With season's longest win streak over, Predators look to start another

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 11:20pm

As a member of the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets, Shea Weber once enjoyed a streak of 24 games without a defeat.

He and his teammates won the first 11, tied the 12th and remained unbeaten for another dozen.

“It’s unbelievable,” Weber said. “I don’t want to say it’s easy, but it just seems like things are running smoothly, there’s not a lot of adversity and if there is there’s someone who steps up and fills in for your team.

“And it’s not always the big guys. It’s a different guy every game, and it makes it a lot of fun.”

The Nashville Predators fell well short of a 24-game unbeaten streak and an 11-game win streak when they lost 4-1 to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.

By NHL standards, though, their run of five straight wins prior to that contest was significant. At the time, it was the longest active streak in the league and it included some of the same things Weber experienced back in Kelowna.

No one would categorize it as easy — all five victories were by one goal — but the 14 goals in those five games came from 11 different players. Four different players scored game-winners. The Predators came from behind in the third period twice, won once in overtime and once in a shootout.

Most important, they climbed from 11th place to seventh in the Western Conference standings.

“Any team that’s winning, you’ll find a couple things: one is that they’re working hard, this is a given; two is that they have a high degree of responsibility to each other and accountability to each other; three, you will find that they have a lot of joy on the ice and in the locker room,” coach Barry Trotz, who had a 21-game unbeaten streak when he was AHL head coach, said. “… To me, you take the joy and the work ethic and the accountability and if all that comes together at the right time you’re going to be very successful.”

The Predators look to start another one Thursday when they host Columbus (7 p.m., Bridgestone Arena), the team they beat to start the last one.

They had two six-game win streaks and one of five last season, when they ultimately advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time. The most successful stretch in franchise history was a run of eight straight wins to start the 2005-06 season, which was one of two in which they earned home-ice advantage for the opening round of the postseason.

Having won no more than two straight through the first two months of this season, players said their recent roll added such much-needed joy.

“It’s a different mood in the locker room when you’re winning,” center Jerred Smithson said. “When you come in and you’re losing you’re not maybe as upbeat or energetic. But when you’re winning, you’re feeling good it just carries right on to the ice.

“For us, it’s just huge to continue that good work ethic and that good attitude. It’s definitely a different feeling than it was early on in the season.”

Smithson could not recall the longest win streak he’d enjoyed, but in his final two years of junior hockey his team, the Calgary Hitmen, were a combined 109-25-10.

“We put up a big number,” he said. “It was just guys willing to do whatever it takes to win. You get that ball rolling in the right direction and it’s tough stopping it sometimes. It’s a great feeling.”

With the end of the Predators’ streak, the reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins — with five straight wins — had the NHL’s longest active win streak at the start of play Wednesday. No other team had won more than two in a row.

“I don’t think you’re every going to see one of those [24-game] streaks [here],” Weber said. “There’s so many good teams in the NHL. It’s similar, though.

“Guys you wouldn’t expect to score goals maybe score in big situations and that leads to a streak. When you’re paying good hockey you win a lot of games.”