After Logging Thousands of Miles in 2016, Preds Are Well-Rested Thanks to Quick Series, Short Flights
by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Communications & Content Coordinator
A bit of rest and relaxation in the midst of a run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is almost unheard of, but that’s exactly what the Nashville Predators are getting. Again.
After sweeping Chicago in Round One, the Preds took two days off to recharge and refocus, simply because they had the luxury of time on their side.
Now, just days removed from defeating St. Louis to advance to the Western Conference Final for the first time in franchise history, the team is doing more of the same – set to hit the ice on Wednesday, the first time they’ll do so since Game Six last Sunday afternoon.
Just as their current standing in the postseason is uncharted territory, the time off is as well, especially when compared to last spring.
Facing Anaheim and San Jose in the 2016 playoffs, with both series requiring seven games to be decided, the Preds flew to California and back from Nashville a grand total of 11 times, 12 if you want to count the journey up the coast in between the two series.
This time around? One flight to Chicago and back, two flights to St. Louis and back, roughly the equivalent of one round trip to the west coast.
There hasn’t been as much time for card playing or Netflix binging at 30,000 feet this spring, and that’s just fine with those who are tasked with performing at peak levels when it matters most.
“I don’t think I can stress it enough,” defenseman Mattias Ekholm said in regard to the difference in travel this postseason. “I really felt that in the Game Seven in San Jose last year, the gas kind of ran out. Right now, two short series with travel, four games, six games, it’s almost too good to be true. We’ve really got to emphasize that we’re in a good spot and take advantage of the rest that we’re getting.”
Whether or not the rest has directly led to the success the Preds have seen in these playoffs may not be easily quantifiable, but it’s certainly playing a part. Now, the group is simply waiting to determine who they’ll face in the conference final.
It’ll either be the Anaheim Ducks or Edmonton Oilers, an opponent that will be decided when the two play Game Seven on Wednesday night (at 9 p.m. CT on NBCSN) to determine the winner of their Round Two series. Because of the uncertainty, the Predators say they’re not going all in on any one opponent quite yet, rather worrying about their own locker room and the elements of their game.
“At some point, we’re going to leave for a destination and we have to be ready for the first game,” Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “That’s really where our focus is – to make sure that we’re [ready]. The way I worded it is, ‘keep your head down, keep looking at the work you have to do and focusing on the first game.'”
When and where that meeting comes will be decided in a couple of days’ time, and the Predators know that no matter the city, they’ll be logging a few thousand more miles in the conference final. But that’s not nearly as big of deal this year, considering the amount of time players have had to enjoy their own couches as opposed to the inside of an aircraft.
“I’d rather play a little closer [to Nashville], but at the same time, if you want to win the Cup, you have to travel,” forward Filip Forsberg said. “We know there’s going to be travel, and we’re ready for that.”
The club is well aware of the challenges that await as they enter into the second half of the postseason, and when the Predators do return home for Games Three and Four at some point, they won’t have to look far if they find themselves winded and looking for a boost late in the third period.
“[There aren’t words] to speak about what they’ve done for us and what they do for us every night,” Ekholm said of the fans at Bridgestone Arena. “What we have at home right now, it’s so loud, it gives us that extra energy and they we really are the Seventh Man for us. All I can say is keep doing what they’re doing. It’s helping us along the way.”