The prevailing question going into the 2023-24 season regarding the Nashville Predators was how long would it take for things to start clicking with Head Coach Andrew Brunette?
The Predators are about to hit the 30-game mark and now have a 16-13-0 record after their 3-2 overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, their third overtime win of the season.
With a 10-3-0 record in their last 13 games, the Predators join other hot streak teams currently including the Golden Knights, Oilers and Kings. All Western Conference teams.
Nashville Predators are Finding Different Ways to Keep Winning
The recent success the Predators are finding is coming from different factors. That was clear in their win over the Flyers, a game where they didn't play their best, but did just enough to secure the win in overtime on Filip Forsberg's 15th of the season, and 10th career overtime goal, passing David Legwand for the franchise lead.
The Predators are winning in different ways, which makes them a dangerous team. They're not a one trick pony right now. Everyone knows the Predators have a run and gun offense, but there's going to be nights when the offense doesn't show up, and that's where Juuse Saros is making the differene.
Saros has incredibly turned the tide on his slow start, which he has become known for. After five consecutive starts while having save percentages below 90 in four of those losses, Saros has now won nine of his last 10 starts and in all of those wins he has held the opponent to three goals or less.
The Predators' special teams is also taking off. The team's biggest weakness early on was their penalty kill, but since this winning surge began back in late November, the Predators have been near perfect on the penalty kill.
Predators Penalty Kill Last 5 Games
4-3 Win (SO)
3-2 Win (OT)
They often say your best penalty killer is your goaltender, and that's definitely true with how Saros is playing right now. However, the overall structure of the Predators' penalty kill has also shown noticeable improvement. Better protection in front of the net, more organization and just overall better physicality.
The penalty kill has moved up to 21st in the NHL after being at the very bottom just a month ago. The power play remains middle of the pack, and I still think the best is yet to come with that unit. Give it time.
It's hard to find a glaring weakness that the Predators are showing right now. Their 5-on-5 Expected Goals For remains in the top-10, but finishing could still get better. You're still seeing a lot of scoring chances left without finishing, whether that be by missing the net entirely or the passing being just a little off.
Finally, you can't discuss what the Predators are doing right now without mentioning that Forsberg isn't doing this all alone. Sure, he's making a huge impact and without him the Predators wouldn't be finding the same success. But the true mark of a great team is getting contribuations form everywhere, and you saw that yet again against the Flyers.
The scoring was opened up with a goal from Gus Nyquist, and then Michael McCarron added to the lead on a delayed penalty call. Just a product of battling hard in the dirty areas for a loose puck and not giving up on a play.
Forsberg's eventual overtime game winner was also a product of not giving up on the play as the puck was sitting behind the goalies pads and not covered up.
Other NHL Teams that are Riding Hot Streaks
The Predators aren't alone when it comes to Western Conference teams that are surging right now. The Oilers have completely turned around their lackluster start and have gotten above .500 and riding a seven-game winning streak.
The Los Angeles Kings shoul be considered one of the top contenders in the West. They're on a two-game slump, but before that had won eight of nine. They're third in the NHL in goals per game at 3.68.
It's not surprise that the Vegas Golden Knights sit at the top of the Western Conference. They have a 20-5-5 overall record and have won six of their last seven, outscoring opponents a combined 31 to 16 in that stretch.
In the Eastern Conference you have to give the Toronto Maple Leafs the nod as the hottest team right now. They have just one regulation loss dating back over a month.
So how do the Nashville Predators stack up against some of the NHL's other hottest teams right now? They've already beaten the Oilers and Maple Leafs head to head once, but have yet to go head to head with the Kings, Golden Knights or Stars. Three of the top contenders in the West.
It's still too early to really say just how dangerous the Predators can be in a seven game series against some of the top teams. A lot of hockey left to be played, and still a whole lot left to learn about the Predators team. All we do know is the signs are very encouraging not just for the remainder of 2023-24, but beyond with so much young talent rising up.