These two teams are as evenly-matched as you can ask for in a playoff series, and the Nashville Predators will try to take control in Game 3.
Anyone who expected an easy series for the Nashville Predators against the Dallas Stars were kidding themselves. Even though the Predators have a seemingly deeper roster and more playoff experience, this team can’t be trusted. At times they look unstoppable, while other times they look destined for a first-round exit. They narrowly escaped going down two games to none on home ice, and now have an opportunity to take control of the series.
Game 1 saw Dallas get some fortunate bounces that led to two of their three goals. Pekka Rinne was sharp, but his teammates didn’t show up after the first period. A more desperate Predators team showed up for Game 2, and Craig Smith buried the game-winner in overtime. We expected a low-scoring, defensive series and that’s what we’re getting up to this point.
Both teams are dealing with bumps and bruises heading into Game 3. Dallas has Mattias Janmark and Mats Zuccarello banged. These two are very important to Dallas’ depth, an area that Nashville has the edge in. I’d expect both of these guys to suit up for Dallas in such a critical game, but how effective they’ll be is something only time will tell:
The Predators injury situation is a little more clear. It looks like Brian Boyle and Wayne Simmonds will both miss Game 3. Simmonds took a puck to the knee in Game 2, and Boyle is dealing with an illness. That makes room for Rocco Grimaldi and Miikka Salomaki in the lineup. We’re trading size for speed, but losing Boyle hurts the most. Salomaki hasn’t played an NHL game since early-January:
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This lineup has been shifted constantly all season long. Let’s hope there’s not much rust to shake off for Salomaki as he’ll be on that fourth line. Grimaldi tallied the equalizing goal in Game 2, and is playing very well. He may be an upgrade over Simmonds.
I expect the Predators to come out aggressive and ready to make a statement. They know they let one slip away in Game 1. To put it mildly, they laid a fat egg in Game 1 and still nearly tied the game and sent it to overtime. They can’t take period off anymore. The Stars aren’t world beaters, but they’re good enough defensively to shut you out if you’re not 100 percent locked in.
Ben Bishop is playing spectacular in net for the Stars. He looks like he’s in form from his Tampa Bay Lightning days, which is a scary thought for Predators fans. However, the Predators found something they can build off of from Game 2. Continue to crash the net and throw pucks at Bishop. He’s going to pile up the saves, but he’s also human. He won’t stop everything, and I don’t think the Stars can pile up the goals on Rinne, either.
This lineup will have more speed with Grimaldi and Salomaki. They can flip the ice and put pressure on the Stars defense. Crash the net and look for redirects on Bishop. Nashville’s penalty kill is playing almost perfect through two games, thwarting eight of the nine Dallas power play attempts. That at least helps neutralize Nashville’s own power play woes.
I don’t expect anything less than another close, physical game with very little room on the ice to operate. The Stars have no reason to change their defensive strategy as it was still effective in the Game 2 loss. However, I see Nashville building off of some Game 2 momentum and cracking Bishop for a few goals. I think the top line wakes up and gets more involved in the offensive attack. Tab Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg for goals tonight, and another strong effort from Rinne. Predators get this win 3-2 to take control of the series.