With Win in St. Louis, Predators Would Advance to First Conference Final
by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Communications & Content Coordinator
When Peter Laviolette addresses his team before they take the ice for Game Five on Friday night, one thing is for certain – he won’t have to reiterate what’s at stake.
The Nashville Predators are well aware that they’re one win away from going further than any team in franchise history has gone before. They can feel the pressure, the hope, which comes with expectations from inside and out.
So when the puck drops at Scottrade Center and they face the St. Louis Blues for the fifth time in this series, the Preds will simply worry about what’s worked all along.
“I think we’ve done a good job of that all playoffs, just taking it a game at a time,” forward Austin Watson said. “It’ll be exactly that Friday. We do have an opportunity on Friday to close out a series, but it’s all about that one game, putting our best foot forward and doing what we can as a team to continue playing the way that we are.”
“I know it sounds boring, but we’ve been trying to follow that [mindset], and it’s been working for us,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “We’ve been playing really consistent hockey, which is obviously the main thing behind our success. This next game, it’s going to be another huge game.”
The Predators have already been in a similar situation this spring when they were up 3-0 on the Chicago Blackhawks with a chance to finish the job in Game Four and not give the opponent any life. Nashville did just that, performing their best when it mattered most.
Laviolette says while the experiences from that series, as well as others over the past couple of seasons certainly helps, it won’t be a forgone conclusion just because the Preds have done it before. But what Nashville does have on their side is confidence that comes from owning a 7-1 record thus far in these playoffs, the only team yet to lose multiple games.
“Anytime you have a chance to close out a series, it is hard,” Rinne said. “It’s mentally demanding, and I think the way we did it against Chicago, maybe you can kind of look back and try to learn from that experience.”
One of the clichés that appears often at this point in the calendar is that of each subsequent game is the toughest one all season. But with the stakes rising each night, it’s all but true, especially in a road venue.
“We thought the last game was the toughest of the whole series, not only physically, but just the score in general,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “It was a tight game and it’s only going to get harder from here. We’ve got to go into it with the mindset of closing this out, knowing that it’s going to be a tough game and just be the best version of ourselves.”
If the Preds are able to do that, they’ll reach a new horizon, the likes of which they’ve never seen before. And although they’re experts in staying in the moment, it’s clear what could be next.
“It’s very motivating; it’s in the back of your head, and you try not to think about it too much,” Rinne said. “I think you try to calm yourself down and try to treat it like any game in this series… anytime you have an opportunity to close the series out, you want to give it your best shot and play your best game.”