In franchise history, not many players have quite as much postseason experience under their belts as Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis.
Since joining Nashville in the 2011-12 season, Ellis has seen seven of Nashville's 12 playoff trips, including first-round matchups against Chicago in 2015 and 2017, and two consecutive battles in California in 2016.
Speaking to the Predators Official Podcast, Ellis talked about the benefits that repeat exposure to the postseason - along with its many twists and turns - can offer a team.
"Experience is everything in sports. When we played Chicago in 2015, they were just a different beast. We were up 3-0 in the first period and we thought we had that game in hand and by the end of the second it was tied 3-3. I think what allowed them to do that was the experience they had. They didn't panic," Ellis said. "A lot of teams, I think younger teams, like us for instance, get up 3-0 and are like 'Oh, we've got this one.' And an experienced team didn't panic, stuck to their system and stuck to their team concept and then came back.
"That's what experience can do for your group. If nothing else, it gives you confidence in your group realizing that we've been here, we've been in situations like this and whether you take it to Game 7s or must-win Game 6s, being down 2-0 to the Penguins and coming back from that, whatever it is - I think experience is key because it allows you to have trust and confidence in your group."
A key part of building experience also means facing adversity when you can, which the Predators were no stranger to during the 2018-19 season.
"There's been ups and downs, for sure. We had a great start, we rolled right in from last year where we were playing really well. And then for whatever reason, I think injuries had a bit to do with that and guys were in and out, and for whatever reason we've kind of rode a wave of up and down," Ellis said. "But if you told me at the start of the year we had a chance to win a division banner again, for the second time in franchise history with one game left, no matter how the year went I think you'd take that."
Ellis added that despite the roller coaster of a season, the Preds coming together and sticking to their systems helped them finish in a better position.
"It's more about us starting to do the right things as a group. I think at different times in the year with different injuries and different line combos or this or that, or whatever it was - not that you ever want to - but it's easy to veer off and do your own thing at Game 50 when you've got 30 more and you've already played 50," Ellis said. "As it gets down the stretch, you realize how important it is to do the right things and be part of the team concept within our systems and I think that's a bit of it. Also the way the division has shaken up, each game has really meant that much more, and I think it's important for us to be doing those right things heading into playoffs and I think you can see that with our record."
With a second Central Division title and a home-ice tilt back in their hands, the Preds are looking to take full advantage of the position they've landed in.
"For sure, if there's a Game 7 you want that at home. You're sleeping in your bed, a home-cooked meal, playing in the rink you've played in for 500 games or whatever it is, having the fans support us and have our backs, I think it'll be key down the stretch and you never know when it'll pay off but you definitely want that one at home," Ellis said. "The group that we have and the way that we've found success, we would like more home games."
As Nashville gears up to run the postseason gauntlet once more, the team is also looking forward to see Smashville show up in full force.
"It's not only Bridgestone Arena, it's the whole city. I remember the Stanley Cup Final run, just the signs on lawns and stickers on cars, whatever it was, it was so magical to be a part of that," Ellis said. "They're cheering for us, and we literally had the support of the entire city, so coming in now - not that it's changed, if [anything] it's gotten better - but I think playoffs with all the emotion just ramps up that much more and the building seems to get louder and louder. It's just an awesome time of year."
Listen to Ryan Ellis' full interview on the Predators Official Podcast here and make sure to catch up on all the Preds First Round analysis by clicking here.