By Josh Cooper in Glendale, Ariz.
Normally after a Game 1 loss, a team harps on all the miscues and poor plays that led to defeat. The winner discusses preparations for taking the opposition's best counterpunch. The Game 1 losing Nashville Predators didn't exactly see it this way. They out-shot the Phoenix Coyotes 42-24, took 25 shots on goal to seven by their rivals in the third period and overtime.
For Nashville, the adjustments that need to be made are minimal at best.
"We're just looking at a few things we can do better," forward Mike Fisher said. "Obviously we did some great things, we got some chances we didn't bury. Defensively, we had a few lapses and that was the game. We'll be much better in Game 2 and we feel good about ourselves."
The common line after Game 1 was, 'that's hockey.' In this sport, the team that played better doesn't always come out on top. But the Predators realize that Game 1 was just the first in what promises to be a long series.
"We just have to keep going," defenceman Shea Weber said. "Everyone knew it wasn't going to be easy, it's going to be a tough series and both teams are going to have to battle hard."
For Nashville, Game 1 mistakes were uncharacteristic of a team that prides itself on airtight hockey. There's a good chance they were rust-related. One goal came after a bad pinch and a backchecking forward wiped out skating to negate a 2-on-1. The game-winner occurred on a face off. The normally sturdy Fisher lost the draw to Martin Hanzal on the play.
"They're opportunistic, they have a great goaltender, they play a lot like us," Fisher said. "We got a lot of those wins against Detroit too, so we've seen it, we know what to expect."
In many ways this is an odd situation for Nashville. The Predators often find themselves scraping and clawing to get into the playoffs. Because of this, they're finely tuned in the importance and effort exertions that come with must-win games.
This team hasn't been through any sort of must-win situation. A strong January and February put Nashville in good position for the playoffs. They cruised into the postseason as the fourth seed, nine points ahead of eighth-place Los Angeles and beat Detroit in five games. This is a new situation for this group.
"We don't want to go down 2-0," forward Nick Spaling said. "We have to focus on getting this one."
They key for Nashville is learning how to cope with the Coyotes strange style of rope-a-dope hockey. The Coyotes have been out-shot on average by a total of 14.3 in seven playoff games, but still have found a way to go 5-2. Phoenix knows and understands the Predators will likely make some adjustments going into Game 2. Because of their third period and overtime, Phoenix likely will too.
"I think we can be better, I don't think we had a really good game except the first two periods," Hanzal said. "[Mike Smith] was outstanding and that's what we count on right now, we have plenty of room to improve and be better."
Josh Cooper reports for The Tennessean. Follow him on Twitter @joshuacooper
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