The Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars face off for the first time in playoff history on Wednesday in Smashville. We’ve been previewing this matchup, looking at individual components of the game and who has the edge. Our first post was on the forwards and defense, you can check that out over here. We’ve also preview the goalies, which you can check out here.
This post will focus on Special Teams, which does not bode well for Nashville.
Nashville Power Play vs. Dallas Penalty Kill
This is probably the most lopsided matchup in this entire series. The Predators finished with the worst power play in the league at 12.9 percent. In fact, it was the 2nd worst power play in Predators franchise history, just narrowly edging out the inaugural season’s unit which managed over 12.3 percent success.
How bad is this unit? Well, just compare the number of power play goals they scored compared to the rest of the playoff teams in the Central Division:
- Colorado Avalanche: 63
- Winnipeg Jets: 62
- St. Louis Blues: 50
- Dallas Stars: 45
- Nashville Predators: 33
This is bad enough, but then consider what the Preds’ power play will be up against in this series: the 5th ranked Dallas Stars penalty kill.
The Stars penalty kill gets after it in their own zone. Though they tend to allow a lot of shot attempts, they allow the 10th least amount of high danger shots. And their goalies have been excellent in stopping high danger chances in those situations: the Stars have the 3rd best save percentage while on the penalty kill this season.
This excellent production reflects the overall image of the Stars this season. They are an excellent defensive team with outstanding goaltending. They can play very physical and still have some skill to burn teams on the counter attack while shorthanded.
If the Predators want any advantage over the Stars in this aspect of the game, they better just hope the Stars don’t commit too many penalties. But in reality, I’m not sure there’s anything the Preds can do to fix their power play this late in the season. If they can find a way to get Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson shooting often enough, that might be the only way to find success in this matchup.
Dallas Power Play vs. Nashville Penalty Kill
This matchup is a little more favorable for Nashville, but will still be a challenge.
The Stars have some incredible talent up front. Guys like Tyler Seguin (9 power play goals) and Jamie Benn (8 power play goals) can shoot lights out on the man advantage. Then there is Alexander Radulov who has one of the best shots on the wing, usually coming from the right circle.
When you look at this visually, this is pretty scary for the Preds to have to deal with.
But the Predators penalty kill has been excellent this season. They finished 6th best in the league at 82.1 percent. They had some leaky moments early in the season, but overall were much better in the 2nd half of the year.
Nick Bonino, Colton Sissons, and Calle Jarnkrok were the main penalty killing forwards during the season, setting up with Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm on defense. But don’t forget that Austin Watson, one of the Preds’ best penalty killers, has returned. A good unit just got even better.
Though the Stars have some excellent shooting ability, the Predators are a very physical and aggressive penalty killing unit. They are particularly good at not allowing units to get set up in the zone, forcing turnovers at the blueline and making clearances before an entry can be made.
Give the slight advantage to the Predators in this matchup.
— Stats via Natural Stat Trick and Hockey Reference. Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —