The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Predators play Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT). The Penguins are up 2-0 in the series, as the action shifts to Nashville.
Who takes Game 3? Here are five keys to tonight’s game:
The Predators are back home, where the fans’ volume is going to be deafening inside and outside the arena. Nashville is 7-1 at home in these playoffs, and the enthusiasm from the crowd is something they want to feed from.
“It’s crazy what the energy in the building can do to a team. We feel like we’re never out of the game when we get that support. The cheering. How loud it is. When we see people standing for entire periods at a time, it’s an incredible feeling. To know that all the support is for us out there, it makes us want to work even harder out there,” said defenseman Ryan Ellis.
How do the Penguins counteract that? Some of them indicated they want to suck the life out of the building with methodical hockey at the start. But coach Mike Sullivan said there’s no “road gameplan” for his team.
“I just think we got to play the game the right way. I don’t know if that’s dull or exciting. The way I look at it, it’s not like we have a game plan for home and a game plan for away. We put a game plan together that we think plays to the strength of this group. Regardless of where the game is being played, that’s the game we’re going to try to play,” he said.
All indications are that Rinne gets the start in Game 3.
You know the numbers by now: a .788 save percentage at even-strength (7 goals on 33 shots) and a .777 save percentage overall in two losses to the Penguins, getting pulled from Game 2. His career numbers vs. Pittsburgh: 1-7-2, with a .865 save percentage. He’s never won a game he’s started against them.
The players have confidence in him. But seriously: How many “Sullivan made his goalie switch decision with his head instead of his heart and Peter Laviolette didn’t” hot takes will land if Rinne flops in Game 3?
Bonino or No Bonino?
The Penguins’ center was on crutches and in a walking boot after Game 2, where he blocked a shot and briefly left the game. If he can’t go — he’s a game-time decision — expect Carl Hagelin to return to the Pittsburgh lineup after being a coach’s decision scratch in the previous two games. He has one goal in 11 playoff games.
Meanwhile, the Predators have P.A. Parenteau and Harry Zolniercyzk in for Vern Fiddler and Cody McLeod, so round of applause there.
The Penguins are at 49.3 percent in the first two games of the series on faceoffs, which is down from their playoff average. That’s not terrible, but Sullivan said it’s concerning when the Predators seem to generate much of their offense off the draw.
“As a team, we know we have to be a whole lot better in that area. Probably of the scoring chances we gave up in the last game, 50 percent of them started off of faceoffs. That’s a guesstimation on my part. I’m not being specific,” he said. “My point is, there were a fair amount where we just didn’t pay enough attention to detail. We’ve got to be more determined in that area of the game.”
The 60-Minute Game
P.K. Subban felt that the Predators lost Games 1 and 2 thanks to a few bad minutes that allowed the Penguins to score in bunches.
“Both games were decided in a span of three minutes. That’s a championship team there. They know how to win. We gotta play a full 60, and we will next game,” he said.
The Penguins have shown that they’ll make you pay if you take your foot off the pedal for even a few minutes. Can the Predators give a complete effort in their most important game of the season?
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