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Preds Finding Dramatic Flair in Recent Success

Having Scored the Most Goals in the NHL Since Feb. 4, Nashville is Playing an Exciting Brand of Hockey

by John Glennon @glennonsports /

In his 34 seasons as an NHL general manager, David Poile has experienced just about everything the sport has to offer.

One of the exceptions is that - because of his role - he never gets to watch the game purely for entertainment's sake.

"I always say I can't wait to someday be a fan because it must be really enjoyable," Poile said. "But from my perch, it's a little bit stressful."

As wrapped up as he is in every nerve-wracking detail of every contest, however, even Poile has to acknowledge the obvious: Over the past month or so, the Predators have been arguably the most entertaining and explosive team in the NHL.

Granted, Thursday night's 2-1 defeat at the hands of Montreal was a bit of a punch to the gut. The Predators lost defenseman Ryan Ellis to injury midway through the contest and lost the game when Canadiens forward Paul Byron scored with just nine seconds remaining.

But in the big picture, the Predators have been piling up goals and mounting comebacks like few Nashville teams in franchise history.

Since Feb. 4, when the Preds were shut out 1-0 by Detroit, they've scored a league-high 47 goals, averaged nearly four goals per game, engineered the League's most productive power play and crafted one thrilling finish after another.

"I think every team is a bit different, but it feels like we're more exciting," Poile said as he compared the 2016-17 version of the Predators to predecessors. "The timeliness of when we score, the comebacks, maybe the flair that we have now ... It just feels like it's more drama than there was before."

Video: EDM@NSH: Arvidsson bangs in Neal's feed for PPG

 Forward Filip Forsberg has rightfully captured much of the attention for fueling the Predators in recent games, as he posted back-to-back hat tricks against Calgary and Colorado. The 22-year-old has 14 points (10 goals, four assists) in his last seven games.

But plenty of other Preds have heated up in recent weeks as well.

A sampling: defenseman Roman Josi has 14 points (6g-8a) in his last 12 games; defenseman P.K. Subban has 13 points (1g-12a) in his last 11 games; Viktor Arvidsson has 12 points (8g-4a) in his last 12 games; and center Ryan Johansen has nine points (1g-8a) in his last six games.

Poile credits the offensive outburst to a number of factors - an overall return to health, improved chemistry on a roster that features several different players from last year, and the simple matter of increased consistency.

"It's only recently that we have everybody back healthy and we've seemed to find chemistry," Poile said prior to the Montreal game. "I probably attribute a lot of that to the top-four defensemen being healthy, and I think they're really contributing offensively. I think their ability to take our team from a defensive situation to an offensive situation has really helped our offensive be effective."

That offense has fueled some impressive rallies.

The Preds roared back from a 3-0 deficit to beat Dallas 5-3 on Feb. 12, bounced back from 4-1 down to Calgary to take a 5-4 lead (before falling 6-5 in overtime) on Feb. 21, and twice came back from two goals down in Buffalo - they trailed 2-0 and 4-2 - to beat the Sabres 5-4 in overtime.

Overall this season, Nashville has 10 wins when trailing after the first period, the third-best figure in the NHL.

"I think (comebacks) are one of those things you can't make a habit out of doing," Poile said. "But it's a good thing to go through, and it's a good thing for players to accomplish. Because when you play in the big games, there's going to be a comeback somewhere along the lines if you're going to have any success."

Video: NSH@BUF: Forsberg wins it in OT with his second goal

 If there's been a downside to the Preds' recent 12-game stretch - one that's seen the team go 7-4-1 and move into third place in the Central Division - it's that the team wants to be more defensively sound. Nashville has given up 44 goals since Feb. 5, the second-highest figure in the league. The Preds want to lower that average and do a better job of holding on to leads.

"As happy as I am with our offensive production along this run, I know we have to be better in our defensive play and cut down the goals-against average," Poile said. "So that when we get a lead, we should be able to protect the lead and shut other teams down. I do think we have the personnel to do that, both in goal and on our defense."

On the other hand, even when the Preds have surrendered a couple of recent late-game leads, it's only added to the drama.

When Columbus rallied from two goals down to tie the Preds on Feb. 19, defenseman Mattias Ekholm netted a memorable game-winner. When Edmonton rallied from two goals down to tie the Preds a week later, Arvidsson stung the Oilers with a game-winning, third-period goal.

"At the end of the day, it's been very exciting, the way we play," Poile said. "We are in the entertainment business. I think if I was a fan, I'd never leave early from one of our games."

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