The Stanley Cup finals are familiar territory for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have qualified for the fourth time in 10 seasons, but it's brand new territory for the Nashville Predators, who had only three playoff series wins in franchise history prior to this season.
To defeat the Penguins, opponents need to find a way to shut down Sidney Crosby, with enough defensive focus leftover to contain Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. The Predators are the rare team with two elite defensive pairings capable of doing just that.
In fact, P.K. Subban and the rest of Nashville's defensemen's threat of scoring can place the Penguins in an uncharacteristically defensive mode.
If all of these big names cancel each other out, then it could come down to which team can produce the most credible secondary threat. From that perspective, players like James Neal and Patric Hornqvist could be the difference-makers in who ultimately hoists the Stanley Cup.
Let's take a closer look at each individual of these critical matchups to determine which team has the edge in each case: