s Game Six. He got tangled up with Patric Hornqvist and losing him will be a major blow to the Predators, who rely on their mobile defence to push the attack.

As it stands now, there are many questions.

Will Game Six be yet another blowout in the series? And will fortune favour Rinne at home or will the Penguins solve him and carry the balance?

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