The Dallas Stars have a 3-2 lead in the series over the Predators. If the Preds want to be flying back to Nashville for more hockey, instead of flying back to clean out their lockers and split up for the summer (or, in some cases, for good), they need a win tonight.
The Dallas Stars
The Stars’ top line of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and our old friend/enemy Alexander Radulov exploded on Saturday afternoon. They had three of the Stars’ five goals—two from Radulov and one from Seguin, with Benn assisting on all three and Seguin chipping in an assist of his own.
The Stars’ penalty kill continues to be more than adequate at stifling the Predators’ power play on the rare occasions that the Stars are put shorthanded. All the goalscoring last game happened in 5v5 play, which, this series, counts as the Preds winning the special teams battle. If they’re given the opportunity, the Stars will aim to correct that. The Predators will need to be disciplined.
The most worrying thing to me about the Stars’ play this series has been how quickly they’ve adapted to slow starts. With one exception—last Wednesday’s awful Game 4—the Predators have started off the first period looking like the better team. In all five games of the series with the possible exception of Game 2, the Stars have looked like the better team by the start of the second, if not sooner. They’re adapting to what the Preds throw at them, and the Preds aren’t adapting to keep ahead.
The Nashville Predators
I mentioned this problem in yesterday’s review, but the Predators’ top line has combined for fewer goals in the five games of this series (two) than the Stars’ top line scored in the second period on Saturday (three). Rocco Grimaldi has been a great story as the spark that’s keeping the Predators going, and I don’t want to take that away from him, but he is the only forward on the team who is scoring goals, plural. The Stars have five forwards who have scored multiple goals—Benn, their only top-line forward with fewer than two goals this series, has five assists to go with his lone goal.
If you want to get anywhere in the postseason, you need your best players to be your best players. This goes both for the Predators’ top six and for their top four defenders. P.K. Subban has been okay, but Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi need to play better in their own end and Mattias Ekholm might need to go get that dog after all. Puppies are calming, right?
Discipline and puck management will once again be the keys of the game. If the Predators fail to manage either for yet another consecutive night, they will be going home for the summer.
Kyle Turris has been pretty good in the offensive zone. He hasn’t been getting results and he’s been defensively shaky, but if I had to pick someone who might be about to do something unexpected—other than Viktor Arvidsson, who is blowing the rest of the team away on paper—it’d be Turris.
How to Watch
Tonight’s game starts at 7:30 Central. It will air on FS-TN and CNBC, and 102.5 The Game has the radio call.