There’s no accounting for it, not that I can see. The word used most frequently to describe this season’s Nashville Predators has been “resilient.” It’s a team that seems to regularly bounce back like the Energizer Bunny.
We can study the numbers all we want and attempt to determine what they reflect. The fact of the matter is they do no more than state what has happened. The stats I see don’t provide the most important answer, the one to the greatest question of them all: “Why?”
In order to have a fairer look at these numbers, at least as they pertain to the Predators, I have decided to use their last four seasons in this study.
It’s a good mix of teams and success rates. In 2011-12, they were fifth in the League, finishing with 104 points. In the shortened 2013 season, they were 27th out of 30. Last season, they finished just out of the playoffs and this time around has been a fantastic ride to the top (or in the vicinity) of the League standings.
In 2011-12, the Predators were in the middle of the NHL pack – 15th – for winning percentage after allowing the first goal of the game. In 2013, they were 29th. Last season, they were 26th. So this time around, they are second, going 16-11-2 after allowing the first goal. This would seem to follow with the team’s overall ranking within the League in each particular season, right?
So that’s one level of “comeback ability,” allowing the first goal and still managing to win. The goal could come in the first minute of play, or the last 30 seconds. How about when trailing after two periods? That should be the more severe test.
Same sample seasons here. In 2011-12, the Predators were second to Pittsburgh, coming back to win seven times in 27 games, a winning percentage of 25.9 percent. Seven times that season, they trailed by three or more going into the third period and lost every one.
The very next season, they fell into a tie for last with Calgary, going 1-18-2! On five occasions in that shortened season, they trailed by 3 goals or more after 40 minutes of play. This is the best example of what I expressed earlier. That 2013 edition of the Predators was tied for 29th in coming back in the third period, 29th after allowing the first goal, 29th in League offense and 27th overall in the NHL standings!
Perhaps the team was just finding its own level, because in 2013-14, they were 26th in both overcoming the first goal of the game and when trailing after two periods. That squad allowed the first goal 46 times and won less than a quarter of those. They trailed 35 times after the second period and again faced a 3-goal-or-more deficit with 20 minutes left in regulation, losing each.
Now to the 2014-15 Predators: as of this writing, they are second in the NHL, winning 55.2 percent of the time after allowing the first goal. That aligns well with the Predators’ overall standing at the top of the League.
When trailing after two periods, twice they have been down four goals (at Detroit and at home vs. Anaheim) and dropped both. They most often have faced one or two-goal deficits this season. To this point, they are ninth in the League in this category, with a winning percentage of 21.4 percent.
Those are the facts, but there is more to it than that. It’s a feeling the players seem to have. A feeling that they are never out of any game, which helps feed their compete level.
It started early, giving up the first goal in the Season Opener against Ottawa, then coming back to win. Two nights later, the same thing happened against Dallas. Arizona and Chicago followed, and then they did it on the road in Vancouver. They were 5-2-1 after allowing the first goal and that was through their first 11 games of the season.
It’s almost as if they had proved something to themselves. This is a theme that has continued throughout the season. Against the Rangers early this month, Rick Nash provided the lead. The Predators came back with goals from Roman Josi and Shea Weber in a 40-second span to take the lead, then won, 3-2. The next afternoon, they were down two goals after two in South Florida and came back with two power-play goals to tie the score, then won in a shootout.
That was why the 4-0 lead the Ducks had after two didn’t convince many to leave Bridgestone Arena early. The Predators outshot the Ducks, 24-2 (one into an empty net) in that third period and had Anaheim on the run. James Neal’s power-play goal with 4:07 left pulled them within two goals and the building was almost as loud as it ever had been. Why? Because this team – and its fans – believe they are never out of it.