There was no shortage of descriptors coming from the Preds dressing room following last night’s 2-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes.
Head coach Barry Trotz praised the team for playing “Nashville Predators hockey.” David Legwand said the Preds were “doing things the right way.”
Then there was Martin Erat.
“Tonight we played hard for 60 minutes,” he told John Glennon of The Tennessean. “And finally showed some balls.”
Erat was arguably the best player on the ice in Game 3, setting an early tone with forechecking and physical play. His strong puck-possession skills also led to a handful of Predators scoring chances.
The soft-spoken Czech forward sounded just as energized after the game as he was during the game.
“We just showed to our teammates that we are still in the series,” Erat said. “It is going to be hard. (The Coyotes) are not going to come here and just roll over for us.”
Don’t discount the size of Erat’s actions and words (also, balls.) He’s been the team’s leading scorer in each of the last two seasons, but consistently failed to raise his game come playoff time. Erat had just a single goal in the Preds’ 10-game run last postseason and his career totals (8G-15A-23PTS in 44 games with a minus-7 rating) leave plenty to be desired.
But this year, Erat’s different. The 30-year-old veteran of 10 NHL seasons sounds like a player that understands the effort required for a deep playoff run.
And more importantly, he sounds prepared to make it.
“We went to Phoenix and felt it was going to be easy, like they were going to give it to us,” Erat said. “They played hard and have an unbelievable system.
“We have to play harder than them, forecheck hard and create chances.”