Tales From The PredsMobile: A November To Remember
By: Miranda Martin
November was a great month to be a Preds fan.
Amidst the chaos of the University of Tennessee coaching appointments and the gripping tale of the Tennessee Titans hopes of getting a playoff berth, it came as a comfort that the Nashville Predators had a successful November, taking away 21 out of an available 28 points in month. With a not-so-great start to the season, including two losses to start the season, the Predators ended November with a record of 10-3-1, extending their total record to 15-7-3 and 3rd in a traffic jammed Central Division.
November had a lot of great talking points this month, and honestly, I’m probably missing some of them in this post because there were SO MANY! Since acquiring center Kyle Turris from the Ottawa Senators on November 5th, the Preds have gone 8-2-1. Turris has accrued 7 points so far with the Preds; for those keeping track, that is 6 more points than Duchene has with Ottawa since the three-way trade. However, the just as important storyline is Turris’s linemate, Craig Smith, has had 9 points since the trade, including 6 goals. Smith now has 9 goals this season, 75% of his total goals (12) for the 2016-2017 season in its entirety! Filip Forsberg, who had a slow start to last season, had a point in 7 games straight during the month, ending the month with 13 points, and Ryan Johansen finally broke his goal drought from October.
The Predators also have become a force with special teams, especially on the power play. The Preds lead the Western Conference and are 3rd in the NHL in power play percentage (25.8%), and they’ve clocked 12 straight home games with a power play goal. (Does anyone else remember when the Power Play was colloquially known as the “Flower Play,” with fans asking if penalties could be declined like in football?) Thankfully, the penalty kill has once again held fairly strong as well, currently tied for 4th in the NHL (83.9%).
Another great part about November was getting a chance to play every single team the Preds played in the postseason half a year ago. And you know what? The Predators beat them all this time, including a great redemption shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins on November 11th. The month started out with a 5-3 victory against the Anaheim Ducks. After the Pittsburgh redemption game, the Preds shut out the current Central Division leaders in the St. Louis Blues–a game that made Pekka Rinne the all-time leader for shutouts by Finnish-born goaltenders (surpassing Pekka’s idol Miikka Kiprusoff). But probably the most satisfying for Preds fans was revisiting the sweep against Chicago with another win against the Blackhawks at home. Finally, to wrap up my November happy points, just this week, defenseman Ryan Ellis started skating with the team for the first time this season, and is still projected to return around the New Year!
There were so many great accomplishments this November for the Predators, but was it the best November in the team’s history?
Statistically speaking… well, kind of? If the best record means the least losses, then the best Predators record was in November of 2006, when the team went 10-2-1. If we’re going by most points accrued in the standings, then it is tied with that same season for best November. For those curious, the worst record in November goes to the Predators second ever season in 1999, when the team went 3-7-2. Overall, Nashville has a pretty balanced November record in franchise history.
And if history is doomed to repeat itself, the 2006-2007 season is not one to be ashamed of repeating. The Predators led the league for a few weeks of that season, and the Preds were just three points shy of their first Central Division Championship, only surpassed by the Detroit Red Wings, which they aren’t even in the Western Conference anymore. Unfortunately, the 2006-2007 season had a not-so-great ending in the playoffs, losing in 5 games in the first round, which hopefully this team wouldn’t repeat. One thing’s for sure–we don’t have the attendance woes of that season anymore.
Unfortunately, the season’s final 20 minutes were a tragically poetic way to end the month, and it kept the Predators from finishing with the best November record ever. The Nashville Predators let in 2 goals and an empty netter to be defeated by the Vancouver Canucks 5-3 on November 30th. With the exception of the loss to San Jose to start the month, the same story goes for every loss the Preds endured in the month–take away the third period, and the Preds take away two points and a victory. It is something the team will have to address in the months to come, because performance in the 3rd period is vital to any team. It’s one of the biggest cliches in the NHL media room–you got to play a full 60 minutes of hockey to win a game. And most of the losses in November prove just that.
But don’t let the last 20 minutes of November spoil the whole month. A stellar November is still something to cheer about, so put the pitchforks and the hot takes away. If the Predators continue to perform in the same way that they have in the last month, without a completely healthy roster, then Preds fans have nothing to worry about this season.