Predators fine with opening Stanley Cup Final on road against Penguins
Nashville has won Game 1 of first three playoff series away from homeby Robby Stanley / NHL.com Correspondent
NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators have every reason to be confident starting the Stanley Cup Final on the road against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Predators began their first three playoff series away from home this year and won Game 1 each time. They will try to continue that trend against the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).
Nashville has developed a comfort zone on the road, embracing adverse atmospheres at the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference First Round, the St. Louis Blues in the second round and the Anaheim Ducks in the conference final.
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"I think it's just our mentality within the room," defenseman Matt Irwin said Saturday before the Predators traveled to Pittsburgh. "We can play anywhere against anyone. We know what's at stake in Game 1; it's an opportunity for us to get off on the right foot. It's just another game for us, that's the way we look at it. You're playing in a hostile environment. You always are when you're playing on the road, but it's something that you appreciate and you take the challenge of getting that game."
It was a learning process for the Predators to find a way to be successful on the road. They started 1-5-2 in their first eight games away from Bridgestone Arena. They learned from that and went 16-15-2 in their final 33 road games and are 5-3 away from home during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I think that you can pull confidence from that," coach Peter Laviolette said. "You know that you can go into a building and find success. Our guys have made it a point of emphasis for Game 1. At some point we're going to have to win a game on the road. We were the last one into the tournament and so we don't get home ice at all. We knew that coming in and we knew we were going to have to win some road games.
"I think, to that point, we learned that too. We got better at that as a group about how to play on the road and the type of hockey you need to play on the road. It's always a little bit more intimidating in somebody else's building. And where we had a young group at the beginning of the year, I think we struggled a little bit to start on the road, maybe only winning one of the first five or six games. From that point on we became a pretty good road team. We've been much more competitive, found ways to win."
Rest has served the Predators well during the playoffs. They had six days off after sweeping the Blackhawks in the first round, five days after defeating the Blues in the second round, and when the puck drops for Game 1 in Pittsburgh, it will have been seven days since they defeated the Ducks in the conference final.
"Waiting does get old," forward Colin Wilson said. "But at the same time it's always good in the playoffs to get a week off. It's a pretty big grind so hopefully the rest will do us well."