By Chris Gordon
PITTSBURGH — Monday night, the Nashville Predators will play in their first Stanley Cup Final here against the Penguins. They had the fewest points of any team that made the playoffs. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, finished second in the league behind only the Washington Capitals. Just one player on Nashville’s roster, Mike Fisher, has championship round experience — and he is not even confirmed to be in the lineup for Game One.
“We want to use that to our advantage, but also realize it’s a new season,” Penguins forward Conor Sheary said about the two teams’ disparate résumés.
The Predators are big underdogs, but this is hockey and anything can happen. After all, the Predators have already made it this far.
“Going in, I don’t feel like we’re completely naked and void of experience,” Nashville head coach Peter Laviolette told reporters before the Preds morning skate. “I feel like we have some experience. I think as you start to grow, you have to take on those new experiences as well. That’s where we are today.”
Laviolette would know. This is his third Stanley Cup Final in the post-lockout era, winning the most famous trophy in sports in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes. When he was asked about his past Final experience on Sunday, the coach shifted the focus to his players. Save for Fisher, they’re all new to the crushing horde of reporters — including your correspondent — and the other absurdities that come along with a Cup Final. Their general manager, David Poile, is new to this too.
“I never doubted myself,” Poile, a former Capitals GM, said on media day. “I maybe doubted if this day would ever come. I tell you, I can’t believe how excited I am.”
The players don’t seem to be outwardly concerned. Coming into this postseason, the franchise had just three playoff series wins. In just a few weeks they’ve doubled that number. The Predators swept the number one seeded Blackhawks in the first round, downed the St. Louis Blues in six games and reached the Stanley Cup Final by eliminating the Anaheim Ducks with a 6-3 victory in Game Six.
“I think our team has done a great job all playoff long of staying in the moment and just enjoying the process and making sure we’re putting in the work,” Fisher said Sunday. “Guys have done that, and we’ve only gotten better and better as the stage has gotten bigger too. That excites me.”
Headline photo: Frederick Breedon
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