Roughly a third of the way through the 2014-15 regular season and the Nashville Predators push their record to 19-7-2 with a convincing win over the Arizona Coyotes. Yes, this team is going well and it’s keeping pace with the best teams in the Western Conference. That much is obvious. Here’s a few things that may have been overlooked along the way.
The Resiliency Factor:
Last season, if scored on first, the Predators record was 11-29-6. This was a very fragile club. A goal against in the early going usually meant defeat. This year’s edition of the club is unaffected if it’s trailing early. In fact, their record if scored on first is a startling 9-6-1 (through just 28 games).
Case in point, the Preds spotted Arizona a 1-0 lead to start the opening period and then proceeded – just two and a half minutes later – to go on a three goal run to send Arizona back to the room down two goals. It was never very close after that point. Fun to watch, no?
Head Coach Peter Laviolette swears by the total attempts his team takes at the opposition's net. Strong numbers in this regard, according to many, is a recipe for success over the course of an entire season. Why? Because attempts lead to chances even if the initial attempt does not result in a direct shot on net.
After Thursday’s action, James Neal was second in the NHL in total attempts at the net or iCorsi (the total number of shots, misses or blocked shots a single player attempts at his opponent’s net). Neal has 160 attempts and the attempts leader, Brent Burns of San Jose, has 161. However, dig a little deeper and it begins to get interesting. Burns has played three more games than Neal and Burns has over 100 minutes more total time on ice (TOI) than Neal this season. Burns’ TOI is 532:17 while Neal sits at 412:03. So you begin to appreciate that Neal generates total attempts at a rate similar to the current attempts leader Burns but while using far less TOI.
What does a 19-7-2 record get you in the West? Would you believe just a five-point cushion over the ninth placed team who just happens to be the defending Stanley Cup Champs? Don’t get me wrong … this is a good problem to have but how about a little separation when you go 7-3-0 over your last 10 games? I suppose you can chalk that up to “well, that’s just life in the West.” And the one benefit this Predators team does seem to draw from the tight rankings is the motivation to refine its game. It’s a tough conference, and you have to keep your game sharp to stay in the mix.
Stay tuned, lots of hockey left to play!