Stanley Cup Finals Guide – Make It Seem Like You’ve Been the Best Penguins Fan or Best Predators Fan All Along
June means summer and warmer weather outside. So when you’re ready to feel cooler, there’s nothing quite like watching the Stanley Cup Finals. All of that ice on your TV screen is guaranteed to cool you off and beat the heat. And if you want to crack open an ice cold beer while watching the games, no true hockey fan would dare to stop you.
Our Stanley Cup Finals guide will help you prepare for the NHL championship series, even if you haven’t paid attention to the NHL all season. Additionally, if you want to jump on the bandwagon and appear as though you’ve been the best Penguins fan or best Predators fan for years (instead of a day or two), we have plenty of information and ideas to fool your friends!
NHL Stanley Cup Finals: How We Got Here
Nashville and Pittsburgh seems like the ultimate David vs. Goliath match. The Predators had never even made the conference finals before two weeks ago, and now — in their first Stanley Cup Final — they’ll draw the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins and the best active player on the planet in Sidney Crosby.
Pittsburgh’s Path to the Cup
The Penguins are in a familiar spot — back in the Stanley Cup Finals — but their path to the championship series was anything but traditional.
Pittsburgh survived two pressure-packed Game 7s to win playoff series, including a double-overtime, 3-2 victory against Ottawa in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. The Penguins also defeated Washington 4-games-to-3 in the conference semifinals. By comparison, Pittsburgh’s 4-1 series win against Columbus in the first round was a cake walk.
Additionally, Pittsburgh made a change at goalie midway through the series with Ottawa, subbing Matt Murray for Marc-Andre Fleury. Sometimes, that’s a move of desperation. But it worked here, as Murray is 3-1 in the playoffs with a save percentage of 0.946 and a goals against average of 1.35.
Nashville’s Path to the Cup
Nashville entered the Western Conference playoffs as the #8 seed, but the Predators have been dominant in the postseason. The Predators whipped the top-seeded Blackhawks 4-games-to-0 in round one before defeating St. Louis, 4-2. And despite suffering some key injuries in the conference finals, Nashville eliminated Anaheim, 4-games-to-2.
The Predators will not be healthy for the Stanley Cup Finals though. Ryan Johansen, who tied for the team’s scoring lead during the regular season, will miss the Stanley Cup Finals with a thigh injury suffered in Game 4 against Anaheim. The injury required emergency surgery after Johansen finished the game, as the seriousness of the injury was unknown when it occurred.
While Nashville’s injuries are mounting, Pittsburgh will actually see a couple of key players return from injury just in time for the Stanley Cup Finals. Patric Hornqvist and Justin Schultz have returned to the Penguins lineup after missing several playoff games each. In his first game back, Schultz even had a goal in the Game 7 win against Ottawa.
Filip Forsberg has eight goals and 15 points to lead Nashville in the playoffs. Colton Sissons had a hat trick in the clinching game against Anaheim, giving him five goals in the playoffs. Goaltender Pekka Rinne has been brilliant in the playoffs for the Predators, posting a 12-4 record, while allowing only 1.70 goals per game with a 0.941 save percentage.
Info for the Best Penguins Fans
Pittsburgh’s explosive offense — led by Crosby — is a huge problem for most opposing goaltenders. Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Crosby all have at least 19 points (assists plus goals) in the playoffs, and all three players have at least seven goals. It’s tough to defend a three-headed monster like the Penguins offense has.
Pittsburgh has won four Stanley Cups, including in 1991, 1992, 2009, and 2016. The Penguins franchise has been blessed over the past four decades with having two of the NHL’s greatest all-time players in Crosby and Mario Lemieux.
Since 1990, only two franchises have won back to back Stanley Cups: Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992 and Detroit in 1997 and 1998. The Penguins can break the NHL’s 19-year drought of back to back Cup winners by defeating Nashville.
Five Fun Facts About the Penguins
- The Penguins are playing in their seventh Stanley Cup final in the franchise’s 50th anniversary season.
- Rookie Jake Guentzel — just 14 months removed from playing college hockey with Nebraska-Omaha — is tied for the NHL lead in playoff goals this season with nine.
- The last NHL goaltender to play without wearing a mask was Pittsburgh’s Andy Brown in 1973.
- The Penguins black and gold primary colors match that of Pittsburgh’s other major professional teams, the Steelers of the NFL and the Pirates of MLB. The Penguins original colors were blue and white until 1980.
- Lemieux scored on his first NHL shift and first NHL shot with the Penguins.
What the Best Penguins Fan Should Wear
If you want to look like a lifelong Penguins fan, you’d be expected to have a vintage Mario Lemieux replica jersey hanging in your closet.
If you want to try to convince people you were a fan of the Penguins even before Lemieux played, try wearing this vintage logo Penguins t-shirt. (Notice the subtle change to the Penguins mascot from this logo to the current logo … another good way to show off how knowledgeable you are about the Penguins.)
Only a true Penguins fan would own a bobblehead doll of Crosby skating with the Cup. And it’ll go great with your vintage Lemieux replica jersey.
Info for the Best Predators Fans
Nashville and ice hockey might not seem like a natural match, but don’t tell Predators fans. During this incredible and unexpected playoff run, they’ve quickly made Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville one of the loudest arenas in the entire NHL.
And if you’re still having trouble thinking about successful hockey below the Mason-Dixon line, consider this: Teams in Tampa, Los Angeles, Raleigh, and Anaheim have won Stanley Cups in the past decade or so. You don’t have to be a city that sees snow regularly to appreciate the NHL … or to hoist the Cup.
Five Fun Facts About the Predators
- The Predators had won only three playoff series in their previous 17 seasons before winning three series this season to reach the Stanley Cup Final.
- Other nicknames considered for Nashville’s expansion franchise in 1998 included Ice Tigers and Fury.
- The team considered moving to Hamilton, Ontario, or Kansas City in 2007, but a local group stepped up and bought the team.
- Fans sometimes celebrate a goal at Bridgestone Arena by throwing a catfish on the ice.
- The Predators were almost the Devils — Nashville nearly persuaded the New Jersey Devils to relocate to Nashville in 1996 before being granted an NHL expansion franchise.
What the Best Predators Fan Should Wear
There have been a lot of firsts for Nashville this season. To reach the franchise’s first Stanley Cup final, the Predators had to win the Western Conference Final. So this t-shirt will be a great piece of memorabilia well into the future. And you’ll fit right in with the “Sea of Yellow” at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Sure, the weather in June might be too warm to wear your Predators hoodie. But we’re trying to convince people that you’ve been a fan for a while. So you purchased this hoodie a few winters ago (wink, wink). Plus it’s cold inside the arena, what with the ice and all.
One of the great things about May and June hockey is that it’s warm enough to tailgate outdoors. This ice hockey rink replica, 8-foot folding table is perfect for tailgating for long-time Predators fans like yourself. (We’d suggest spilling a little barbecue sauce near one of the blue lines to make it seem as though the table has been used numerous times previously.)
Pittsburgh Vs. Nashville History
Nashville and Pittsburgh split their two meetings this season. The Predators won 5-1 at home in October and the Penguins won at home in January, 4-2. This will be the first time the Predators and Penguins have met in the NHL playoffs.
NHL Finals Schedule
Thanks to our Stanley Cup Finals guide, now you’re ready to watch the NHL championship series. Here’s the TV schedule for the best-of seven game series. (In other words, the first team to win four games is NHL champion.)
- Game 1 – Monday, May 29 – Nashville at Pittsburgh, NBC, 8 p.m.
- Game 2 – Wednesday, May 31 – Nashville at Pittsburgh, NBCSN, 8 p.m.
- Game 3 – Saturday, June 3 – Pittsburgh at Nashville, NBCSN, 8 p.m.
- Game 4 – Monday, June 5 – Pittsburgh at Nashville, NBC, 8 p.m.
- Game 5* – Thursday, June 8 – Nashville at Pittsburgh, NBC, 8 p.m.
- Game 6* – Sunday, June 11 – Pittsburgh at Nashville, NBC, 8 p.m.
- Game 7* – Wednesday, June 14 – Nashville at Pittsburgh, NBC, 8 p.m.