This season's Preds squad has developed an ability to adapt its game to the qualities necessary to win. Nashville's 41 wins are sixth most in the NHL this season. And the 37 non-shootout wins are third most in the league.
Many of those wins have come through solid "system play" and following "the Preds script" -- tight defense anchored by All-Stars Ryan Suter
and Shea Weber
and stellar goaltending from Vezina front-runner Pekka Rinne
. But plenty of this season's wins have come from outside of that script.
The current three game winning streak is a microcosm of the team’s unique talent to win in different ways. Last night was a wide-open offensive battle with the teams trading chances in all three periods and the Preds top line stepping up biggest with Martin Erat
, Mike Fisher
and Sergei Kostitsyn
factoring in three of the team’s four goals --- and creating several other good quality scoring chances. Saturday against Detroit it was tremendous goaltending by Pekka Rinne
and timely production from the power-play – converting for two of the team’s three goals. Thursday against Colorado it was Brandon Yip
and Matt Halischuk
– two guys averaging fewer than 12:00 of ice time per game – providing key plays on the team’s second and third goals respectively in a 4-2 win.
But despite all that, people still like to doubt this team; try to focus more on what this team doesn’t have or doesn’t do well or areas of the game that they perceive to be slipping or any myriad of other reasons people have for doubting this team. But at the end of the day all that matters is what they DO well … and that’s win.
They continually find a way to win games --- many times when others feel they have no business winning. December 1 at defending Western Conference Champion Vancouver, after blowing an early 3-1 lead, the Preds found themselves down 5-3, but rallied to win 6-5; a week later they trailed 3-1 in Columbus, but scored twice in the final 1:36 of the third period to force overtime before Colin Wilson
netted the game-winner in the extra session. December 15 the Detroit Red Wings out-shot the Preds 40-21 and held a 3-1 lead late in the second period, but Nashville tied the game with 4:24 remaining in regulation and won it 2:48 later. One week after that the Preds spotted Columbus leads of 4-1 and 5-2 only to chip away, tie the score with 3:46 left in the third period and win it with under 10 seconds left in regulation. And then there was the first game out of the All-Star Break, up in Minnesota, when the Preds were dominated for the first 49 minutes, trailing 4-1, but got one goal back in the middle of the third period and then scored three times in the final 3:21 to steal a win that left even Mike Fisher
, the game-winning goal scorer, at a loss for words.
This team has developed a winning attitude, a winning will, a winning know-how. And that’s tougher to game plan against than any talented player or coaching scheme.