NASHVILLE, Tenn. - You will have to forgive Austin Watson if he seemed a bit distracted leading up to the start of the playoffs last week.
On Tuesday the Predators forward skipped practice, but he had a good reason. He was at the hospital with his wife for the birth of their first child, a baby girl named Olivia.
"It was incredible," Watson said. "I don't know if I could explain it, you have to just kind of experience it for yourself, but definitely just super excited that everything went great.
With mom and baby healthy, happy and resting comfortably, Watson was free to return his attention to the ice in time for practice Wednesday and game one Thursday night against the Avalanche.
It's a good thing. Watson's continued what has been a breakout season as one of the Predators' top performers so far in the playoffs.
He scored the game-tying goal early in the second period of game one, and also contributed an assist as the Preds pulled away for a 5-2 win. His third period goal in game two gave Nashville a two goal lead on the way to a 5-4 victory.
"He's been terrific in both games," Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said after game two. "Just his presence, his physicality, his skating. He's got a good skill level, too, and I think that's showing."
Watson is most known for his physical, defensive presence on the ice and that's shown up in this series as well.
Along with linemates Nick Bonino and Colton Sissons they've been charged with the primary defensive assignment against the explosive top line of the Avs. Through two games they've actually gotten the better of the matchup, combining for seven points to just six for the Colorado trio of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen.
"This time of year, everybody needs to step up," Watson said. "We're getting contributions from everybody, from all over the lineup. If it's me sometimes, that's great."
It was Watson's time to shine alright, all week long, starting in a delivery room and continuing on the ice, where the former first round pick is evolving into a bonafide NHL star with two-way skills.
Watson's maturity is on display, on the ice where he's stepping up his game, and off the ice where he's stepping into fatherhood.
It was the best week of his life, and Watson can't hide his excitement.
"With the playoffs starting, to have a baby girl on top of that, it's just extra," he said. "It's just awesome right now."
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