The Nashville Predators would do anything to get one more chance. They’d pack their bags, fly to San Jose and play Game Seven all over again in a heartbeat. But that’s not how things work.
Instead, they wait for that chance next spring. It’s a long way off, but the time to wait and reflect isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette expressed his disappointment at his team’s Game Seven loss to the Sharks last week. It’s not easy to invest for nine months, only to see it all end so abruptly and short of the ultimate goal.
Laviolette and Preds General Manager David Poile both believe, however, much of the current group in Nashville has the power to get to that point, and beyond, once more.
“There was a lot of belief in our room, in the guys that were in our room…we believed in our group and we pushed it to a Game Seven,” Laviolette said of his team’s play against the Sharks. “San Jose’s got a heck of a hockey team… They’re a real good hockey team, but man we’d like another crack at that game. Had we had another crack at the game, we believe we could win it. That would put you in a final four position, and I think there’s a lot of belief in our guys and belief in what we have in the room to be successful.”
Under Laviolette’s guidance during the last two seasons, the Predators have gone from missing the playoffs in 2014, falling in Round One in 2015 to coming one win away from the Western Conference Final in 2016. The hope is the trajectory will continue upward in the near future.
Laviolette cited a number of reasons to believe that could be the case. If so, at this time next season, the bench boss will be preparing for another game.
“We are young, you have to remember that; there’s so many players under the age of 25 or 26 and first-year players, second-year players, and there might be more coming next year,” Laviolette said. “These guys are gaining valuable experiences from the Chicago series [in 2015], to our regular season, to being here, going through a valley and having to dig your way out of that.
“There’s a belief that we can be successful against any team in the National Hockey League, and I think that will continue to grow as the players become older, more experienced, more mature and they go through these type of games and situations where they get tested and then prove themselves… There’s a lot of positives to take with our group.”