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Final: Preds and Penguins X-Factors

Nashville's Goaltender is Turning in a Record-Setting Postseason, While His Opponent is Back in Charge

by Thomas Willis @TomAWillis / Digital Manager & Producer

The two goaltenders in the Stanley Cup Final will each share the enormous pressure of backstopping their clubs toward a championship, but they'll be doing so from two very different places. Nashville boasts the NHL's stingiest defense, while the Penguins are No. 1 on offense.

The 34-year-old Pekka Rinne has put up numbers ranking among the all-time NHL's best during the Predators' 2017 playoff run. The Finn's save percentage (.941) and goals-against average (1.70) rank in the Top Five all-time with a minimum of 15 postseason games played.

Rinne and the Predators have also allowed the second fewest goals-against per game (1.81) by a conference champion in the last 10 years (behind the 1.57 by the 2012 Los Angeles Kings). That stinginess on defense paces all teams in this year's playoffs as well.

Matt Murray, on the other hand, has only recently retaken the starter's net in Pittsburgh after a lower-body injury forced him to miss Game One of Round One. Marc-Andre Fleury took over in the crease, leading the Penguins past the Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals, but when he faltered in the conference final, Head Coach Mike Sullivan turned back to Murray, who led the Penguins to a championship last spring.

The gaudy numbers put up by the 23-year-old, 6-foot-4 netminder have to be taken with a grain of salt, since he's only started four contests in this year's playoffs, but Murray seemed to go right back to being the calming presence the Pens needed when he entered the net last week.

He's also shown he can do it all before: going 9-3 with a .930 save percentage in the 2016 postseason. Plus, the Penguins are putting up offense to spare for Murray so far, connecting for 3.05 goals-for per game.

Which masked man steals a game or two in the Final? Either Rinne or Murray have shown they're more than capable this postseason.

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