Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Hottest Team in the NHL Continues Its Winning Ways

A team that had once been written off, the Nashville Predators came back to defeat Colorado 4-3 in overtime in the Pepsi  Center for their seventh consecutive victory and 12th win in their last 15 games. A team that was dead last in the NHL after a 3-6-1 start is now 6th in the Western Conference on the strength of this run, and now are 7-2 in the month of November.

This streak has occurred because the team has bought in to the philosophy of Head Coach Barry Trotz. Being well prepared to play is a trait that Trotz and his staff have executed well over the years, and have emphasized this season. Not having marquee talent means that this team has to be well prepared each night to be competitive.  He has set this team up to play to its strengths- tough defense, solid goal tending, and opportunistic scoring. Shoot the puck, crash the net, create opportunities- nothing fancy but when played as coached will lead to wins. And this team is winning because they are executing this strategy to perfection.

This team is winning because the power play is starting to click. The Predators are 12-0 when they score a PP goal. After a pathetic start, the power play is getting traffic in front of the net, good movement, and good shots. Last night, J. P. Dumont put the Predators on the board first after driving the net and taking a nice feed from Shea Weber to beat a defenseless Craig Anderson.

This team is winning because players that were counted on to produce are starting to consistently  produce. Marcel Goc scored the Predators second goal when Martin Erat drove the net and drew the defense to him. Anderson was forced to play Erat's drive to the net, and he slid a pass to Goc who fired it in to an open net.
This team is winning because the big guns on the team are producing. Shea Weber tied the game at 3 in the third with another blast from the blue line that beat Anderson for his 6th goal of the season. Weber has a booming shot, and when he puts it on net, he creates havoc for the opponent. Jason Arnott had two assists for the night for his 5th point in 4 games, and the Captain continues to be a force on the ice for the Predators. The guys that were expected to produce offensively are producing- consistently- and this is leading to goals and wins.

This team is winning because of heart. David Legwand, he of the invisible start this season, has arrived with a vengeance, and scored the game winner last night. Legwand has bounced back from a horrific start to the season and has played like he is capable. It would have been easy for him to hang his head and call the season a bust, but he didn't. He fought through his slump and has been arguably the best player on the ice over the last five games. His defensive play has been stellar, and now his offensive play has caught up to the rest of his game.

This team is winning because they are resilient. Resiliency is a quality that Trotz and his coaching staff constantly preach. There will be times when what happens on the ice doesn't go your way, but it is imperative to believe in your system, believe in your team mates, and believe you can win the game. The Predators fell behind the Avalanche 3-2 in the second period after beginning the period up 2-0. They never wavered in their effort and tied the game late in the third. They stormed the Avalanche net in overtime, and the effort resulted in a win. This team believes that whatever happens, they can win the game. That is a great attitude that has translated in to confident play on the ice.

This is not the most talented team in the NHL by any stretch. This is, however, a team that believes in itself as a whole; that believes in each man wearing the Predator sweater that takes the ice; and believes in the coaches that have prepared them for each game. This team is now coming to the ice confident and ready to play every night, believing they can win against anyone. And that belief is translating in to wins.

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