It doesn’t technically count towards a Stanley Cup, but the Nashville Predators played an all-around great game in shutout fashion over the Dallas Stars.
In what was the first game against another team in over four months, the Nashville Predators managed to blank the Dallas Stars just like they did in back-to-back games just before the pause.
The Predators were actually just six points behind Dallas for third place in the standings with 13 games left before the pause. Then two gritty shutouts happened to help propel Nashville to the final wildcard spot.
Rinne preserved the shutout, giving the Predators a 2-0 win in a game that was highlighted by solid defensive play in front of both goaltenders.
These are the kinds of goals you’re encouraged to see in the restart. Duchene generated the initial chance in front of the net by being aggressive, and Arvidsson capitalized on the loose puck while Ben Bishop was out of position.
Arvidsson’s next goal came on an absolutely filthy pass from Forsberg as he was maintaining possession to generate the scoring chance. Sometimes Forsberg’s power game is overlooked, but it was on full display here as Arvidsson buried the chance.
What stood out
The biggest takeaway from this game, albeit an exhibition, was the disciplined defensive game the Predators played as an entire unit. They were usually in position to clog passing lanes, disrupt Dallas’ offense and block shots from getting to the Nashville goaltender.
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Rinne did have to make some much more tough saves than what Saros had to. Either way, the Nashville defense made life easier on their goaltenders, and that’s going to be key as they move onto the real deal in the qualifying round on Sunday.
The power play got three opportunities, and connected on Arvidsson’s initial goal. Overall, the power play looked very organized and methodical on their three attempts.
This is another area of that the Predators obviously have to show big improvement in if they’re going to go far in the playoffs, or even past the qualifying round.
The team looked relaxed, but also focused on the gameplan. Much of the game had the feel of an actual game that counted in the standings. The intensity was high on both sides, and both teams were laying out some big hits.
Roman Josi led the team in ice time, as usual, and actually surpassed 20 minutes. Maybe a little more than you’d like to see in an exhibition game, but nonetheless the Norris Trophy finalist looked great.
Now the decision looms for Head Coach John Hynes to select a starting goaltender for Game 1. Tonight’s game couldn’t have made the decision any easier as both goaltenders made strong cases to be the starter against the Arizona Coyotes.
Aside from that, Hynes should have his starting lineup set and his line combinations figured out. The only other spots up for grabs is inserting Colin Blackwell into the lineup.
The Predators played seven defensemen, with Yannick Weber, Jarred Tinordi and Dan Hamhuis getting time on the bottom pairing. One of those won’t get the start on Sunday, and it’s tough to know which one that will be.
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Our Three Stars of the game
Pretty simple choices here as we’re going with Rinne as the third star for coming in to preserve the lead and make some tough saves down the stretch with a little pressure to match Saros’ shutout performance and not waste it.
The top star goes to Arvidsson for burying two goals and taking advantage of quality looks at the net. He looks like a totally refreshed and healthy player from what we saw four months ago.
Forsberg rounds it out for his two assists, including the second one that really was an elite set-up for the goal.
There’s definitely reason for optimism and confidence following this strong performance, even in an exhibition game. Both teams had the intensity up and wanted to win. The Stars play a physical brand of defensive hockey much like the Arizona Coyotes do, only with more firepower offensively.
This type of defensive play in front of the goaltender bodes well for the Predators if they play this way against Arizona in the qualifying round.
Game 1 against the Coyotes will be Sunday at 1 P.M. CDT, while the Stars will be in the round robin bracket and take on the Vegas Golden Knights first on Monday.