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Mike Fisher making impact beyond numbers for Predators in playoffs

Captain keeping Nashville motivated, focused despite no points during postseason run

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

The statistics do not come close to projecting the value Nashville Predators captain Mike Fisher supplies.

Sure, he would like to have a goal or a few points after a dozen games during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. But that has not happened yet.

But there is no denying his fingerprints have been all over the Predators' run. Until this postseason they never had reached the Western Conference Final. Now they lead the the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 in the best-of-7 Western Conference Final after a 2-1 victory in Game 3 on Tuesday. 

To gauge Fisher's worth during the playoffs, you just have to ask those that join him on the ice each game.

Predators coach Peter Laviolette has been around a lot of good players and good captains during an NHL coaching career that began with the New York Islanders in 2001 and has featured stops with the Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers.

Yet he holds few in as high a regard as he does Fisher.

"Mike's the type of guy you would want your kids growing up and following and watching what he says and what he does and how he deals with people in life, his work ethic, his habits, his practice habits," Laviolette said during the Western Conference Second Round, a six-game win against the St. Louis Blues. "He's a good example. He's a good example every single day, whether he is on the ice or off the ice."

But Fisher is new to the captaincy in Nashville and still is learning on the job. He took over this season after defenseman Shea Weber was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for defenseman P.K. Subban on June 29.

Not only did that trade change the dynamic of the Predators, it thrust players into new roles.

None more so than Fisher, who suddenly became the main facilitator between the players and Laviolette. He had been part of the leadership group since he was traded to Nashville by the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 10, 2011, but never as captain.

Fisher has tried to roll with the changes as much as possible, but he's also faced some challenges.

"I guess it changes your mindset a little bit but it hasn't really changed my approach as far as the game and how I see my teammates and stuff like that," Fisher said last week. "We've had some good people in our room this year to teach us along the way. It was a transition this season for sure, for a lot of guys.

"We lost three or four veteran guys that were big voices in the room so it was an adjustment period and took a little bit of time for me and other people. I definitely learned through that process. About midway through the season we jelled as a group."

Fisher was a huge part of the jelling process. And according to his teammates, he has the tools necessary to lead men competing at the pinnacle of their profession. Last week defenseman Ryan Ellis pointed to Fisher when asked about the root of Nashville's postseason success.

"Look at Mike Fisher, he is going out and battling every single night and it's contagious," Ellis said. "When he is doing that, everyone kind of follows."

Fisher has centered a shutdown line with forwards Colin Wilson and Pontus Aberg for the Predators, who have allowed 21 goals in 12 games. Fisher's 29 hits are third among Predators forwards. His 15 blocked shots are first among the team's forwards and fourth among forwards in the playoffs. He is one of 13 players to take more than 200 faceoffs; he's won 52.4 percent (118 of 225), eighth among those to take at least 200 faceoffs.

"He's a guy that does everything right on and off the ice," forward Vernon Fiddler said last week. "He's just a fearless leader that does everything possible. He blocks shots, he'll fight, he scores, he hits. He's a guy that plays at the end of games. He is not the most vocal guy but he just leads by his actions."

And he inspires by his nature, according to forward Craig Smith, who said the chance to talk to Fisher during flights to games is, for him, among the highlights of the long regular season.

"He's one of the best people I have ever met in my life," Smith said. "The selflessness, putting others first, has been extremely evident over the last couple of years.

"The way he talks, the way he treats people, I don't think he has ever put himself in front of anybody ever."

Now the Predators are facing a tough, physical Ducks team. The first to win three more games makes it to the Stanley Cup Final. Fisher will do what he can to make sure the Predators are that team. He would like to contribute some points to the cause, but if he can't, he plans to contribute in other ways.

"He's done a tremendous job keeping this group together and keeping it motivated and focused," defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. "I just think he is a great captain."

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