On Thursday night, the matchups for both the NHL and NBA Finals were set. And you know what that means? Double finals preview on OWLconnected! Because even though 3 of the 4 teams were involved in these championship matchups last year, there's no shortage of drama, star players, and storylines.
First up, the Pittsburgh Penguins play the Nashville Predators for the Stanley Cup...
Pens vs. Preds: the vets meet the newcomers
Last season, the Pittsburgh Penguins won their fourth Stanley Cup championship. And with a roster full of superstars, including Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel, the defending champs were again one of the NHL's best teams this year. Still, it wasn't easy. They had to scrape through some very tough battles, including close Game 7 victories over the Washington Capitals and, just recently, the tenacious Ottawa Senators.
Meanwhile, the Nashville Predators? They've never been here this far before. With top notch Finnish goalie Pekka Rinne and a pile of excellent defencemen like Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis, Predators teams have always been tough to score against. But two great trades in 2016 (for exceptional young centre Ryan Johansen, and later for former Montreal Canadiens superstar, P.K. Subban) has given them bigger scoring punch than ever. So how do these teams match up?
What will happen?
Pittsburgh have two excellent goalies to choose from (Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury), experienced team leaders, and few injuries. The Predators will not only have first-time finals jitters, they also lost two centres (Johansen and captain Mike Fisher) to injuries in the last series with Anaheim. Yikes! So advantage, Pittsburgh, right? Except...
Nashville is a bit unusual. Their big weapons are in their league-best defencemen, who can score and stop others from scoring. Their one great goalie (Rinne)? He is playing better than either of Pittsburgh's two. And above all, their home fans are some of loudest and proudest in the league. We think it will be pretty close, but watch for Nashville to smash through in six games to their first ever Stanley Cup.
Cavs vs. Warriors: okay, best two out of three!
If the NHL Playoffs have been full of close competition, the NBA Playoffs have been... well, predictable. For the third year in a row, it's the Cleveland Cavaliers versus the Golden State Warriors. Between them, these two teams have lost only once in this year's playoffs (Cleveland lost to Boston 111-108 on May 21). So if all of this is so expected, why watch it? Because regardless of how easy it was for these two teams to get here, the finals between these big rivals should be intense.
You know when you say, "best two out of three" with your friends? Well, this is best two out of three on the biggest stage with the world's best. Golden State won in 2015, while Cleveland won in 2016. The Warriors are a three-point shooting juggernaut led by two-time MVP Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and brand-new addition this season, former MVP Kevin Durant. This team had the best record in NBA history last year and was again the league's best team by a wide margin.
Cleveland has its own army of solid players, like Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving. But, let's face it, it's all about one man: LeBron James. This is the seventh straight trip to the finals for the four-time MVP (no player has done that since the Celtics teams of 1950s and 60s, who went to 12 of 13 finals and won 11 of them). He is the best basketball player in the world and the best since Michael Jordan. Last season, he brought the Cavaliers their first-ever NBA title. Now he's back for more.
What will happen?
When these teams get together, nothing is ever going to be easy. And as we saw last year, when James and the Cavs get tough, the high-flying Warriors can struggle to sink their signature shots. In the end though, we think that bringing in Durant will be that extra weapon that makes Curry and his crew too tough to put away. It's going the distance, but we have Golden State winning in seven thrilling games.
So whip up those PB&Js and tell us what you think about either series below!