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Arvidsson Leads Preds Shorthanded Prowess

Nashville Paced NHL with 12 Shorthanded Goals in Regular Season, Arvidsson Recorded Five

by John Glennon @glennonsports / glennonsports@gmail.com

Who's to say exactly what factor will decide a game - or even swing the series - when the Predators take on Chicago in the First Round of the Western Conference playoffs?

It might be something as clear cut as brilliant goaltending, superior firepower or punishing physical play.

Then again, the difference in a single, tightly contested game - and by extension a series - might might be more swift and subtle.

That's where one of Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson's specialties comes in handy.

Because if scoring a shorthanded goal is the single most demoralizing act a player can wreak upon another team, then Arvidsson has deflated more opponents than any other NHL player this season.

He heads into the playoffs after piling up a League-high - and franchise record - five shorthanded goals this season, a big reason the Preds ranked first in the NHL with 12 shorthanded goals.

"Whenever you can score a big shorthanded goal, it really hurts the other team," Predators forward Colton Sissons said. "It just sucks the wind right out of their sails. It messes with the power-play's confidence, too, when you're now worried about getting scored against and you should be more concerned about scoring a big goal for your team."

Video: NSH@DAL: Arvidsson puts Preds on the board with SHG

Just as Arvidsson exploded onto the scene this year as an offensive threat - jumping from 16 points in 2015-16 to 61 in 2016-17 - so, too, did he emerge as a penalty-killing threat. Arvidsson averaged a grand total of six seconds per game killing penalties in 2015-16, but spent more than a minute per game shorthanded this season.

It just made too much sense not to use Arvidsson as a penalty killer, given the skill set he brings to the table.

His speed, for instance, allows the the swift-skating Arvidsson to transform an opponent's turnover into a scoring chance in an instant.

"The other team is so focused on scoring a goal and setting up their offense that Arvi can catch them, not sleeping, but with their guard down," Predators forward Austin Watson said. "And he's got that kind of speed where if you lose a step to him, you're just not going to catch him."

It's one thing to be able to beat opponents down the ice, however, and quite another to convert chances. Arvidsson scored on an impressive five of his 12 short-handed shots (42 percent) on goal this season, consistently making opponents pay for power-play mistakes.

Video: SJS@NSH: Arvidsson scores late SHG on breakaway

"He's always sniffing around for offense, and that's what's given him a lot of chances on the penalty kill throughout the year," Sissons said. "But this year he's shown a great knack for scoring. He knows how to score goals now, so that helps."

Arvidsson isn't the only offensive-minded Predators forward that could threaten Chicago's power play. Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen are both part of the penalty-killing rotation as well. In fact, Forsberg's three shorthanded goals this season left him tied for fifth in the League in that department.

"I think (the Predators) use a little more skill on the penalty kill than a lot of teams do," said Preds center Vernon Fiddler, who's played for three other NHL teams in his 14-year career. "When you see guys like Forsberg, Johansen and Arvidsson killing penalties, that's more than just meat and potatoes out there. Sometimes that can create a little more offensive opportunity."

Video: VAN@NSH: Jarnkrok nets shorthanded game-winner in OT

The Predators have benefited from some big shorthanded goals this season.

In January, Calle Jarnkrok's shorthander with just 1.5 seconds left in overtime gave the Preds a thrilling 2-1 win over Vancouver. A month later, Forsberg's short-hander turned out to be the game-winner as the Preds rallied from three goals down to beat Dallas 5-3.

A shorthanded goal against the Blackhawks in one of the upcoming playoff games would likely make even more of an impact.

"It's a big-time momentum changer," Fiddler said. "When you get a shorthanded goal, there's a sense of panic on the other bench because they're up a guy. It makes the team that just scored feel really good."

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