What the Predators can learn from Bruins' 2011 Cup comeback
The Nashville Predators are set to host the first-ever Stanley Cup Final game in Nashville, Tenn., on Saturday night. Down two games to none against the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins, they've set themselves up for a chance at an even more memorable Stanley Cup victory.
Nashville is the 51st team to trail a final series 2-0, with just five of the 50 predecessors having overcome the deficit to lift Lord Stanley's mug.
The trend is a growing one, though. Many of these same Penguins players pulled off the feat in 2009 against the Detroit Red Wings, and, more recently, the Boston Bruins pulled off the rare series victory in 2011, coming back to topple the Vancouver Canucks.
Here's a reminder of how the Bruins-Canucks series played out:
The Canucks won their three games, all at home, by a cumulative score of 5-2. The Bruins won their four games by a much more convincing 21-2. The Canucks outshot the Bruins by 21 over the seven-game series, winning the shot count in four games.
As Nashville looks to mount their comeback, they hold a 64-39 shot advantage, but trail 9-4 in goals.
Here are the three key factors which led to the Bruins' series comeback in 2011 and what Nashville can learn from them:
The Bruins lost their first two games of the 2010-11 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at TD Banknorth Garden to the Montreal Canadiens before going 10-1 at home the rest of the way en route to their Stanley Cup victory. They allowed a total of just 15 goals and scored 43 in those 10 wins.
They were never more dominant on home ice than they were in the final. After losing two extremely close games in Vancouver, they returned home to even the series with no-doubter victories by a cumulative score of 12-1.
The Predators have been even more impressive in their home games in the 2016-17 playoffs. They sport a record of 7-1, with the lone loss coming in overtime at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final. They've outscored their opponents by a cumulative score of 25-13 at Bridgestone Arena, despite being the lower-seeded team in each series
Nashville swept Games 3 and 4 in Rounds 1 and 2. They'll need to do this in the final - as the Bruins did - in order to even the series before heading back out on the road.
Here's how the scoring broke down in the 2011 Cup final:
The Bruins finished the 2011 playoffs ranked 14th out of 16 teams with a power-play percentage of 11.4 and sixth with a penalty-kill percentage of 84.4. The Bruins took 41 minor penalties, one double minor, one fighting major, and seven 10-minute misconducts in the 2011 final. The Canucks, meanwhile, racked up 33 minors, one double minor, two majors, and six misconducts.
The Bruins' improved, yet overworked, special teams play in the final proved to be a difference maker.
The Predators currently have a 16.7 percent power-play conversion rate, ranking eighth among 16 teams. Their 88.5 percent penalty-kill rate ranks fourth. They're 2-for-7 on the power play in the final and they've held Pittsburgh to just one power-play goal in 10 opportunities. The Predators have served an additional four penalty minutes, the most glaring issue with their special teams play.
This year's final has been significantly more disciplined through the first two games. This will be a key for Nashville in order to keep Pittsburgh's third-ranked playoff power-play unit off the ice.
Let's look at how the save percentages of Tim Thomas in 2011 and Pekka Rinne in 2017 compare through the regular season and round-by-round in the postseason:
Thomas had a superior save percentage in his second-career Vezina Trophy-winning season than Rinne did this year, but Rinne's first three playoff rounds were better than those of Thomas. The key difference between the two is their play in the final round.
Thomas was nearly unbeatable in 2011, while Rinne has allowed eight goals on just 36 shots and was pulled early in the third period of Game 2. He's been Nashville's biggest weakness through two games. For the Predators to mount a series comeback, he'll need to outplay Penguins goalie Matt Murray and rival Thomas' 2011 performance.
Rinne's career save percentage on home ice is .922, compared to .912 on the road. He'll need to receive that same boost for his next two games for the Predators to have a chance.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)