Sure, the Nashville Predators would’ve preferred to win their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2012. They wish they could’ve held onto a three-goal lead they built in the first period of Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Beating Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling on one of the Preds 23 shots across two overtime periods would’ve been ideal.
But that didn’t happen. That’s just the way it goes sometimes in the postseason; however, it takes more than one victory to advance to the second round. Neither club has come close to that feat quite yet.
“You have to win four games to win a series, one game means nothing,” Preds Captain Shea Weber said on Thursday. “Even if we would’ve won yesterday, I think we’d be sitting here saying the same thing. We’ve got to stay even-keeled either way, whether we win or lose. Yesterday doesn’t matter, and now we’re focused on Game Two.”
The second contest of the best-of-seven series between the Preds and Hawks comes on Friday night at Bridgestone Arena, a game the Predators are anxious to play. After registering a postseason, franchise-record 54 shots on goal Wednesday night against the Blackhawks, Nashville’s skaters reiterated the next day that following their 4-3 double overtime defeat, there are plenty of reasons to believe that this series is far from over.
“You’ve worked so hard to get into this situation and you have another opportunity,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “You can’t let it slip right now. We just [have to] focus and take the good out of Game One. We played a really good game, and you have to feel pretty confident about that.”
The Predators were blown away by the atmosphere within Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday night. For first-time playoff participants in Nashville, such as forwards Mike Ribeiro and Taylor Beck, the response from the fans was electrifying. As far as the Preds are concerned, those on the other side of the glass give the players as much of a boost as anything else.
“It was nice to see the atmosphere in the building,” Ribeiro said. “To have the start we did, the fans just got into it…My kids loved it too, they came yesterday and [joined the plaza party] before the game and it was just a nice experience. I can’t wait to see [the fans] tomorrow again.”
“[I don’t think I’ve ever] been in a building so loud,” Beck said. “We definitely feed off of the fans like we did in the first period, and it’s just up to us to keep it going in the second and third period and keep them into it. It’s certainly an advantage when they’re going crazy like that, and it was a great experience for me.”
So while a late-night triumph would’ve made waking up Thursday morning a bit easier for players and fans alike, the Stanley Cup Playoffs aren’t supposed to come without a little adversity. And at this time of the year, anything can happen.
Just ask Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette. He’s done this a few times before.
“Typically, one game doesn’t have anything to do with what happened two days ago or four days ago or Game One of the series going to Game Seven; a game is its own identity,” Laviolette said. “You have to get yourself ready to play mentally, physically, and our guys will be ready. They’ve proven all year that they’re a competitive group. They’ll be ready to play.”