Ryan Getzlaf has been as good as anybody in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With eight goals and 15 points, the captain of the Anaheim Ducks is playing at an elite level that few can reach at this time of the year.
So when the Western Conference Final begins tonight, Mattias Ekholm and his Nashville Predators teammates will have their senses heightened when Getzlaf is on the ice.
When the point is reached that only four teams are remaining in contention for the ultimate prize, there are bound to be challenges such as this. And Ekholm believes, the Preds are ready for that, and whatever else may come.
"We're just trying to do our jobs as defensemen and a unit of five out there to prevent them from scoring and having a lot of chances," Ekholm said after Nashville's morning skate at Honda Center. "We just need to focus on our game and what we need to do. We know we're a good hockey team and when we're on our game, I think they're going to have to adjust for us."
Ekholm cited previous experience in these playoffs as to why the Preds have confidence in being able to at least contain players like Getzlaf, having done the same against opponents like Patrick Kane with Chicago or Vladimir Tarasenko with St. Louis. From there, the confidence has continued to grow throughout the postseason for the Predators, and it doesn't show signs of slowing.
"We don't get too high or too low, but I think we're still doing the right things," Ekholm said. "We're just on that level where everyone is contributing, everyone wants this and there's a mentality that we're not going to get beat here."
Video: Josi and Wilson look ahead to challenges of Game 1
With that confidence also comes a level of excitement - and frankly, how could there not be? After all, only a handful of players on the Nashville roster have ever been this far before in the postseason, none of course with the Preds.
But the Predators have a coach who is particularly skilled in the art of motivation and communication, as many of his players explained yesterday. And it's moments like these where that skillset will utilized to the fullest extent.
"There's a lot of excitement, as there should be," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "There's four teams left, so if you're still here, that's a good thing. It's a positive thing… But once the puck drops tonight, it's no different than the first series or the second series or the third series or a final series. It's just hockey at that point, and you have to go out and you have to play well. Your team has to play fast. They have to execute. They have to do the right things on the ice. There's a lot of buildup that goes into this, as there should be, but once it comes time to play hockey, it's hockey."