The Nashville Predators had an inconsistent regular season, but still managed to win the Central Division. They started off with a rocky road record, then straightened that out just in time to catch an injury bug. The goalies were decent enough through all of this, but they could be more consistent. The Predators ended the season on a nice little run, finding ways to win to clinch a playoff berth.
The Dallas Stars were also inconsistent this season, but it was mainly due to a lack of depth scoring. The Stars didn’t get much production beyond the big four of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov and John Klingberg. The goalie duo of Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin was the reason the team remained in so many games despite not getting depth production. The defense was also good in front of the goalies, who only allowed 212 goals against.
The Regular Season Series Rundown
These two teams played each other five times over the course of the regular season. The first meeting came on Nov. 10 in Dallas and the Predators wound up winning the game 5-4 in overtime. The second game was on Dec. 27, again in Nashville, but this time Khudobin pitched a shutout for the 2-0 Stars’ win. The middle game of the series was played on Feb.2 in Nashville and the Stars managed to win the game by a final score of 3-1. The fourth game was just five days later on Feb. 7 in Nashville, and the Predators won 3-2 in overtime. The fifth and final game of the series came on Feb.19 in Dallas, where the Predators grabbed the 5-3 victory.
Special Teams Play
The Predators power play was god awful all season long. They were kept to the outside and couldn’t find a way to get the puck through to the net, and that was even after they acquired both Brian Boyle and Wayne Simmonds, who are both big bodies to distract the goalie. The Predators were, however, good on the penalty kill all year long. They finished sixth overall at 82.1% on the season.
The Stars are one of the few teams in the playoffs that had decent numbers on the power play and while shorthanded. The Stars finished the season converting on 21% of their power play opportunities, which was good for 11th in the NHL. The penalty kill finished fifth in the NHL, operating at 82.8%. The Stars have a slight edge in the special teams because of the power play being so much better than the Predators.
If the Predators want to win this series then they will have to get production from its top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson. The trio had been the best line for the Predators, when they were all healthy, during the regular season. It seems like the line combinations are finally figured out so now the players can build on the chemistry they had in the final push for the playoffs. The top line is one of speed and skill, but they can also put the puck in the net, and they’ll need to have an impact on this series.
The biggest key to this series for the Stars will be the play of one Ben Bishop. Bishop put up Vezina-like numbers during the regular season, but may not be a Finalist for the Award due to the lack of playing time either due to injury or splitting the duties with Anton Khudobin. Bishop is going to need to continue his play from the regular season into the postseason because the Predators can score some goals and create plenty of chances.
The Predators defensemen are not shy to join in on the action in the offensive zone, whether it be pinching to keep a puck in the zone or getting down low for a scoring chance. Their defense accounted for 193 points in the regular season. The Stars need to be aware of the defensemen jumping into the play in the offensive zone because they can act like a fourth forward when doing work in the offensive zone. They aren’t too bad locking it down in their own zone either.
The x-factors for the Stars are going to be their special teams. Both their power play and penalty kill ranked in the top 11 in the League. The power play can get some goals while the penalty kill getting a big kill helps gain the team some momentum during a game. The special teams can change the course of a game with a big power play goal or a big penalty kill, both can be a potential momentum swinger.
The Predators Advance If…
They get good goaltending and play smart, disciplined hockey. Whether it be Pekka Rinne or Juuse Saros in the net, the goalie will need to make some saves. The Predators want to avoid the penalty box as often as they can because the Stars have a good power play. The team should also avoid turnovers in the neutral zone and their own zone so the Stars can’t make them pay for their mistakes.
The Stars Advance If…
Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin play the way they’ve been playing all season long. The defense will give up some chances, but they’ve been pretty good all season long and that goes a long way in helping a goalie out during a game. Bishop/Khudobin need to make timely saves and try not to allow the soft/fluky goal.
Predators-Stars Series Prediction
The Stars are going to make this a series because of their defense and goaltending. The Predators have some good defense and goaltending of their own, but the active defense in the offensive zone is going to have a huge impact on this series. The series will go the distance of seven games, but the Predators find a way to win and advance to the next round.