Preds Still Believe Going Into Game 6

Posted at 7:58 PM, Jun 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-11 19:27:41-04

"Believe. In a dream, in the process, in each other."

That's the slogan painted on the door to the Predators' dressing room at Bridgestone Arena, a rallying cry they've stuck to throughout this magical season.

That belief will be put to the ultimate test Sunday at 7 p.m. as they face elimination for the first time in game six of the Stanley Cup Final against the Penguins.

"I know our guys don't sit in there and wonder how we're going to do this," Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said. "I think we're an extremely confident group, and we've had a lot of success, especially down the stretch in the regular season through the playoffs. We've found a certain way to play the game with a certain identity, and when we do that, usually the wins follow."

You wouldn't fault the Predators if their belief was a little rattled. In an otherwise spectacular playoff run, the 6-0 loss in game five in Pittsburgh was by far their worst performance.

The Preds now have to bounce back in game  six against the defending champs in order to keep the dream of winning Nashville's first ever Stanley Cup intact.

"We want to win the Cup, that's our goal," Captain Mike Fisher said Saturday. "We all still believe, but know we're going to have to be much better than we were, that's for sure."

To reach their goal, the Predators will have to trust in that process they talk so much about. In game five they looked slow, missed assignments defensively and lost their composure. The Penguins made them pay repeatedly.

The Preds know they can play better, especially at home where they've gone 9-1 in these playoffs in front of their raucous crowd. They are going to have to.

"You can go back through the whole series, there's really one game that we don't like out of five games, and that's game five," Laviolette said. "And even more to the point, when we do not have the game that we want, usually our guys respond with an effort and a game that we're a lot more proud of. I would expect our guys to come out and give it a good, strong performance tomorrow."

And the Predators are going to have to keep believing that different guys in the room can step up. This, after all, is a team playing without it's top center in Ryan Johansen and a speedy wing in Kevin Fiala. The status of star defensemen Ryan Ellis for game six is still unclear after he had to leave game five with an upper body injury.

This is a team that's had 19 different goal scorers and 11 different guys score game-winners this postseason. Colton Sissons replaced Johansen in the middle of the top line with a hat trick to help the Preds clinch the Western Conference Final against the Ducks. Young Frederick Gaudreau played just nine games for the Predators all season, yet leads the team with three goals in the Stanley Cup Final.

Contributions like that need to continue while the Preds trust that their stars return to their productive ways. That Pekka Rinne gets back to the dominant goalie he has been for much of these playoffs, including the 50 shots he stopped in games three and four against the Penguins in Nashville. That Filip Forsberg will finally cash in on one of the many scoring chances he's had in this series. And most importantly, that their vaunted defensive corps gets back to locking down the Penguins' top stars in the way they did for much of the first four games.

"We're confident, especially in our building in front of our fans," Sissons said. "We have to win game six and then game seven is anybody's game."

Accompanying the slogan on the door is a picture of a dog crouching to protect his bone, a reminder of the attacking style of play the Preds need to play with in order to protect their home ice. The dog's name, not coincidentally, is Stanley.

The Predators have to protect the doghouse one more time in game six to give them a chance to play for Stanley's namesake in game seven.

There's no question the Penguins are in an advantageous spot, up 3-2 in the series with two chances to win one game and become the first repeat Stanley Cup champs since the 1997-98 Red Wings.

But the belief in the Predators' dressing room is real, and the dream is still very much alive.