The Nashville Predators return to Bridgestone Arena tonight after one of the best games of the season for the team; Eeli Tolvanen’s overtime game-winning goal kept the team’s six-game win steak alive. Now, as the Preds’ hold the last playoff spot in the Discover Central Division, a rematch with Dallas gives them another opportunity to make a statement by beating the Stars twice in three nights.
The Dallas Stars
After going to three consecutive overtimes in games against Dallas, the Predators are quite familiar with this lineup by now. Known for physical play, the Stars committed to their trademarked strategy of muddling the game, and then converting on a couple of chances to win it. For large swaths of the game, Dallas was successful in this endeavor; Nashville could only generate seven shots in each of the first two periods of play.
Offensively, the Stars had a difficult time getting past Juuse Saros. Besides a two-on-nobody breakaway and a six-second long power play, Saros stood on his head for the entire game. One line to watch tonight would be the Robertson-Hintz-Pavelski line. Robertson and Hintz were the two Dallas forwards that scored the opening goal against Saros, and Hintz got a goal of his own on the power play. If Nashville can shut this line down, the rest of the Stars forwards will have a difficult time generating chances.
For Nashville, consistency is the name of the game. By now, we know that these wins aren’t flukes; the emergence of Tolvanen, the influx of the youth, and the resurgence of Saros has got this team winning games against quality opponents. So, what to do now? Keep winning games.
Dallas will most likely end the season at around the same point total as the Predators. That is why these two games against the Stars are so crucial; the standings don’t reflect it at the moment, but this game could have massive ramifications for deciding who earns the last playoff spot. Because Dallas earned one point in the overtime game on Tuesday, the pressure is on Nashville to finish the game in regulation and win a four-point swing over the Stars.
Keys to the Game
- Get a good performance from Saros — The Finnish goaltender kept the Predators afloat early in the first period of Tuesday’s game, when Nashville couldn’t buy an offensive possession. If the Preds can’t improve the early-game offense, Saros will need to carry the load once again.
- Keep the power play rolling — Remember when Nashville’s power play was a laughingstock? I said many times that the Predators were an average special teams away from being a decent squad, back when the team was anything but decent. Now, the power play is clicking and the team is reaping the benefits. Score a special teams goal or two, and I like Nashville’s odds tonight.
- Let Tolvanen cook — While I could write at least a few thousand words about what Tolvanen means to this group, all that really matters for tonight’s game is that he needs to shoot the puck. If the team can trade one Viktor Arvidsson slapshot from the faceoff dot for one Tolvanen shot from the slot every game, Nashville will be in a much better position.
Where to Watch
The time is finally here. Say goodbye to Fox Sports Tennessee, and say hello to Bally Sports South. Watch tonight’s game on the newly rebranded channel at 8:00 EST and 7:00 CST. You can also listen to the game on 102.5 The Game.
Song of the Game
No real correlation to the game for tonight’s song, but I’ve been listening to a lot of Mac DeMarco and you should be, too.