As the Predators embark on their third consecutive trip to the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, goaltender Chris Mason has agreed to share his thoughts and experiences in an ongoing diary here on nashvillepredators.com.
NOTE: Unfortunately, due to time constraints, Chris Mason's playoff diary has concluded.
Friday, April 13
Game Day: Round 1, Game 2
When it comes to playoff beards in the Predators locker room, everyone has their own little thing. Tomas Vokoun and I decided that we're going to grow our beards and our hair right now. We're going to see how long that goes. If you lose a game or something like that, some guys might change it up.
I think quite a few guys are going with full beards. There are some guys that have a little more trouble growing beards than others, so they'll grow their sideburns or their mustache. It's whatever you feel works. Sometimes when things are going well during the season, guys won't shave.
I don't know what it is, and I don't know how that started in hockey but it just seems like it really catches on and everybody does it. It's kind of a fun tradition about hockey. I remember watching when I was a kid and you'd get to the finals and all these guys had huge beards. I just loved it. It's also funny to see guys that don't grow facial hair do it. On the other hand, Greg Zanon totally shaved everything off and it's the first time I've seen him like that. He almost looks like a different person. So we'll see how long it goes. I haven't grown my hair in eight or nine years and I'm sure there's less hair than there was there eight years ago, so it'll be interesting to see what that looks like. But now's the time to do it. Can't hold back. It'll be fun.
Thursday, April 12
Overall, last night was a great game. I think that a little bit of the first period we took way too many penalties. I think we were nervous and you could kind of tell. Tomas Vokoun kept us in the game there. After we got through that, I think in the second period we started building momentum and I think in the last half of the game and in overtime we were the better team. We just totally dominated and we didn't give them anything and we were just playing great hockey. Although we lost the game, I think that as a team we feel that we're the better team.
There's one thing that bothers me too about today, and this is just my opinion: San Jose's coach, Ron Wilson, calling out Scott Hartnell on the collision with Jonathan Cheechoo, saying that Hartsy elbowed Cheechoo and then kneed him. His elbow did not touch Cheechoo. Hartsy is not a malicious guy. He would never do anything like that. Hartsy could have got hurt just as easily as Cheechoo. He went to hit him. For those guys to say that, it's just wrong. I know there's all kinds of propaganda in playoffs, but it's clear that if you watch the replay you can see what happened. That just bothers me that they go out and call him out like that when it just clearly didn't happen like that.
Anyway, back to the game. Before the game we were pumped and we were ready to go. We felt good. For a couple of guys it was their first playoff game. The first one is tough, especially in the first period. Once we got over the jitters and things like that, I think we were rolling. I feel great about this team and the way we played in the second half last night. That was some of the best hockey we've played all year and that's what we're capable of doing.
You're so emotionally high at the rink and it was such a great game. In the overtime we were pressing, we were pressing, and I thought their goaltender, Nabokov, played unbelievable. There were probably about five or six that I thought could have been goals that he came up big with. That's the playoffs though, you know? He shut us down. They caught us on a little breakdown and Rissmiller made a great shot from a great pass to win it.
Those were two of the best goalies in the world and they went head-to-head. It was a good goaltending battle. It was a great game. Obviously it wasn't the result we wanted but I think that every time you play a game, whether you win or lose, you learn from it. I think that we learned and we realize that we're for real. All the confidence that we felt before, we just reassured ourselves that we have it in here and we're ready to get them tomorrow.
Wednesday, April 11
Game Day: Round 1, Game 1
It's the first game day of the postseason and we're very focused so this entry will be kind of brief. I've been asked how this year feels compared to last season and I've got to say, it feels better than last year. We're ready. This is our time. That's our internal team slogan and I think that we really feel that. Last year we had all these guys that were hurt and they just came back. It just didn't feel like we had the confidence. We couldn't stay out of the penalty box. Even though we'd say it in the dressing room--"you can't take penalties"--it would still happen.
I just think this year there's a totally different feeling. We have two guys in here, Jason Arnott and Peter Forsberg, when they speak you can just see that they've won and they know what it takes. You can just see when they tell you what it was like and things that have to happen. You know it's coming from somebody who lived it and did it. When you have guys like that on your side--Arnott and Forsberg, J.P. Dumont had a long run last year, Paul Kariya has been to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals--you feel like you can do it. We're going to feed off each other. We're going to push them and they're going to push us. They're going to be right by our side. It's a pretty good feeling right now.
Tuesday, April 10
In this installment I'll bring you up to speed on how this week has been so far. We got back from the road trip to Colorado for our final regular season game and we had Sunday off. We came in Monday morning early and we did our review of San Jose's systems--their tendancies and things like that. We did that for about 45 minutes, then we had our practice--a good long practice, just kind of refreshing our minds and getting into the things we want to do with breakouts and how we want to get going against San Jose.
After practice we went in for another meeting, and that was more of a motivational reminder that we had with Eric Hoffberg. He came with us to Orlando for training camp and we just reaffirmed our confidence and our belief in each other. He speaks and then he asks the guys to kind of elaborate on what he's talking about. You say how you feel about the comments that are being said and things like that. It helps everybody develop the same feeling, drawing inspiration from each other.
Today we did the same thing. We came in. We had a meeting focusing on their goaltender and tendancies. We did the power play and we had another pretty good long practice here. Just fine-tuning and getting ready for Wednesday. Then we had a penalty kill meeting and part 2 with Eric. It's been good and it's fun. It's hard to believe the 82 games are in the books now. It's so exciting that we have a chance to go out and we're among 16 teams left to compete for the Stanley Cup. We talked about that yesterday. We're just so excited to have that opportunity because a lot of people would give anything to be in the shoes that we're in right now. We have a great opportunity to win the Stanley Cup and we're just really excited.