Pekka Rinne pulled into the Bridgestone Arena loading dock on Thursday morning, parked his car and made the familiar walk, just as he's done in every previous training camp.
He passed the security office, the Zambonis, the entrance to the ice - the first time he'd done it since June 13, two mornings after Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final had ended, two wins short.
The memories came rushing back - and how could they not - the noise of the crowd, the thrill of the 11 wins the team collected in their home rink during a two-month stretch last spring. And then there were also those that he'd rather not recall.
But the veteran netminder, reporting to camp in preparation for his 10th full season in a Nashville Predators uniform, isn't about to let the end results of last season conjure up any negativity. In fact, it's just the opposite.
"I'm not scared of those feelings, what happened in the Final and how it ended," Rinne said. "I think that's a very positive thing in my head, and I think that's going to help us, that's going to fuel us toward moving on this season. Even though it was a shorter summer than a lot of years before, I was really excited to come back. I really feel hungry and feel ready to go."
As do the rest of Rinne's Preds teammates - 54 in total - who took part in team meetings at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday to officially mark the opening of training camp. Players like Ryan Johansen and P.K. Subban, who played such integral roles in leading Nashville to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history, each found their owns ways of dealing with the transition between the final loss of the season to the hope and promise of a fresh start.
Video: Ryan Johansen talks this season's expectations
"It was a tremendous experience going through all that, but at the end of the day, like 29 other teams, we didn't reach our goal," Johansen, who suffered a season-ending injury in the Western Conference Final, said. "I don't know if there was a moment of closure that I can think of, but for me, not being able to be out there in the Final… I'm just anxious to get back out there and do everything in my abilities to help this team get back to the same position where we can hopefully be successful."
"I think now we know we have to be even better to surpass it and get to our ultimate goal, but we can't afford to look that far ahead," Subban said. "Our goal right now is just to be a better team every day, come to the rink, get better and improve as the season goes on."
Indeed, realizing that there are seven-plus months ahead of the Predators before they can begin to think postseason aspirations was top of mind on day one of camp, with members of the club stating the importance of keeping things in check. The Preds know that a berth in the Final just one year ago doesn't mean much once the puck drops to begin the 2017-18 season, something they intend on embracing throughout the campaign.
"We're going to try to carry that momentum [from the playoffs through the] start of the season, but we can't think that we played in the Final, so automatically now we are more ready to play," Rinne said. "We have to prove that again and we really have to bear down in the beginning of the season and hopefully get off to a good start."
The Predators would prefer to have that happen after last season's first few weeks were less than ideal. A more consistent regular season has been talked about, knowing the opportunity exists to receive home ice in the postseason.
Video: P.K. Subban says Preds are hungry for season
"Our expectation is to be in the playoffs, but our expectation is to also give ourselves the best opportunity," Subban said. "You want to play in our building as much as we can because our fans were so great all last year, and especially through the run. It was a huge edge for us in the playoffs being at home… If we can take advantage of that and put ourselves in a better position to play more games on home ice, then great, but we can't afford to look that far ahead. Every team is fighting for the same thing we are, so we have to respect that, respect the process and get better every game."
As Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette often emphasizes to his club, live in the moment and don't fret over the future. And as the smaller picture turns into a larger portrait over the course of an 82-game slate, the memories are waiting for the brushstrokes.
"We have to remember that we need to scratch and claw all year to get ourselves into the playoffs and how difficult that was, and it's easy to forget," Johansen said. "You're like, 'Oh we played in the Final, we're one of the best teams,' but that's not the case. We all know how hard it is to get yourself in that position. I think as a group we have a good mindset now on being even hungrier than we've ever been."