In any sport, when a team puts together a run of success, the word "confidence" will work its way into the discussion. The Nashville Predators in November are yet another example of this. While the team is yet to hit its peak level, the 4-0-2 start to November has fueled the confidence inside the Nashville locker room. Just like anything else, success breeds confidence - and confidence breeds more success.
Take the Predators penalty-killing unit, for example. The current November point streak has coincided with six consecutive games without allowing a power-play goal. After some early struggles (Nashville allowed nine power-play goals in their first 19 times shorthanded on the road), the PK has turned into a key catalyst in recent wins. In particular, the team came up big in Thursday's win over Anaheim.
Early in the second period with Nashville leading 1-0, P.K. Subban was whistled for a double-minor on a high-sticking infraction. The subsequent kill inspired the crowd and jump started the Predators on the other end. James Neal's goal shortly after made it 2-0. Then, on another kill, a hustling Viktor Arvidsson stole the puck behind the Ducks' net, and found a cutting Colton Sissons for a back-breaking, shorthanded goal to make it 3-0.
Here are a few of reasons the penalty kill has come around:
1. Pekka Rinne
The obvious answer. We've all heard the adage: "your goalie is always your best penalty killer." No doubt that's been the case of late.
2. Forward Adjustments
There can be a fine line between being aggressive, not aggressive enough or too aggressive on the PK. This can especially be true for the forwards, who must be precise in their decision making. For example, the Predators recently emphasized the "depth" of their forwards when the opposition was set up in the offensive zone - depending on the skill set of the puck holder. Finding this balance has contributed to the run of success.
3. New Personnel Gaining Confidence
With the departure of Paul Gaustad, Eric Nystrom, Shea Weber and Barret Jackman, plus the injury to Miikka Salomaki, the Predators found themselves with a changing of the guard in their penalty-killing identity. Young players like Colton Sissons, Viktor Arvidsson, Austin Watson, and even Ryan Johansen, are getting increased responsibility.
Calle Jarnkrok and Filip Forsberg went through this process last season. Mike Fisher went through it long ago. It can take some time for all of the roles to be clearly defined. The aforementioned young forwards, along with new defensemen like Subban, Matt Irwin, and Yannick Weber, are ironing out their chemistry. It's starting to come together slowly but surely.
A confident penalty kill is an asset to any team. There must be a belief that when a penalty is taken, you are going to get the job done. You don't want the opposite: that feeling of "uh-oh" every time a teammate goes to the box. Since the calendar turned to November, that feeling has shifted from the latter, to the former. That's a good thing.
While there are always new adjustments to be made over the course of the season, it's apparent the Predators are beginning to establish a positive identity on the penalty kill.