The Dallas Stars vs Nashville Predators is a series that’s never happened in the post-season. However, it’s one of the more intriguing matchups in the opening round of the 2018-19 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Nashville is hoping to get back to the final after being eliminated by the Winnipeg Jets in the second round. Dallas is back in the playoffs for the first time since the 2015-16 season under new coach Jim Montgomery.
The teams split the season series, 2-2, but they were very evenly matched as they both scored 14 goals against the other. Here are some keys to what could be a hard-fought encounter.
Dallas Stars vs Nashville Predators Preview
Both teams have great top-line scorers that can provide offence. However, depth scoring has been a problem. Nashville only has three 20-plus goal-scorers and their new acquisitions haven’t helped. Wayne Simmonds, Mikael Granlund and Kyle Turris only have two goals between them since the Feb. trade deadline. The Predators thought these players would give them added scoring muscle near the end of the season, but they’ve not come through.
Dallas is having similar problems as the scoring drops off after Alexander Radulov, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. The defenceman provides the next best scoring depth and that’s been a headache this season. However, the Stars have gotten a boost from the returning Mats Zuccarello. The Norweigan forward was hurt after coming over at the deadline from the New York Rangers. He’s added some goals at the end of the season.
Both teams will need someone other than the usual suspects to provide the goals. Nashville got that in their run to the final two seasons ago. Whoever can get goals from unlikely sources will be in good shape.
Pekka Rinne won the Vezina Trophy last season, but he didn’t have a good end to last year’s playoffs. He struggled in the second round against the Jets as they lost in seven games. Rinne has put up good numbers with a record of 30-19-4 and 2.42 goals-against average. He’s also posted .918 save percentage and four shutouts. The Finnish goalie will want to get the bad taste of last year’s post-season out of his mouth.
Ben Bishop has put together a Vezina-worthy season in his own right. He’s put together a record of 27-15-2 with a 1.98 goals-against average and seven shutouts. The Denver native has combined with Anton Khudobin combined for the Western Conference’s lowest goals-against average. Both are capable of stopping opponents, but Bishop will be the main barring injury.
One more thing the teams have in common is their great defences. The Predators’ recent run in the last few seasons has been built on a defence that can score goals. P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm are arguably the best core four in the league. They haven’t been producing on the power-play as the unit is dead-last on the man-advantage. However, the addition of Dante Fabbro added a spark to the unit. He could be an X-factor in the series.
Dallas has quickly built their blueliners into one of the best groups and they’ve thrived under their new coach. John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen are in the top five on the team in scoring. Esa Lindell is not that far behind them in sixth. Their defence is one reason that the power-play is 11th overall during the regular season. The defence used to be a question mark for the Stars, but now it’s one of their strengths.
This is a series to gauge as Nashville backed its way into the division title while Dallas has slowly surged. The Predators post-season experience will be guiding factor if they are to win the series. Nashville has woken up in the past in time for long playoff drives. It can happen again.
Nashville in seven.
NASHVILLE, TN – FEBRUARY 07: Nashville Predators center Brian Boyle (11) battles for position with Dallas Stars left wing Andrew Cogliano (17) during the NHL game between the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars, held on February 7, 2019, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)