Peter Laviolette has often found success in this League when it matters most. The head coach of the Nashville Predators sports a 13-6 record all-time in elimination games in the postseason, and his 5-1 mark in Game Sevens is perhaps even more impressive.
He’ll look for victory No. 6 in such an instance tomorrow night in San Jose, when his hockey club plays their second Game Seven in as many rounds, with a chance to advance to the Western Conference Final for the first time in franchise history.
Laviolette has said time and time again he doesn’t have a magic formula or a pregame speech that is guaranteed to get results. Rather, he’s confident in his team when it comes to these situations. Perhaps that’s enough.
“Our team in elimination games, the fact that the guys now have been through it three times facing elimination [in these playoffs], and understand that it’s an important game, they have to go out there and do the right things, play the right way, and I think we can take some confidence from that,” Laviolette said Wednesday before departing for San Jose. “We’ve been there in Game Six and Game Seven, and we’re faced with that here again. I think our guys are ready for it.”
The experience in elimination games can only help at this point; the Preds have staved off being sent home in Game Six and Seven against Anaheim in Round One, before topping the Sharks in overtime in Game Six on Monday to force tomorrow’s outing.
“I think you can take some things out of it, but at the same time, it’s a different game,” Captain Shea Weber said. “It’s a different series, and I think we’ve done some good things from the last Game Seven, but there’s some things we can still do better. If we take some of the positives and learn from some of the negatives, [things could work out].”
From veterans like Weber to rookies like defenseman Anthony Bitetto, it doesn’t get much better than this. The chance to not only play in another Game Seven, but to do something that’s never been done in the history of the club is special.
“We have to keep our heads on straight though, we can’t get overly confident or cocky, but it’s Game Seven again, it’s going to be exciting,” Bitetto said. “It’s something you play the game for; this is one of those moments you play for.”
The Preds will need to do something on Thursday that neither team has been able to accomplish in this series: win in the opponent’s building. There’s no better time than the present to reverse the trend.
“Especially in Game Two, I think we played a really strong game in their building,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “We played a lot of games throughout the year in their building, and I think we should feel comfortable going in there and stealing one. It’s just the one game, and I don’t really care where we play that last game.”
Rinne and his teammates have done it once before on the road this spring, going into Anaheim and winning the first Game Seven in franchise history. Laviolette didn’t have a magic wand in that one either, but he doesn’t have to.
“A lot of times, it’s the simple things you do on the ice; the smart decisions, not complicating things, and like I said, having the experience from three games now [can help],” Laviolette said. “Any experience you can gain inside of the playoffs, inside of life, inside the game of hockey, those are experiences you can use moving forward. There’s a lot of confidence with our group that we can go into San Jose and play a game that we’re proud of.”