It's the best time of year!
In Friday’s Game 5, the Nashville Predators flipped the script from last postseason. This time they were the ones tying the game late in regulation and winning it early in overtime to take a 3-2 series lead. What that 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks has earned them in Game 6 is a chance to win their first playoff series and get over the proverbial hump.
With this being their first chance to ever advance to round two, Nashville is in unchartered territory. Going up against a veteran group like the Ducks have, Mike Fisher knows the hardest test is awaiting them.
“When teams are facing elimination, they’re obviously desperate,” Fisher said of trying to close out the series. “They’re not going to go down without a fight, so we have to make sure we’re on top of our game, be prepared and energized, and come out with a good start.”
A common cliché is that the fourth win in a playoff series is the hardest to claim. In Game 6, it is vital for the Preds to have a good start. In each of Anaheim’s wins in this series, they have jumped out to a 2-0 lead within the first 10 minutes of the game and will assumedly come flying out of the gates on Sunday.
“A fast start is key for us,” Fisher said. “We’re going to try to break their will a little bit and get up on them early. We need to get the crowd involved and get them excited.”
After Saturday’s practice, many players went out of their way to mention that they expect to see a great atmosphere at Bridgestone Arena for Game 6. The fans have been waiting for an opportunity like this ever since the team made their first postseason trip in 2004 and will undoubtedly bring their A-game.
“We’re hoping it’s going to be loud and crazy like it usually is,” said Steve Sullivan.
Though the crowd will bring their best, you don’t really know what to expect from the team itself. As mentioned, this is Nashville’s first time being in the driver’s seat and in position to advance to the second round. They understand that Anaheim will bring their best effort with their backs against the wall.
“There’s a lot of hockey to be played yet,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “We’re playing a very good team. As you get deeper in the series, (the games) get bigger and bigger.”
Some teams can feed off of this situation; some wilt under pressure. On the heels of their biggest win in franchise history, the resilient Predators, who have had a business-like approach this spring, hope they can take care of business on Sunday.
Is their first Game 5 and playoff overtime victory a prelude to their first ever trip to round two?
“This is our opportunity,” Captain Shea Weber said, “and we have to make sure we give ourselves the best chance to win this game and not have to worry about Game 7.”
Photo credit: Getty Images
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