Nashville, Tenn. — Predators goalie Pekka Rinne has years of postseason experience, including a couple Game 7s and a Stanley Cup Final.
Connor Hellebuyck (Commerce Township) has the Winnipeg Jets on the verge of their first Western Conference final in his first playoff appearance, and the best comparison he can make to the looming Game 7 in Nashville is playing for Hockey East championships back in college.
“I have yet to be scored on in one, so I like those odds,” Hellebuyck said. “This has nothing to do with that. This is whole new level and you’ve just got to get into the game as much as you can.”
Nobody has reflected the roller-coaster ride of this thrilling Western Conference semifinal between the NHL’s top two teams in the regular season than their Vezina Trophy finalists. Rinne has been pulled from not one but two games — both on his own ice — before staving off elimination in Game 6 with his second shutout this postseason.
“When you think about Game 7, as a team, as an individual, you’re just going to give it all and do your best and do it as a team and trust your teammates,” Rinne said Wednesday. “I think that’s the best formula and focus on your own team.”
Hellebuyck’s stats include a 2-1 record in Nashville in this series, which ends Thursday night (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) in the only Game 7 of the second round this postseason. Hellebuyck gave up three goals in a 4-0 home loss Monday night , turning this into a winner-take-all game for the right to play Vegas in the conference final.
“We know it’s all on the line, and nothing in the past is going to bother us,” Hellebuyck said. “We can’t let it. This is going to be the most fun game we’re going to play and I think a lot of us are going to enjoy ourselves.”