Barry Trotz has manned the Predators bench since Day One of the franchise n ; even though the team has approached these playoffs with a business-like mentality, even he couldn’t swipe the smile off his face after Nashville’s first ever playoff series win.
“All I’m gonna say is I’m glad we have a (defibrillator) machine next to the bench,” Trotz joked at the start of his post-game press conference.
The Predators punched their ticket to the second round with Sunday’s 4-2 over the Anaheim Ducks.
“I’m happy because of the resiliency and the group that worked so hard all year,” Trotz said. “I’m relieved because there is a little bit of a cloud that we wanted to get to the next round – if we’d never gotten there in this series, I think that would be a little bit of a carryover [to next year].
“This franchise and the fans need it. We’re making history. We’re a young franchise that is trying to go deep.”
The way the Preds got their last two victories of the series was fitting. Everyone talks about Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne and Ryan Suter; but the ones who glue everything together, and make ‘Predator Hockey’ what it is, stepped up in a big way.
Jerred Smithson and Nick Spaling scored the game-winning goals in Game 5 and 6, while linemate Jordin Tootoo – who had a tremendous series – picked up the primary assist on both goals.
“I had no reservations of playing them against anybody,” Trotz said of that trio. “Not only did they give us energy, but they gave us some big goals.”
Anaheim, who was the team no one wanted to face in the first round, certainly made it tough on the Predators. The big guns contributed all series long (including six goals from 20-year-old look-a-like Teemu Selanne), but the defense was able to keep the top duo of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry off of the score-sheet in the final two games.
“Obviously they’re two of the best players in the league,” Suter said. “They are so explosive with Bobby Ryan on that line. It was a tough challenge, but it was a lot of fun.
Weber felt staying disciplined was a big reason why they were able to silence Getzlaf and Perry. The Ducks’ man advantage scored in every game of the series, and capitalized on eight of their 22 chances.
“Their biggest thing was keeping the power play off the ice,” said Nashville’s captain. “Their power play is so potent. (The officials) did a good job of letting both teams play. It’s playoff hockey – both teams were fighting for every inch out there.”
“Collectively, they might be the best line in hockey,” Trotz said of Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan. “We just contained them enough. You get them on the power play and they are going to make some fantastic plays. They almost won the series on the power play alone.”
Getzlaf and Perry each had three power play points in the series out of their combined 14 points.
Much was made about the mediocre play of Rinne, who was named a Vezina nominee on Friday, and rightfully so. He ended the series with a 3.29 goals-against average and .876 save percentage, and didn’t look the same in the first four games of the series. But he came up big when needed to in Games 5 and 6, which helped his team get past the first round.
“When the game was on the line,” Trotz said, “Pekka Rinne was Pekka Rinne. Great goaltenders, when they don’t have a great series, they find ways to make the big save.”
David Legwand, the original draft pick of the franchise, fittingly capped off the 4-2 victory with an empty net goal.
“It’s a huge thing for us to move on and get to continue playing,” he said.
This is Nashville’s sixth trip to the postseason, but their first time getting to the second round. The resiliency that this team showed in this series against the Ducks was incredible, as it was a true 20-man effort.
Their sights are now focused on the second round. Even though they are new to this experience, the team still possesses the business-like attitude.
“It’s nice to win, but we want to continue to win,” said Suter. “No one remembers who wins in the first round.”
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