For the Nashville Predators, it’s either a magic number or a daunting task. Or both.
Much more often than not in recent weeks, three goals have been the barometer that reveals the difference between victory or defeat. Score three goals or more and it’s a win. Allow three or more and it’s a loss.
“When we’ve scored three goals, we’ve won games,” coach Barry Trotz said. “… We have to score some goals.”
Since a 2-0 loss to St. Louis on Dec. 26, the Predators have gone 11-7-1.
In all but four of those games, one team has scored three or more goals but never have both. Three of the remaining four were 2-2 games that were decided in shootouts, for which the final score read 3-2.
The lone exception was Nashville’s 2-1 defeat at Vancouver in the final game before the All-Star break.
“There’s just so many good teams,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “… It doesn’t matter how good you play, if you can’t score goals you’re not going to win. We just have to get back to burying the pucks and we’ll be fine.”
If form holds for the remainder of the season, the Predators’ path to the postseason is clear. They simply need to score three goals much more often than not.
Therein also lies the challenge. Nashville has averaged three goals or more for a season only twice in its history.
Additionally, the final two months of the season are when it becomes more difficult to score.
In four games this month, the Predators have gotten there just once in four tries.
As they head into Wednesday’s game at Detroit (6:30 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee), they average just 2.5 goals per game for the season, 26th in the league. The Red Wings are one of six teams that average better than three goals per game.
It will be the second meeting in five days between the Central Division rivals. Nashville won 3-0 last Saturday at Bridgestone Arena.
“It’s a long season and [we] have to go into Detroit and want to win there,” Suter said. “They’re one of the best teams in the league, and we have to show up and play hard against them.”
It probably wouldn’t hurt to score three goals either.