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Stanley Cup Final | Penguins vs. Predators

Stanley Cup Final

P.K. Subban, Predators have reason to be confident entering Game 3

Nashville, trailing Penguins 2-0 in Stanley Cup Final, has been dominant at home in playoffs

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

NASHVILLE -- He said it after the Nashville Predators' 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday, and he doubled down on it after they returned home on Thursday.

"I feel even more confident now that I've had a night of rest," Predators defenseman P.K. Subban said. "There's no question. We're going to win the next game, and then we'll move forward."

P.K. being P.K.? Of course. We all know Subban does not lack for confidence.

A calculated move? Maybe. If the guarantee becomes the story, we're not talking about goaltender Pekka Rinne's struggles, the breakdowns defensively, the missed opportunities offensively or the undisciplined penalties. If there is doubt, act like there isn't.

 

[RELATED: Subban backs up guaranteeCoach's analysis: Pressure key for Penguins in Game 3]

 

But apparently Subban isn't alone in his belief, and the Predators have reasons to believe entering Game 3 at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports) even though they trail the defending champions 2-0 in the best-of-7 series.

"You would think … leaving Pittsburgh without a win, that might shake the confidence," coach Peter Laviolette said. "I can tell you that it doesn't. I just met with the guys. I can see it in their eyes."

Since the Final went to the best-of-7 format in 1939, 50 teams have taken a 2-0 series lead, and 45 have won the Cup, including each of the past three: the Los Angeles Kings in 2012, the Kings in 2014 and the Penguins last year. Thirty-seven teams have taken a 2-0 series lead at home, and 34 have won the Cup.

Video: Subban: We're going to win the next game

The Penguins have poked holes in Rinne, just as they did to Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals in the first two rounds. They have proven yet again that all they need is a mistake, a break, a chance, and they can score against the best.

But twice in the past eight years a team has lost the first two games of the Final on the road and won the Cup. The Penguins did it against the Detroit Red Wings in 2009. The Boston Bruins did it against the Vancouver Canucks in 2011.

The Predators are coming home, where they are 7-1 in these playoffs and have won 11 of their past 12 games in the playoffs dating to last season. It's going to be rocking for the first Stanley Cup Final game in Nashville history, from the Alan Jackson concert before the game, to the surprise star singing the national anthem, to the golden crowd in the seats and on the streets.

"It's going to be a tremendous lift," Laviolette said. "I think the playoffs, everything ratchets up and becomes even better, a more explosive environment. Then this year, seeing how it's progressed from round to round, and to be in the Final at this point, to see the excitement around the city, the excitement of our fan base, I'm sure it's going to be a great atmosphere.

"I know our guys enjoy playing at home. We've had good success here. Those are all positive things for our team."

Video: Jamie Hersch and Brian Lawton talk Preds

Most important, the Predators have played well throughout these playoffs, including this series. They swept the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference First Round, defeated the St. Louis Blues in six in the second round and defeated the Anaheim Ducks in six in the conference final. They have outplayed the Penguins for most of two games, outshooting them 64-39, but they gave up three goals in 4:11 late in the first period of Game 1 and three in 3:18 in the third period of Game 2, including two in 15 seconds.

Game 1 might have been different had James Neal scored and not hit the crossbar about a minute before Jake Guentzel scored the winning goal for Pittsburgh late in the third period. Game 2 might have been different had Calle Jarnkrok put the puck into a yawning net and not off the mask of Matt Murray when the Predators led 1-0 in the first period.

That's hockey. That's the playoffs. And that's essentially the same lament of the Blue Jackets and Capitals, who outplayed the Penguins, outshot the Penguins and lost to the Penguins in the end anyway.

But if you're the Predators you have to believe that if you keep doing what you're doing it will even out. That's hockey too. And you have to believe that Rinne will be better. He's 7-1 with a 1.54 goals-against average and .947 save percentage at home in these playoffs, including 3-0 with a 1.22 goals-against average and .949 save percentage in Game 3 situations.

"I think confidence comes from the actual games you play," Laviolette said. "For the majority of the playoffs, all but maybe five or six periods, that's out of over 50 periods, our guys have played really well. There's a lot of confidence I think that comes from that."

Nothing is guaranteed. Sorry, P.K.

Well, except maybe this: If the Predators win Game 3 we'll have the kind of series we expected. No one will need to declare his confidence then.

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