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Stanley Cup Final

Stanley Cup Final blog: Harry Zolnierczyk

Predators forward reflects on Game 1 loss to Penguins, soaking in atmosphere

by Harry Zolnierczyk / Special to NHL.com

Nashville Predators left wing Harry Zolnierczyk will be keeping his own blog throughout the Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Zolnierczyk will check in regularly with behind-the-scenes access.

Zolnierczyk, 29, is in his first season with the Predators. He split the season between Nashville and Milwaukee of the American Hockey League. In 24 regular-season NHL games, he had two goals and two assists. He has played in eight 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff games and has a goal and an assist. He broke into the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011-12 and has played for the Penguins, New York Islanders and Anaheim Ducks.

Here is the second entry from Zolnierczyk, who did not play in Game 1, a 5-3 loss at PPG Paints Arena on Monday. He shared his thoughts about the defeat, the off day Tuesday and what lies ahead for Game 2 in Pittsburgh on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA Sports):

 

PITTSBURGH -- Waking up for that Day One, Game 1 of that Stanley Cup Final, you could tell there was an energy in everybody: coaches, players, management. This is where you want to be at the end of the year. We're excited for the chance to play for the Stanley Cup and, ultimately win it. 

For me personally, all I can do is prepare each day like I'll be in the lineup. If I am, I'm ready to go. If I'm not, I'm ready to go. I need to stay prepared so when the coaches call upon me, I can bring my best game forward and help the team.

For me, not much changes whether I am playing or not. I like to carry myself the same way no matter what. I'm going to bring the energy and the positivity regardless of my lineup status. In the locker room, it's about keeping the confidence up and the belief up. In our room, everybody is doing that, whether he suits up or not.

 

[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Penguins series coverage | Stanley Cup Final blog: Ian Cole ]

 

The players who aren't in the lineup on a particular night all still watching, of course, but different guys watch the game in different places. Some prefer to stay downstairs in the dressing room to watch on a monitor; others prefer to go up and watch it from the press box.

In this case, it's the Cup Final, and the atmosphere is great. I absolutely wanted to be watching it live. Why would you not want to be right in the mix and taking it all in? So, as I typically do when not playing, I headed up to the press box. I'm a big fan of being up top watching from that vantage point. The perspective is great because you can see everything, and I think there is a lot to learn from it.  

So, I had a good view of Game 1, and I thought we played great. No game, especially one that's ultimately a loss, is perfect, so there are obviously things we want to improve on. That said, I think we had a great start. I thought we were thrown off a little by P.K. Subban's goal that was turned over in the first period, but I don't believe it deflated us.

I don't think the score told the whole story of that first period. We came out strong and found the back of the net first, even if the scoreboard didn't reflect that. Obviously, we ran into a little trouble when were down on the 5-on-3 power play; it gave the Penguins some momentum. The few minutes right after we kind of lost our bearings and let them run away with it for a little bit. So after our good start, we were down 3-0 pretty quickly.

But down doesn't mean always mean out. We quickly regrouped, as we always have this season, and played a pretty good hockey game from there on out. We ended up coming back to tie the game, and it was just unfortunate that we couldn't get the win.

There were a lot of positives, I thought. We were happy with the way we came out and with the way we battled back, but not super satisfied with the result. That's hockey, and sometimes that's the way it goes. We can build off that game. You can bet, for sure, that tomorrow we'll be looking replicate the things we did well, and maybe up our ante a little more.

Today, though, was a chance for everyone to regroup back at the rink and review aspects of our game we can improve on and others we can build off of. We didn't skate, so it's nice to have a day that's sort of the calm in the middle of the storm that is the Stanley Cup Final.

My mom, Jo-Anne, has come in to visit, and we will probably go out for dinner tonight after we are done with the team stuff at the hotel. My sister and her boyfriend are also flying in, and they will be here for Game 2. It's cool they're able to experience this with me, but they also provide a quick respite from the frenzy.

It can't last too long, though; as a player in this situation, you want to give your mind a break, but you also want to stay in the moment. I'm wrapped up in this particular moment, and I'm definitely enjoying staying right in there.

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