For three days, the Nashville Predators have studied film, adjusted systems and prepared in every way possible. Now, it's time to execute.
The team concluded their final practice on Wednesday before jetting to Chicago in advance of their Round One series against the Blackhawks, set to begin on Thursday at the United Center.
A stretch of three-straight days of practice hasn't been available since training camp, and the period was used to the Preds full advantage, as Nashville looks to win their first series in three tries against the Hawks.
"It's been nice [to practice]," goaltender Pekka Rinne said. "Especially yesterday, I felt that we had a… physically hard practice and really fast-paced [practice]; then today we kept it short, more power play and special teams and just feeling good… It was a good thing."
Video: Rinne, Forsberg and Weber talk Preds vs. Hawks
Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette and his staff work tirelessly as it is, but the prep work that goes into the postseason is monstrous in order to make certain the players have every piece of knowledge they could possibly use to their advantage on the ice. The three-day span has offered the ability to do just that, and the Preds have used it wisely.
"It's great because we have the time," Laviolette said of studying the opposition. "We've been able to break it into days and work on certain things, whether it's power play or penalty kill, systems or personnel, lines they have and tendencies - there's a lot of information there… To not have to have them sit through some two-hour course where you've lost them after 10 minutes, you can actually break it up into segments and work through the course of three days."
Now, three days of practicing has concluded. It's time to put it out on the ice and begin what the club hopes is a two-month run.
"You can never have too much [playoff experience]," Rinne said. "I'm really hungry; only made it to the Second Round a couple of times, so I'm super excited about this year."
Video: Laviolette recaps last practice before series begins
"We're In A Really Good Place Right Now"
David Poile knows the odds.
When the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs commence on Wednesday night, 16 teams will have a shot at the Stanley Cup. Only one of those teams will win their last game of the postseason.
But the only general manager the Predators have ever known likes his team's chances against the Western Conference's top team, and for good reason.
"This is a tall order, but I think we're up to the task," Poile said. "It's the cliché of all clichés - if you're going to win a Stanley Cup, you have to be able to beat anybody… We've had lots of good games against Chicago over the years, and I give them all the credit in the world. They are the champions, they are the best team, we haven't beaten them, we haven't won any Stanley Cups, but I'm really grateful to have the opportunity to try to beat them this year."
Poile has done his due diligence in constructing his team, and with the players he's acquired over the past year-plus, a plethora of options exists, no matter who the Preds are matching up against.
"I think in some ways we're set up a little bit differently than Chicago, and we have certain players in certain roles that they don't have," Poile said. "Coach Laviolette, he's got the luxury of changing the lineup in many different ways - a couple of veteran defensemen, four or five extra forwards - we built the team this way to give options… I think the good news is we have the depth and the different types of players to matchup against all types of teams."
The pundits have spoken, and not many are in favor of the Predators in their First Round series. If the games were played on paper, it'd be over already. But the puck drop is what matters, and Poile can't wait to see how it plays out.
"In the second half of the season, the chemistry has been there, the culture has been there, everybody seems to be just in the right place right now," Poile said. "I don't expect us to be nervous. I think we're very confident. As a group, we have an excellent chance to compete and play well against Chicago. I just think we're in a really good place right now."