A little more than two weeks into the NHL season four teams have played at least three one-goal games and won them all.
Detroit (4-0), Vancouver (3-0) and Los Angeles (3-0) are three of them. The fourth ought to be obvious. It’s the Nashville Predators, who have built their success over the years on the razor’s edge.
Here’s the important distinction, though: Of those four teams, Nashville is the only for which its one-goal victories currently account for all of its victories, the latest of which was Tuesday’s 4-3 triumph over the Florida Panthers at Bridgestone Arena.
“That’s what we’re going to have to do most nights,” center Mike Fisher, who had a goal and an assist, said. “We’re not going to blow too many teams out. Night-in, night-out we’re just going to have to find ways to score and compete and be in games. … We’re comfortable in that situation and we have guys that can just grind it out.”
Whereas the Red Wings, Canucks and Kings each have one triumph that included a little breathing room Nashville does not – and that’s nothing new. In the last four full NHL seasons (2008-09 through 2011-12), nearly half of the Predators’ wins (49.2 percent, to be exact) came in one-goal games. Even last season, dismal as it was, seven of the 16 times they came out on top they did so by a single goal.
So it is that whatever struggles they’ve had so far don’t seem all that daunting. Nashville’s current goal differential of minus-5 is second worst in the Western Conference yet its record is 3-3-0, an average of a point per game – because it has won every time it has been close.
“I think we’ve been really comfortable in all the games,” coach Barry Trotz said.
Never too comfortable, though.
Last Tuesday they led Minnesota by two after one period, allowed the Wild to get within one in the second and then held on for the final half of the contest and then some to win 3-2. Against the New York Islanders last Saturday, Nashville led early but had to come from behind late in the second period and eventually pulled out another 3-2 triumph.
Against the Panthers, they were up 1-0 after one period but tied 1:16 into the second. Their 2-1 advantage lasted all of 42 seconds, and when they finally got a two-goal lead 5:13 into the third they gave half of it back a little more than six minutes later, which led to some drama in the closing moments.
“I think we need to learn to play those tight games, for sure,” captain Shea Weber, who scored the game’s first goal, said. “Even [Tuesday] night we panicked a little bit when we … didn’t need to. It just comes with us playing together as a unit and being in those situations.
“The more we’re in it, the more comfortable we’re going to be and the better we’re going to be at it.”
They’re already pretty good at it – as usual.
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