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Behind The Numbers

Penguins vs. Predators key statistics

Matchup between Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, Pittsburgh offense could determine Stanley Cup champion

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com Correspondent

Competing in the Stanley Cup Final is nothing new for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are doing so for the fourth time in 10 seasons. But it will be a first for the Nashville Predators, who had won three Stanley Cup Playoff series since entering the NHL in 1998-99 before matching that total this season.

According to the numbers, the Cup Final will feature back-and-forth games featuring high-scoring top lines and excellent goaltending that could be decided by explosive third periods.

Here are five factors to focus on in the Final:

 

Pekka Rinne standing tall

The most interesting statistic entering the Stanley Cup Final is the .941 save percentage of Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, in 16 games.

Going back to the 1952-53 season, the first when the statistic is available, Rinne is tied for 12th among the 304 goalies to play at least 10 games in one postseason. The single-postseason record is held by Jacques Plante, who had a .950 save percentage in 10 games for the St. Louis Blues in 1969.

 

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Rinne got hot when April began, stopping 95 of 99 shots (.960 save percentage) in his final three regular-season games. In the 16 games prior to that, his save percentage was .896 and he was pulled from a game twice. Timing is everything.

Video: ANA@NSH, Gm6: Rinne slides across to deny Cogliano

 

Pittsburgh's big four

Rinne will be put to the test by the Penguins offense, which led the NHL in the regular season with 3.39 goals per game and leads in the playoffs with 3.05.

Most of Pittsburgh's scoring comes from forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Jake Guentzel. Those four have combined for 79 points (30 goals, 49 assists) in 19 games and have scored or assisted on 42 of the Penguins' 58 goals.

Crosby, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2016, and Malkin, who won it in 2009, rank second and third among active players in career NHL playoff scoring, trailing Florida Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr, who has 201 points (78 goals, 123 assists) in 208 games. Crosby has 157 points (56 goals, 101 points) in 142 games, and Malkin has 153 (55 goals, 98 assists) in 143 games.

Video: PIT@OTT, Gm6: Malkin backhands home own rebound

 

Blue-line scoring boost

Rinne's outstanding play has overshadowed Nashville's offense, which is tied with the Anaheim Ducks for second in the NHL at 2.94 goals per game in the 2017 playoffs.

The Predators have been getting much of their scoring from their defense. Their top four defensemen -- Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm -- have combined for 39 points (11 goals, 28 assists) in 16 games, one more point than the top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson, which has 38 combined points (13 goals, 25 assists).

Nashville's top line has dominated opponents. With Forsberg on the ice, the Predators have outscored opponents 17-4 at 5-on-5 and have a 275-201 margin in shot attempts, for a Nashville-leading shot-attempts differential (SAT) of plus-74, which ranks third in the NHL.

But with Johansen out for the Cup Final after having emergency left-thigh surgery following Game 4 of the Western Conference Final against the Ducks, the Predators defense will be asked to do even more in the offensive zone against the Penguins.

Video: ANA@NSH, Gm4: Subban rips a goal through screen

 

Possession battles

The territorial advantage gained by Nashville's top line is more of an exception than a rule in the playoffs. As a team, the Predators have lined up for 233 faceoffs in the offensive zone and 287 in the defensive zone at 5-on-5. That's a zone start percentage of 44.81 percent, the lowest in the NHL.

Based on shot-based metrics, the Penguins have not fared much better. At 5-on-5, the Penguins are down 930-823 in shot attempts, for a League-worst SAT of minus-107. On a percentage basis, they have taken 46.95 percent of shots, which ranks second-to-last behind the St. Louis Blues (44.71).

 

Late scoring

The Penguins and Predators thrived in the third period. During the regular season, Pittsburgh led the NHL with 103 goals in the third period (76 against). In the playoffs, Nashville has outscored opponents 24-11 in the third period. The Ducks (16-15) and Penguins (22-16) are the other teams to outscore their opponents in the third period during the playoffs.

Video: OTT@PIT, Gm7: Schultz rings in wrist shot for PPG

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