Down 0-2 in Stanley Cup Final, Predators Can’t Wait to Play in Front of Home Crowd
by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Communications & Content Coordinator
The plan was not to return home down 0-2 in the Stanley Cup Final.
For about five-and-a-half out of the six periods through the first two games, Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette saw plenty to like from his team. But it was the lulls that gave the Pittsburgh Penguins all the opportunity they needed to take the first two contests from the Preds and put Nashville in a less than ideal spot on June 1.
But sometimes things don’t go according to plan. A little adversity might do some good. And as the Predators entered Bridgestone Arena on Thursday for meetings and off-ice activities, there wasn’t a single head hung low.
In fact, it was quite the opposite for a Nashville team that still has plenty of confidence. For one, they’ve seen plenty of signs in their game over the past two contests that things will soon turn. And secondly, and perhaps most importantly, they’re now back in a building where they have gone 7-1 in these playoffs, including a victory to punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final during their last time out.
Suffice to say, Saturday night and Game Three can’t come fast enough.
“We’re excited about being home,” Preds Captain Mike Fisher said. “It felt good to come to the rink today and think about what this building is going to be like on Saturday night.”
The arena will undoubtedly harness an energy that it’s never seen before as it hosts an NHL contest in the month of June for the first time ever, and the Predators will do everything in their power to feed off of that electricity.
“We have confidence we can win in our arena, and the energy will be crazy,” Nashville forward James Neal said. “I think everyone is excited to get back at it. It’s tough when you have a couple days off here. We’re biting at the bit to get going here, but we’ll get our rest, enjoy it, and then get ready to go again.”
When the Predators do take to the ice on Saturday night, they’ll do so with an assurance and poise that remains thanks to the majority of quality minutes they’ve played in this series to date.
“The things we need to do – for the most part – we’re doing them,” Preds defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “We’re competing, we’re working hard, we’re getting pucks in, getting shots – all kinds of stuff. But at the end of the day, we need the results. We can find confidence in the fact we’re playing a good game and a good brand of hockey. We just need to continue to do that and limit the chances and the mistakes.”
Laviolette reiterated Thursday that what he’s seeing from his team doesn’t give him much reason to doubt their ability to compete and claw their way back into the series. When Nashville has made a mistake over the last two games, it’s unfortunately ended up in the back of their net. Sure, there are always things the Preds can do better, but the list of cons isn’t near as lengthy as the pros.
“For the majority of the playoffs, all but maybe five or six periods – that’s out of over 50 periods – our guys have played really well,” Laviolette said. “There’s a lot of confidence I think that comes from that. When you’re doing the right things, you’re winning hockey games, you feel good about the game you’re playing, and I think you can take confidence from that. I think we’ve put in a lot of time to build ourselves as a team that is ready to play, is ready to win, and confident about our ability to do that.”
Defenseman P.K. Subban said after Game Two in Pittsburgh that his club would win Game Three and go from there. Subban didn’t back down from that claim on Thursday, stating his confidence has only grown after having a night to sleep on it.
The Preds have deviated from the plan just a bit – but the Cup isn’t awarded until someone wins four.
“You would think that the possibility of leaving Pittsburgh without a win, that might shake the confidence,” Laviolette said. “I can tell you that it doesn’t. I just met with the guys. I can see it in their eyes.”