Focused Preds Enjoying Stanley Cup Final Moment

Posted at 9:19 PM, Jun 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-07 23:51:41-04

Spend any time around the Predators and it's clear, this is a team with business on it's mind. They talk about the work it takes to play a certain way, and believe if they do, results will follow.

It's a mindset that starts with the head coach. Peter Laviolette plays his cards close to the vest. The soft-spoken coach is buttoned up with gameplans and lineups, and rarely cracks a smile or the slightest hint of enjoyment when dealing with the media that have covered his team during this playoff run.

But don't think for a second that it is all work and no fun for the Predators on this journey of a lifetime. This, after all, is the Stanley Cup Final, a stage they have all dreamed of playing on since they were little kids.

"I'm trying to enjoy everything," Predators captain Mike Fisher said Wednesday in Pittsburgh. "The whole run, it's been incredible. But I'm trying to not look too far ahead, stay focused on what we have to do."

The Predators are tied 2-2 with the Penguins in this best-of-seven final series. They can take one step closer to capturing the franchise's first ever Stanley Cup with a win in game five Thursday at 7 p.m.

It's been an improbable run from the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference playoffs to the brink of a championship. It's caught the city of Nashville by storm and the attention of the entire hockey world.

Predators' players have enjoyed every moment, from the franchise-record 14 playoff wins to the 10 raucous sellouts at home to the large crowds, like the one gathered at the airport Thursday, that have wished them good luck before trips and welcomed them back home with cheers each trip.

And now they have the chance to write the perfect ending to the story.

"Amazing. Obviously you don't want to look back yet," goaltender Pekka Rinne said. "Been playing for a long time, never had this opportunity. It means everything to me right now. Just living my dream right now."

Both Rinne and Fisher have a keen awareness of just how difficult it is to even reach the Stanley Cup Final. The 34-year-old Rinne, along with the Predators franchise, had never gotten out of the second round before this postseason. Fisher, 37, was the only player on the Nashville roster with Stanley Cup Final experience before last week, having lost in his only appearance with the Senators 10 years ago.

Laviolette is the only person in the Predators' dressing room that has hoisted the Cup before. He led Carolina on a magical run to the title in 2006, and later lost a Stanley Cup Final while coaching the Flyers in 2010. He understands that the journey only has a happy ending for one team, which leads the coach back to the "process" and importance of "hard work" and playing "the right way".

Do that and you can live with no regrets.

"There's a lot of work that has to be done on a daily basis for everybody, not just coaches or not just players," Laviolette said. "There's the organization, the guys on video, the equipment, the trainers. It is business. I don't think you get to this point if you aren't business. But, believe it or not, I do smile once in a while. We are enjoying it because we're here. We're playing. I said it to the guys the other day and it was after a tough loss, June whatever, when we got back home, 0-2. I said, How lucky are we? How lucky are we to be playing hockey in June?"

It's the greatest time of the year to be playing hockey, and the Predators are having the time of their lives.

But when you're this close to the Cup you have to make the most of your opportunity. This is a business trip to Pittsburgh, so the Preds' are sticking with the process that got them here, hoping that it delivers the result they've been working for all season long.

"It's a grind, it's hard to get here," Fisher said. "So when you do get here, you got to make the most of it."