The Nashville Predators advanced to the Western Conference Final for the first time with a 3-1 win in Game 6 of the Western Conference Second Round against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.
The Predators are 8-2 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and have not lost back-to-back games.
Here are 5 reasons the Predators advanced:
1. ACTIVE DEFENSE
The ability of Nashville's defensemen to join the rush and produce offensively is as good as any team in the NHL, and it showed against St. Louis.
The Predators' defensemen combined for 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in the series. Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis combined for five goals.
"I think it's part of our system," Josi said. "Our system allows us to jump up in the play and we have forwards doing a great job of getting pucks to us. Our job is getting pucks through. I mean, we have a lot of [defensemen] that can jump up and join the play, and our system allows us to do that."
2. PEKKA RINNE CONTINUES TO SHINE
Rinne improved to 8-2 with a 1.37 goals-against average and a .951 save percentage in 10 games. He's playing his best hockey of the season at the right time for the Predators and making key saves at key times.
"He gives us the confidence," Josi said. "I think every game he's been our best player. He's so confident back there. He's confident in making saves. He's confident in passing the puck. And he's been unbelievable for us."
Video: STL@NSH, Gm4: Rinne extends for pair of pad stops
3. HOME COOKING
The Predators were 3-0 at home during the series and have won nine consecutive playoff games at Bridgestone Arena dating to Game 6 of the first round against the Anaheim Ducks last season.
Fans in Nashville gave the Predators a boost, and the defense was strong at home. The Predators allowed three goals in three home games against the Blues.
"Our fans deserve so much credit for how the atmosphere is here," coach Peter Laviolette said. "It doesn't have to be like that, but yet, it is. Our players, coaches and organization, we really appreciate that."
4. TOPPING VLADIMIR TARASENKO
Defensemen Mattias Ekholm and P.K. Subban were able to limit the effectiveness of Tarasenko during the series. Tarasenko scored two goals in a 3-2 Blues win in Game 2 but those were his only goals of the series.
The Predators wanted Ekholm and Subban to be matched against Tarasenko's line and were better able to ensure that matchup at home.
"World-class player," Subban said. "He can do so many great things out there. I got to meet him at the (2017) All-Star Game a little bit and got to watch him on the ice, and he's a pretty special player. He deserves the attention that he gets. We did see a lot of him after Game 1. We saw a ton of him."
5. GOOD DEPTH
The Predators got key goals from role players throughout the series, including game-winning goals by Vernon Fiddler in Game 1 and Cody McLeod in Game 3.
The added offensive help from players who normally are expected to play more of a checking role was a big help.