ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Tragically Hip blared from the loudspeakers of the Nashville Predators dressing room at Honda Center in Anaheim.
Players talked loosely about Wednesday’s Game 7 against the Anaheim Ducks, strangely not really putting too much stock into the importance of the contest. That’s the tone that comes from captain Shea Weber who prides himself on perfecting the art of staying level during the highs and lows of all major hockey games he’s played in his career.
“You don’t want to paralyze yourself by overthinking too much in situations and whatever,” Weber said. “You have to do what you’ve done to this point in the season to be successful. You have to play aggressive, play hard and hope that’s good enough.”
This is only how Weber acts off the ice. On the ice, he transforms into a player using brute force with his hits and his powerful slapshots. Predators are following Weber’s lead approaching this Game 7 – their first in franchise history.
“Honestly it’s another game. It’s a big game. Both teams really want to win,” Weber said. “The team that wins is going to go into the second-round. There’s no point in making too much of it. You put too much pressure on yourself in these situations then you don’t perform.”
While much of the narrative going into the game is about the Anaheim Ducks’ recent Game 7 failures – losing three straight at home – the Predators have several players looking to shift their own postseason storylines Wednesday.
Weber has been a part of all Nashville’s postseason struggles from 2005-06 until now, never making it past the second-round in any series. Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne joined the core in the postseason in 2010. Forward Mike Fisher was added for the Predators’ 2011 playoff run and defenseman Roman Josi in 2012.
The only player on the Preds to make a Stanley Cup Final was Fisher with the Ottawa Senators in 2007. Just Mike Ribeiro, James Neal and Paul Gaustad have made it to a conference final.
“All Game 7s are defining moments for both teams in the playoffs,” Fisher said. “We expect to have their best and I’m sure they’re the same. It’s been a great series and it’s coming down to this game. That’s what makes Game 7 so much fun.”
It wouldn’t erase past playoff issues for Nashville and would only put them into a spot they’ve already made – the second round – but it would be another step as their squad tries to make their own personal history.
“This would be a great feat for us to get our first Game 7 and onto the next round,” Predators radio analyst and former assistant coach Brent Peterson said. “We’ve been to the second-round twice and haven’t been very successful after that. To win tonight would be a huge thing because all the eyes of hockey are looking upon you.”
With Nashville it goes further than just the players. David Poile has been the team’s general manager since the organization started play and tried his best to keep the Predators competitive in the face of ownership issues and other off-ice problems. He’s never made it past a conference final and also probably feels as much desire as any of the players or members of either organization.
Said Peterson, "He's very emotional. He just wants the guys to do so well and there's nothing he can do about it. He'd love to be down on the ice doing it with them."
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