Nashville Predators at Pittsburgh Penguins (-170, 5.5)
Series tied 0-0
No team has won back-to-back Stanley Cup titles since 1998, a drought the Pittsburgh Penguins can end when they open the best-of-seven series against the visiting Nashville Predators on Monday night. The Penguins are the prohibitive favorites to hoist Lord Stanley's trophy at the expense of the upstart Predators, who are appearing in their first Stanley Cup Final.
Pittsburgh features the top three scorers in the postseason in Evgeni Malkin, captain Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel, and is the first team to reach the Cup Final in back-to-back seasons since the Penguins in 2008 and 2009, but the players are trying to push aside that historical narrative. "We don't want to worry too much about whether it's repeating or going back-to-back," forward Conor Sheary said. "I think we just want to come into this series and win another round. I think it's important to just worry about the next game, have a short memory and the first to four wins." Nashville was the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and posted the fewest points of any of the 16th playoff participants, but swept Chicago in the opening round before dispatching St. Louis and Anaheim in a pair of six-game series. "When the puck drops, we'll be ready to play. The guys are excited to reach this point," said the Predators' Peter Laviolette, who along with Penguins counterpart Mike Sullivan are the first American coaches to square off for hockey's top prize.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBC, Sportsnet, CBC, TVAS
LINE HISTORY: The Penguins opened the betting as -140 home favorites and by Sunday night were bet all of the way up to -170. The total opened at 5.5 and has yet to move. Check out the complete line history here.
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “The moneyline action is fairly even. However, parlays that include Pittsburgh moneyline are 2/1 in favor of the Penguins, which is likely the main reason for the 5-cent move to -170. I wouldn’t expect too much movement in this line.” - Lines manager for offshore sportsbook GTBets.eu.
GOALIE MATCHUP: Pekka Rinne (NAS) vs. Matt Murray (PIT)
Rinne - GP: 16, W/L: 12-4, 1.70 GAA, .941 SAVE %, 2 SO
Murray - GP: 5, W/L: 3-1, 1.35 GAA, .946 SAVE %, 1 SO
SERIES PRICE (PER SPORTS INTERACTION):
Predators - RW C. Smith (Probable, lower body), C M. Fisher (Probable, eye), C R. Johansen (Out For Season, thigh), LW K. Fiala (Out For Season, leg).
Penguins - RW P. Hornqvist (Questionable, upper body), RW T. Kuhnhackl (Questionable, lower body), D C. Ruhwedel (Probable, concussion), D K. Letang (Out for season, neck).
ABOUT THE PREDATORS (53-32-9-4, 44-42 O/U): The daunting challenge of trying to match up against Crosby and Malkin is exacerbated by the absence of top-line center Ryan Johansen (thigh), lost for the rest of the playoffs after Game 4 against Anaheim. Colton Sissons stepped in for Johansen and supplied a hat trick in the series clincher against the Ducks, but the Predators will continue to rely heavily on Filip Forsberg, a 31-goal scorer during the regular season who scored five times against Anaheim and is riding a seven-game point streak. While No. 2 center Mike Fisher appears poised to return from injury, Nashville's strength is at the other end of the ice, with its top four defensemen -- Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm -- combining for a staggering 39 points in 16 playoff games. Still, the Predators' hopes likely hinge on 34-year-old Pekka Rinne, who is 12-4 with a 1.70 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage in the postseason.
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (62-26-8-5, 55-39 O/U): Malkin (24 points) and Crosby (20) are running 1-2 in the playoff scoring race and seemingly shine when the lights are brightest -- each has won a Conn Smythe Trophy -- but Malkin observed that Nashville's defense will provide the "toughest challenge of my life." Kessel notched six points in the seven-game series against Ottawa, but fellow 23-goal scorer Sheary has yet to tally in the playoffs while Jake Guentzel is mired in an eight-game goal drought after scoring nine times in the first 11 games of the postseason. Matt Murray, who backstopped Pittsburgh to a championship a year ago following a late-season injury to Marc-Andre Fleury, reclaimed the starting job from Fleury in the Ottawa series and went 3-1 with six goals allowed in his four starts. Forward Patric Hornqvist, acquired from Nashville in exchange for forward James Neal in June 2014, is a game-time decision after sitting out the final six contests against the Senators.
ICE CREW BATTLE:
* Predators are 6-1 in their last 7 road games vs. a team with a home winning % of greater than .600.
* Penguins are 5-0 in their last 5 games playing on 3 or more days rest.
* Under is 11-2-4 in Predators last 17 when their opponent allows 2 goals or less in their previous game.
* Under is 8-1 in Penguins last 9 Stanley Cup Finals games.
* Predators are 2-8 in the last 10 meetings.
Click here for a complete list of hot and cold trends.
COVERS CONSENSUS: 58 percent of Covers users are siding with the home favorite Penguins and 62 percent of the totals wagers are on the Under. View full consensus data here.