Plenty of Factors in Play, Nashville Simply Concentrating on 60-Minute Effort
by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Communications & Content Coordinator
When the Predators set out to begin the 2017-18 season, it was an instance such as this that they carried in the back of their minds.
They knew if they were going to face a potential Game 7 in the postseason, they wanted the puck to drop at Bridgestone Arena.
For the first time in the club’s 20-season history, a Game 7 will indeed commence on home ice – Thursday night to be exact – against the Winnipeg Jets after the Preds shut out their opponent by a 4-0 count in a must-win Game 6 on Monday.
Now that the possibility has become a reality, Nashville would love nothing more than to punch a ticket to the Western Conference Final on home ice for the second consecutive season. But as the Predators arrived back in Music City on Tuesday with just more than 48 hours left to prepare for the showdown, they realize finding success will include a multitude of factors, not just the energy coming from those clad in Gold.
In a series with two teams that possess arguably the two best home atmospheres in the entire League, the home team has won just twice in six tries. It just goes to show that in the playoffs, nothing is certain. And that’s why the Predator know they have to be even better than they were in Game 6.
“I would expect that the way we play matters the most,” Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of potential Game 7 factors. “We’re certainly glad to be back in our building with our fans, they’ve been incredible all year long, but we really need to focus on the game, just make sure we’re ready to play the game and do the right things on the ice. At the end of the day, this series has been about as evenly matched as it can be… It’s really going to come down to the play on the ice.”
The statistical analysis of the series and the way these two teams compare to one another on the ice is really something. Just consider a few digits on the subject.
Nashville leads in 5-on-5 goals through six games by a 12-11 margin. Via Natural Stat Trick, even-strength shots and shot attempts are both deadlocked at 177 and 338 apiece, respectively, while even-strength, high-danger chances favor Winnipeg 66 to 65. After 18-plus periods of hockey played, that’s level of parity is insane.
The Predators two best games of the series have come in Winnipeg when they won Game 4 by a 2-1 score, followed by the pretty-much perfect effort in Game 6 on Monday. Each of Nashville’s wins in the series have come after a loss, as the teams have traded off games over the last two weeks.
If the Predators are to keep their season going, they’re going to have to reverse that trend. They’ve shown they have no problem responding to a little adversity, and the pressure won’t get any higher than a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“We just proved that we can step up when the moments are biggest and the pressure is on,” Preds center Colton Sissons said of Game 6. “We all have faith in each other that we can do that.”
That faith will be tested once more on Thursday, and with all the fanfare that surrounds a Game 7, the Preds will do their best to take the approach they carried with them when they made the trip back to Winnipeg: just live in the moment.
Don’t think about what may have been flubbed in the past, don’t look ahead to what could be, just worry about the next period, the next shift, the next shot.
Anything can happen in a Game 7. We’ll soon know what this one will bring.
“The team that plays the best probably will have the best chance of being successful,” Laviolette said. “I’m glad our guys have some experience, I’m glad they’ve got some scars on them; I think scars make you a little bit tougher, but at the end of the day it still comes down to 60 minutes.”