Maybe Hornqvist's energy will wake David Legwand from his offensive slumber. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)

When Nashville Predators Score First, They Win

I noticed something funny about the first three Nashville Predators games of the season today: the team that scored first lost all three.

In Nashville’s 3-2 shootout loss to Columbus on Saturday, the Preds opened the scoring with a beauty from Martin Erat just 39 seconds into the season.

In the 4-3 shootout loss to St. Louis on Monday, Colin Wilson bagged his first of the season at 9:10.

And in the 3-1 win against Minnesota, Dany Heatley got the Wild on the board at 6:02.

There’s not much you can really project about a team three games into the season, so I’m definitely not suggesting that there’s anything to be worried about just yet. But history suggests that if the Nashville Predators are once again a winning team, they’ll spend most of the 2013 NHL season scoring first.

Here’s a look at how the Predators have fared since the last lockout when they score first:

2011-12 35 3 4
2010-11 30 5 8
2009-10 28 6 1
2008-09 29 9 3
2007-08 34 6 4
2006-07 38 10 4
2005-06 26 14 6

That’s a combined record of 220-53-30 when scoring first. How about when Nashville’s opponents score first?

2011-12 13 23 4
2010-11 14 22 3
2009-10 19 23 5
2008-09 11 25 5
2007-08 7 26 5
2006-07 13 13 4
2005-06 23 11 2

Not nearly as good: a combined 100-143-28 when falling behind first.

There’s one outlier in that second table: in 2005-06, the Preds were 23-11-2 when their opponents scored first. The only team better that year was Detroit, who were 23-8-4 when trailing first. That Detroit team put up an incredible 58-16-8 overall record (124 points) to the second-place Preds’ 49-25-8 (104 points) that year. How much of an outlier were the Wings’ and Preds’ records when trailing first in 2005-06? They were the #1 and #2 marks by any team in any season since the 2004-05 lockout. The only other team to manage so much as a winning record after trailing first during that period was the 2008-09 Boston Bruins (19-11-5).

Nashville Predators forward Sergei Kostitsyn

A game-opening goal from Sergei Kostitsyn in St. Louis would be a nice firstie for him this season. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)

Even back when the Predators were a struggling expansion team from 1998 to 2003, they still had a combined 104-44-34 record when they scored first. (I’ve counted ties and overtime losses together for the purpose of simplification, since they both awarded one point in the standings.) Think about how bad those early teams were for a second, and then consider that they were actually a winning team when they scored first.

Score first, and you win hockey games. The Nashville Predators are no exception.

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