Happy Holidays, Smashville faithful! It is the season for giving, so as our gift to you, we present a Predators rendition of 12 Days of Christmas. While we cannot promise unlimited gift cards and headphones like Ellen Degeneres’ 12 Days, we hope that this encompasses all that this Predators season has to offer. Enjoy.
12 Teams Contending
As of December 23, there are 12 teams in the Western Conference in a playoff spot, or within eight points of a playoff spot (CHI, STL, NSH, ANA, SJS, VAN, WPG, LAK, CGY, MIN, DAL, COL). Any of those teams fighting for a spot could go on a hot streak and climb their way into the playoffs. On the other side, any of the teams in a playoff spot could spiral out of control and tank their way out of the playoffs. It’s going to be a fun stretch run come March.
11 Multi-Goal Forwards
11 of the 14 forwards that have played consistently for the Predators have scored more than one goal. Only Paul Gaustad and Gabriel Bourque have only found the scoresheet once. That means that all four lines are producing consistent offense. Even Olli Jokinen, who has been relatively quiet this season, has two goals. This kind of production is unheard of in Nashville. Peter Laviolette’s system is really starting to pay off.
10 Road Power Play Goals
Despite the woes of the Predators’ power play, they have notched 10 goals on the road with the man advantage this season. That’s good enough for 12th in the NHL in the category. What’s different on the road? Who knows? Maybe not hearing the boos of Predators fans helps. As good as the power play is on the road, it’s been awful at home (we’ll get to that later).
9 Goals vs. Toronto
On November 18, in one of the most lopsided games in Predators history, Nashville walked into the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, scored a touchdown plus a field goal and won 9-2. The Predators found the back of the net five times in the third period, including Calle Jarnkrok’s first of the season. The “faithful” and the ACC were fed up and stunned. A few sweaters hit the ice before this one was over. The Leafs built off of the humiliating defeat, and went on to win 10 out of their next 12 games.
8 Regulation Losses
Eight, count ’em, eight regulation losses. That’s it. The Predators have not lost more than two games in a row so far this season. That is the mark of a winning hockey team; winning consistently, and limiting losses. By comparison, last year at this time, the Predators had 17 regulation losses. The turnaround has been quite astounding.
7 Forwards in Top 100 Fenwick For%
According to Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, the Predators have seven forwards in the top 100 in the NHL for Fenwick for % in 5 v 5 play (Fenwick is a metric measuring shots attempted minus shots blocked, and the percentage is the ratio between Fenwick for and Fenwick against while the player is on the ice). The highest-rated player is Colin Wilson, coming in at number three with a FF% of 59.8%, which basically means the team is outpossessing and outshooting their opponents while he is on the ice. The lowest in the top 100 is Mike Ribeiro at 93 with a FF% of 54.2%. Even that is not so bad. Predators forwards are possessing the puck, and as a result, producing more goals.
6 Wins vs. East
The Predators struggled vs. the Eastern Conference last season, only winning half of their cross-conference games. This season, they are on track to reverse that trend, with six solid victories against great East teams, including two over the Columbus Blue Jackets, and a thriller over the Boston Bruins. In the long-run, those games against the East are crucial to get some extra points in the standings. The Predators have found plenty of success against the other conference, and look to continue that success into 2015.
5 Wins vs. Western Canada
Formerly the Predators’ land of no return, Western Canada suddenly doesn’t seem too intimidating to the Predators. They have marched through Western Canada and won decisive games over the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks. The Preds have also found success at home vs. Western Canadian teams. The one team from the Great White North yet to be solved: the Calgary Flames. In their two meetings this year, Calgary has taken the win by one goal. But, the Predators are winning the games they should win in Western Canada, and that is a true sign of change.
4 Free Agents Contributing
The Predators took a gamble on four cheap free agents this offseason in Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy, Olli Jokinen, and Anton Volchenkov. So far, all of them have paid off for general manager David Poile. Ribeiro has found chemistry with James Neal and Filip Forsberg, and is second on the team in points. Roy doesn’t have much to show in the goals column, but he does have nine assists on the season. Jokinen has scored two goals so far, and has been a solid third-line depth center. Volchenkov has bolstered this youthful defensive unit and given second-year defenseman Seth Jones a great partner to learn from and feed off of. Poile is looking like a genius so far with these pick-ups.
3 Shutout Victories
The biggest difference-maker for the Preds this season has been a healthy Pekka Rinne. With him in the lineup, the Predators have a chance to win every night. Three times this season, Rinne has held opponents scoreless. He has come close numerous times as well, even last night vs. Columbus. If Rinne keeps this up, there is probably a Vezina Trophy in his future.
2 OT/Shootout Losses
Unlike last season, when the Predators couldn’t buy a shootout victory, the Predators have had a lot of success in the extra session. Only twice have they been bested past regulation (October 14 vs. CGY and October 18 vs. CHI). It has been fun to see the Predators find good things in overtime and the shootout. There have been some memorable shootouts as well, like the epic battle with the Los Angeles Kings, or the acrobatic saves by Rinne vs. Boston in the shootout. This is just yet another sign of the turnaround in this franchise.
1 Amazing Start to the Season
Nobody knew what to expect from the Predators this season. They could have been good, they could have been awful, but most likely somewhere in between. Hardly anyone expected the Predators to be this good headed into the holiday break. With minimal losses, and prime position in the Central Division, the Predators show no signs of slowing down. It has been so fun to watch. Let’s hope the success can continue into the new year.