Tonight the Nashville Predators will host the Winnipeg Jets in Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round, and the team is focusing on defense to help them advance to the next round.
“Defense is what wins you championships,” Nashville forward Ryan Johansen said (h/t NHL.com).
“You look at every team that’s ever been successful in any sport, it hasn’t just been offense. Defense needs to step up. It showed in Game 4 and Game 6. When we played great defense, we were very successful. We need to defend really hard, and then when it’s time to go, it’s time to go.”
Nashville knows the strategy can work as they won Game 4 and Game 6 with stellar defense. But now, the Preds have to keep things in check as they take the ice for a crucial game in front of what should be an electric home crowd.
“I think it’s a different mindset,” Johansen said. “I think as a Predator and playing at Bridgestone, you come to the arena and the atmosphere and the energy is remarkable. It’s hard to stay level and keep your emotions in check because you’ve got some famous singer doing the anthem and you’ve got all this hype and you want to go out there and score a goal and you want to play offense.
“But you’ve got to make sure you’re doing all the right things away from the puck and on the defensive side as well. I think that might be a reason we haven’t played as strongly at home or whatever, but we just need to focus on our game [Thursday] and not worry about all the distractions from all those things.”
“It’s a defense-first mentality,” Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “I think if you look at the wins we’ve had, it’s about the team playing really solid [defense]. It’s not about run-and-gun with them. I think it’s a dangerous game when you get to play run-and-gun with that team. For us, it’s about being great defensively.”
Nashville has a knack of performing well for big games.
“I think it’s partly experience, what we went through last year, what we’ve been really going through in the last couple years of playoffs and fighting for our lives at times,” Ellis explained.
“I think it comes back to the experience that we’ve gained over those last couple years just allowing us to be comfortable in those settings.”