Then there was last year, where it seemed like the season was getting away from the Preds early before Jerred Smithson flipped the switch with a shorthanded goal in Minnesota.
After a quick 2-0 start, they dropped six in a row and seven of eight, including a pair of blowout losses at the hands of Edmonton and Dallas. Ellis and Rinne played musical chairs in the crease in October (and all the way up to the Olympic break, really), and neither could get comfortable.
However, the team recovered and put together one of the most successful seasons in franchise history. A 19-5-2 stretch between November and December (and following the aforementioned Smithson goal) put the Preds right back in the thick of things.
Heading into the 2010-11 campaign, a fast start is a main focus after a disappointing playoff exit for Nashville.
"We talk about it every year. I'm not quite sure why we do that, but the two points now are just as important as they are at the end of the year," Smithson stated. "Every game is so huge right now. It seems like every year, you're making or missing the playoffs by a couple points, so it's key for us to come out and go hard right off the bat."
"Last year we lost quite a few in a row in October," Joel Ward said. "We just have to get off to a good start and get in the right mind frame. Paying attention to detail is going to be big."
Nashville has a great opportunity to build some momentum in October as they kick things off with first of their first six games at home. They will play host to Washington and Pittsburgh – arguably the two best teams in the Eastern Conference – in what should be solid measuring-stick contests. Also mixed in is a trip to Chicago, the team they couldn’t quite close out in April.
"Those are the teams that are the cream of the crop in the NHL," Captain Shea Weber explained. "If you come out of the gates well against teams like that, you start building confidence and playing better as a team."
In addition, the Predators will play at home against the Ducks, Blues and Flames, three teams they need to take care of to rise in a rugged Western Conference. This crucial stretch to start the year is followed by 11 of 13 away from Bridgestone Arena.
"It's really imperative that you get off to a good start," said Coach Barry Trotz. "You look at Colorado last year, they went like 10-1… you take away their first 12 games of the season they wouldn't have made the playoffs. [A fast start] can do a lot of good."
One encouraging sign that the Predators are due to hit the ground the running this month has been the stellar play of Rinne in the pre-season. The Finnish stud compiled a 0.99 goals-against-average and .957 save percentage in four pre-season games (including a shutout in Washington).
Trotz pointed out that 'Peks' looks "poised and confident" right now, which is a different story from 2009-10.
"Last year was a different start to the season. I was expecting a lot out of myself. When things didn't go the way I wanted them to go, it was a little bit of a struggle," Rinne stated.
Rinne never found a groove until the Olympic break. That's when he traveled back to Finland and hit the reset button back; he also signed a two-year extension during the break. The new contract was a vote of confidence from the front office that he was indeed the man for the future.
'Peks' was lights-out thereafter, posting a 12-4-1 record and a miniscule 1.96 goals-against, and leading to the Predators to their fifth playoff appearance in six years. He played well enough in the first-round series versus Chicago for the upset-minded Preds to come out on top.
If that success carries over, a slow start should be out of the question for a team that has stumbled out of the gate in the last three years.
Being around this team in training camp, they are focused, energized, and determined to take the next step in the postseason. Their sights are set on winning the Stanley Cup, which isn't too far-fetched given their all-around depth and improving core.
A fast start this month will surely be a big step in that direction.