The Nashville Predators took time on Wednesday night to enjoy their Game Seven victory over the Anaheim Ducks. After all, not only was it the first Game Seven in franchise history, which will now have a ‘W’ next to the final result, but it was also the first time since 2012 the Preds have advanced to the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But when the players awoke on Thursday morning to head up the California coastline, it was back to business with another contest looming. Game One between the Preds and the San Jose Sharks gets underway on Friday night at the SAP Center, a small amount of time for the Predators to prepare for their second postseason opponent in 48 hours.
However, after two consecutive victories to knock off the Ducks, including a 2-1 win on Wednesday in the deciding game, the Preds don’t mind the quick turnaround. If they’re feeling good about their game, there’s no better time than the present to keep things going.
“It was good to see the guys coming down this morning for breakfast and having the mindset already of refocusing on our next opponent,” center Ryan Johansen said. “We haven’t achieved anything yet. We beat a very good hockey team, but now it’s all about refocusing and getting our preparations ready to take on the San Jose Sharks.”
“Last night, we were very excited, but now you kind of come down and realize we have another team and another series to get ready for,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “It’s a quick turnaround, but we’re used to that kind of stuff. We’re ready and excited for the next series.”
Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne, who stopped 62 of 64 shots faced in the final two wins of the last series, remarked after Game Seven that he believed the Preds are now a better team due to the series, and Game Seven in particular. His teammates agree, pointing to the manner in which the Preds were able to rally from a 3-2 series deficit as a large boost of confidence.
“The way the series unfolded, we played two great games to start, came out flat in the third, played decent the fourth, but didn’t win and found ourselves even in the series,” Ellis said. “I think it built a lot of character in our team, and a lot of confidence as well, knowing that we can come back from being down, and then we also have to appreciate the leads we get. Going forward, I think that series, the way it happened, will definitely help us.”
The Preds will use that experience now as they move forward in the postseason against a San Jose team who defeated the Los Angeles Kings in five games in Round One, including a 3-0 mark in L.A.
“This is another huge challenge,” Ellis said of facing the Sharks. “They have great goaltending, great forwards, great defense, and much like Anaheim, they’re a deep team that’s built for the playoffs. They’re obviously here for a reason and beat a past Stanley Cup Champion in L.A., so going forward, we’re going to have to be on our game and ready for the challenge.”
The victory in Game Seven, and each of the wins against the Ducks, were just small pieces in what the Preds hope will add up to something much greater in time. But for now, the matchup in San Jose looms, a series that could easily go the distance once more.
“We know they have a few real, high-end players that have been successful for a long time, and we feel good about the matchup,” Johansen said. “We have a lot of confidence in our group that we can be successful here again, but by no means will it be an easy challenge. It should be a lot of fun; I always love playing in the Shark Tank, and I’m just looking forward to another great series.”