The Nashville Predators have returned from Prague and are set for their home opener tonight, and in town are one of their biggest rivals in the Dallas Stars.
The Dallas Stars are playing their first game of their 2022-23 campaign. The two teams will play again on Saturday in Dallas.
The Predators surprised everyone by choosing to start Philip Tomasino off with the Milwaukee Admirals this season, so we’ll have to see how Head Coach John Hynes constructs his line combination for the first divisional matchup of the season.
This is one of those matchups where no matter what the teams look like on paper, it is probably going to be a close game given the two teams’ history against each other.
The gap between the two teams is not drastic to begin with, so we should expect another tight affair with plenty of drama.
Contests between these two tend to be low-scoring and hard-hitting and keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. If the Predators end up doing these three things below, they will have a good chance to win in a game like this are start the season 3-0-0.
Neutralize the Top Line of the Stars
The Stars not only have one of the very best lines in the Central division, they also have one of the very best in the entire league. But beyond that, there is a very huge drop-off.
Daily Faceoff projects the Dallas Stars to roll out with a top line of Roope Hintz at center, rising superstar Jason Robertson on one wing, and the proven veteran Joe Pavelski on the other. A potent top line, no doubt.
What holds the Stars back is that their forward core is not very deep, and if you shut that line down, they do not have much of an offense. Luckily for the Predators, they have a team that can do that.
They have one of the best defensive cores in the league with star power and depth on all three pairs. The Predators also have a deeper forward group than the Stars, and they proved in Prague that even if it is not the top guys, other guys throughout the lineup are contributing.
In games like this, having enough quality guys who can play is valuable since constant physicality wears on the body over time. If the Predators can keep the Stars’ top line in check, the game should favor them.
Nashville Predators Must Refrain from Undisciplined Penalties
How many times do we have to bring this up? Apparently, a lot more because the Nashville Predators were still racking up the penalties in Prague, picking up where they left off in 2021-22 when they led the NHL in penalty minutes and total penalties taken.
When the penalties happened, you could feel a shift in the team, as momentum dwindled and put them in a hole. They just have trouble keeping their physicality from becoming too much at times, and that is not good for a game like this one.
Last season the Stars were 11th in the NHL in power play percentage, with Robertson leading the team with 13 power play goals, followed by Pavelski with 12.
These games are the definition of physical and scrappy, and there is no doubt that the Predators will throw the body around in this one. If they can find a way to refrain from going overboard and putting themselves in the box, that will give them a huge boost.
Keep in mind that the only goals the Predators have given up this year are a power play goal, a goal just seconds after the power play expired, and a fluke goal off the faceoff right after scoring one of their own.
Staying out of the box and keeping it at 5v5 will go a really long way.
Crash the Net Repeatedly
We have said a lot by now about how these matchups are a physical grind and being fancy may not be the best strategy. As is the case with avoiding penalties, the importance of crashing the net-front is only magnified in a matchup with Dallas.
The Stars are usually very stingy defensively, and Jake Oettinger is almost always going to stop a shot he can see. So the Predators will have to make things miserable for the Stars by getting in behind their defense and in Oettinger’s face.
Sometimes to beat a big bodied goaltender like Oettinger, you need tip-in goals, redirects and goals off rebounds. Make things chaotic and scrappy in tight.
The Herd Line can make a major impact in a game like this. So can Nino Niederreiter to continue his hot start to his Nashville Predators career.
This team has proven that no matter who is on the ice, nobody is scared to get into the dirty areas and make things happen. That will be needed in a big way tonight.
Catch the action at 7:30 P.M. CDT on ESPN+ and Hulu.