P.K. Subban was clear after Wednesday’s 4-1 Game Two loss: the Predators will win.
His bold claim apparently still makes ripples in a hockey world often stifled by unimaginative boors, but Nashville knows the writing is on the wall. And having confidence is one way to drive the point home. These Predators have no intentions of going away quietly, even if they are down two games to none in the Stanley Cup Final.
“You know what? It’s confidence and it’s feeling confident,” Subban said Friday. “With this team, there’s no question that coming back here, we know that we haven’t played our best game and I think that our best is going to come [Saturday]. When we’re playing our best, no one can beat us in this league. I’m confident that, like I said, we’re going to win the game and then we’ll move forward from there.”
Sure, the Penguins have outscored the Predators 9-4 in the series thus far.
But there are deeper metrics at work that seem to back the idea that Nashville has been outplaying Pittsburgh for large swaths of the Final.
Consider SAT, which is a count of all shot attempts including blocked shots and shots that missed the target. Nashville leads Pittsburgh 86-57 in five-on-five situations, which puts them in charge of over 60 percent of shot attempts at even strengths.
The Predators have had more faceoffs in Pittsburgh’s zone relative to the Penguins’ faceoffs in Nashville’s zone, too.
Now, these metrics naturally tell just part of the story and the Penguins are still leading the series and winning when it matters. None of this suggests that the Predators will sweep back into contention. Shot attempts and zone starts confirm a level of pressure more than a level of efficacy, which is why advanced statistics still can’t account for less quantifiable variables.
The Penguins have scored on over 18 percent of their shots, while the Predators have only scored on 3.9 percent of their shots. Firing the puck from all angles is a great way to apply pressure, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to more goals. Other variables come into play, like how close the shots are and how deflections factor in.
The statistics do suggest that Nashville has been getting in close to the net, which is something worth mentioning. Their shots have come from an average of 31.7 feet from the net, compared to Pittsburgh’s shots coming from an average of 34.6 feet from the net. Nashville has had more shots tipped and/or deflected, too.
Goaltending matters and the fact is that the Penguins have had the edge in that category. Matt Murray has played better than Pekka Rinne, who has posted a .778 save percentage in the two games of the Stanley Cup Final. That’s his worst two-game performance ever. Talk about bad timing.
And sometimes it comes down to bounces and bad luck.
But you have to be good to be lucky and the Penguins have been good against the Predators. The results show that. The task for Nashville is to find a way to turn dominant play into something that counts. Something like a Game Three victory.