The turn of the calendar has thus far produced a November to remember for the Predators.
Beginning with a one-sided victory in Colorado, the Preds have produced a 4-0-2 record over their past six contests. They've picked up at least a point in those half-dozen contests - 10 points overall - and are one of just two teams not to have suffered a regulation loss in November.
The surge has allowed the Predators to climb back into the thick of the very early playoff picture in the Western Conference.
Here are five of the reasons the Preds have been rolling over the past two weeks:
There's simply no way to overestimate the impact a top-flight goalie can have on his team, and Pekka Rinne is in the midst of illustrating that. After winning one of his first four starts, Rinne has become all but impenetrable during Nashville's six-game point streak. He's posted a 4-0-2 mark during that stretch, with a 1.14 goals-against average and .958 save percentage. Rinne's last three efforts - all wins - have been especially impressive, as he allowed a total of just two goals and produced a save percentage of .976 en route to being named the NHL's Third Star of the Week.
"I've been playing a lot, and I'm obviously getting the results right now, so that feels good, but I think with me it always starts with hard work," Rinne said. "There's going to be ups and downs during the season, but if you want to be one of the top goalies in the League, you have to be consistent. That's my main focus, to try to be consistent, try to bring my best game as often as possible."
When forward James Neal is at the top of his game, the goals and assists tend to come in bunches. That's been the case during Nashville's six-game point streak, as Neal has spearheaded the Preds offense during that stretch. The nine-year veteran has scored five goals, added three assists and posted a plus-seven rating. He'll carry a four-game point streak (5g-1a) into Tuesday's game at Toronto.
"Even when we weren't scoring, we knew we had players that were capable of scoring goals," Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "[James] Neal has had lots of opportunities since the start of the year, and it's nice to see that they finally [are going] in. Goal-scorers continue to shoot the puck as much as possible because they're good at what they do."
Forsberg the Facilitator:
Predators forward Filip Forsberg is most well known for his wicked wrist shot, one that helped him record 33 goals last season - tied for the franchise high. But with goals more difficult to come by for the Swede early this season, he's still managed to be offensively productive. Forsberg has a team-high 10 assists, and half of them - along with his one goal - have come during the Predators points streak. He'll take a three-game point streak (1g-3a) into the Toronto contest.
"Every guy on this team knows what type of player we have to be to be successful and we didn't do that in the start," Forsberg said. "I think that was basically the thing, to start working hard and playing our way of hockey. We've been playing better hockey, and it's been coming to us all. "
Mike Fisher has only been healthy for three of the six games in the current point streak, but his impact has been undeniable. He's had an assist in each of the contests, won 28 of 48 faceoffs (58 percent) and helped the Preds kill off every power play against them. The Predators have won all three of those games Fisher has played in - beating Colorado, St. Louis and Anaheim. The captain's experience and leadership are huge assets on a team that is still developing new leaders. Fisher replaced former defenseman Shea Weber as the Predators captain this season.
"We knew exactly what we were getting [in Fisher]," Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said, "and I think he's done a terrific job."
Added Rinne: "I think everybody leads by different ways. Both [Weber] and Fish are kind of quiet leaders who are always leading by example and by making sure they are the hardest-working guys and they do the right things."
Perfect Penalty Killing:
Penalty killing was a sore spot for the Preds through the team's first eight games, as they ranked 29th in the League at that point with a success rate of 68 percent. But all that's changed during the past six games. The Predators haven't allowed a single goal during that stretch, going 20-for-20 against opposing team's power plays.
"I think we've done an excellent job in the last couple of games, just in the way we're running our routes in zone, pressuring pucks in zone," Laviolette said. "There are lots of little things that go into a successful penalty kill and it's those little details that can really make a penalty kill work. You saw that Pekka Rinne got named the Third Star of the Week. Your best penalty killer is your goalie, so things are good in that regard."
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