By Mark McGee, NashvillePredators.com
One of the reasons defenseman Hal Gill was acquired by the Nashville Predators is his playoff experience.
But even he admits that it is hard to come up with words of motivation as the Predators face a 3-1 deficit after Friday night’s 1-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes in the semifinals of the Western Conference Stanley Cup playoffs.
He finds a simple approach might be best.
“There is no self-pity,” Gill said. “There is no moping around. You just back out and play and find a way to get a win. That is all you can concern yourself with.
“When you win you get that momentum back and see what happens after that. You are focused on that next game. We have to worry about getting one win and finding a way to get it.”
A loss by the Predators ends the series and their season. The Predators have to be driven by that reality.
“You either have it or you don’t,” Gill said. “You go out there and give it everything you’ve got because if it doesn’t work out you don’t have tomorrow. You have to play your heart out.
“It’s frustrating to give up one goal in two games and get a split. But it’s hockey. There is not much you can do about it. We have to dig and find a way to get more (goals). That’s the fun part of the game.”
This is familiar territory for the Predators. Last season they returned to Vancouver after being down 3-1 and came away with a victory before losing the semifinal series 4-2. It was the first time the franchise had ever won a potential elimination game; this year they plan on expanding what they learned last playoffs by three games.
Team captain Shea Weber knows the Predators will have to play at an even higher level Monday night in Phoenix in order to return the series to Nashville for game six at Bridgestone Arena Wednesday night.
Offensively, he would like to see more grit and fewer attempts at pretty plays in order to beat Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith.
“Maybe, we’re trying to make the perfect shot and we just have to get pucks on net and get there for second opportunities,” Weber said. “We have to find ways to get our chances in the net.”
“You talk about it in the playoffs all the time. Teams just keep getting better and better. That’s your goal, to be the best by the end of the year. We just have to take it to another step.”
Defenseman Ryan Suter is aware of what the Predators did last season and he is confident the team can win at Phoenix and eventually take the series.
“If you look at it big picture, it’s a lot of work,” Suter said. “But if we take it one game at a time, it’s doable.
“It’s do or die. We have to go out and leave it all up there and then go out for the next game.”
Predators coach Barry Trotz can’t predict the future, but he knows that being down 3-1 is much better than a 3-0 deficit.
“Plain and simple, we’ve got to win a hockey game,” Trotz said. “That focus can’t go any farther than that – winning a hockey game, and it’s going to have to be in Phoenix.
“I know when you’re down in a series 3-0, the numbers don’t look good. At 3-1 a number of teams have come back – the numbers are much better than 3-0.”
Despite the situation, Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne chooses to be realistic instead of negative.
“Everybody knows what the situation is over here,” Rinne said. “We have to stay positive.
“We won three games in a row before. It starts in Phoenix on Monday. If we want to keep playing we have to win, and that’s the bottom line.”