In a best-of-seven series, a team will go through many highs and lows, but the team that always comes out alive is the one who is resilient enough to combat adversity. That has been the story of the Nashville Predators in the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.
It was never more evident than in Monday’s Game 6 when the Predators were attempting to stave off elimination to the San Jose Sharks.
There were two points in the game where it appeared the Predators’ season was soon to be over — San Jose’s early 2-0 lead in the first period and the go-ahead goal by Logan Couture midway through the third period.
Both times, however, Nashville responded, and it led to the eventual game-winner by Viktor Arvidsson in overtime to force a Game 7.
“We believe in each other, and we believe in our game plan,” Arvidsson, who scored his first career playoff goal, said post-game. “I think we really hung in there today and just kept playing our game, and the result was good.”
Said Predators head coach Peter Laviolette: “We’ve got really good leadership in the room. I’ve said that all along. Ultimately, those are the guys that pull the rope. When you’re down like that, it can be frustrating.”
This resiliency is something Nashville has dealt with throughout these playoffs. They are 3-0 in elimination games this year with the first two wins coming in Games 6 and 7 versus the Anaheim Ducks in the first round.
The Predators will be up against adversity on two fronts come Thursday’s Game 7. They have never won a playoff game in San Jose — 0-7 all-time — and have yet to advance to the Western Conference Final in team history.
Success in San Jose this series has been minuscule. Nashville has been outscored 13-5 and goaltender Pekka Rinne has a 3.14 goals-against average and a .897 save-percentage in three games at the SAP Center.
In order to turn their fate around, the Predators will be leaning heavily on the line of Mike Fisher, James Neal and Colin Wilson, their most productive line this series who, combined, have 19 points. Wilson, who leads the team in scoring with 13 points (five goals and eight assists) in 13 games, rides into Game 7 on a seven-game point streak with four goals and five assists.
Additionally, Nashville will need Filip Forsberg to generate offense. The team’s leading scorer in the regular season has just one goal in his past 12 games.
Much Needed Rest: Finding days to rest have been incredibly difficult for the Predators since the start of the playoffs. Whether it is playing a game or flying to or from California, the Preds have been going non-stop for the past month. Fortunately for Nashville, they will have two days to prepare for Game 7 on Thursday. The Predators have been on a game-rest-game-rest pattern since Apr. 15 and have played 13 games in 25 days.
“It’s been nonstop with the travel,” Laviolette said. “We need that break, and we feel like it will give us that push when we go out there for Game 7. We’re gladly going to take these two days off. For us to get an extra day off, it’ll be important.”
Defenseman Roman Josi added: “I think everybody can use a day off here, then get some energy, and relax a little bit. We’ve been playing a lot of hockey so [rest is] definitely good for us.”