NHL Playoffs: A Look Inside the Nashville Predators vs Dallas Stars Matchup
The Dallas Stars are looking in the eyes of a daunting task. Not only are the Stars in the playoffs for the first time since the 2015-16 season, but the Stars will also play the Central Division-leading Nashville Predators.
The Stars and Predators series is always a fun one to watch. Physical play, hard-nosed, fast hockey is at a premium when these two teams square off. And, as luck would have it, whoever wins is anyone’s guess. As a whole, the Stars have a record of 14-10-2 against teams in their own division. The Stars record against the Predators is slightly different.
Dallas went 2-1-2 against Nashville. Nashville’s record against Dallas was 3-2. When thinking of this series, one big name stands out above the rest. Anton Khudobin. Khudobin has been a large part of the Stars success. Finishing with a 2.57 GAA (goals against average), Khudobin ranked 15th in the league for that category. As far as save percentage, Khudobin finished eighth with a .923. Not to mention, there was a game where Khudobin helped dominate the Predators with a 49 save shutout in December.
Goaltenders Must Continue Stellar Play
In two games against Nashville, the Stars backup goaltender saved 77 of 78 shots. Because of Khudobin’s efforts, the Stars won two of three games played in Nashville. While the starting goalie’s name has not yet been released, the matchup of Khudobin against the Predators in Nashville may be the way to go.
Ben Bishop Must also bring “A Game” the moment the Stars decide to start him. Bishop, much like Khudobin. Will have to be on his game against Nashville. Playoffs, as the saying goes, is a whole different animal. The hits will be harder, the shots will be stronger, and the intensity will be through the roof.
And, as luck would have it, the Stars would have to finish the season as if their playoff hopes were in the balance. Because they had been for the last few weeks. Again, luckily for Stars fans, the goalies and defense are ready. The offense is ready as well. Ending the season with a shutout of the Minnesota Wild, the Stars confidence is high.
Team Identity Must Stay At Forefront
The Dallas Stars identity as a team was a known issue in years past. When the season would start, the Stars would do decently. Then, as the playoffs came close, the team would collapse like a cheap tent. The same could not be said for this season. Under past coaches, the Stars would seem to run out of energy. While being under the control of Jim Montgomery, the Stars seemed to have developed a reputation as that of an underdog.
This Stars team has faced adversity all season. As player after player went down with injury, the remaining players would be asked to step up. And they did just that. As Nashville and Winnipeg battled for top spot in the Central Division, the Stars would end up holding their own against both.
In an interesting turn of events, the Stars would finish with winning records against all but the Colorado Avalanche and Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division. With a combined record of 2-6, the Stars identity (or lack of) could have come into play a couple of times. From the outside looking in, it seemed that was the case.
The Predators Can Win If
Nashville and Dallas are two very similar teams. Both groups boast stingy defenses and some of the top goaltenders in the league. However, there is one key difference between the two teams. Dallas has had a bit of an issue lately in terms of offensive play. And, when the competition gets hard and heavy, the Stars may buckle under the pressure of a fast-paced game. The key to Nashville winning is very simple. All the Predators have to do is rush the net hard and keep the pressure on.
The Stars Can Win If
Goaltending, defense, and a knack for “sticking to the process” remain at the forefront of every game plan. In addition, the veterans on the team must be able to lead the team through more adversity. This series against Nashville will set the tone for the rest of the playoffs. Playing for each other and not panicking will be what helps or dooms this team.