The Dallas Stars opened the season with a breathless game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night. True, the bad guys won that one, but for anybody, and that's all of us, anxious to catch a glimpse of the potential in Dallas this season, it was on full display.
And on the same evening, over in Nashville, the Predators played their own 3-2 game, beating the Ottawa Senators and giving fans a first glimpse into how their own offseason acquisitions would perform. And at the same time, a look at how the team begins the adaptation to a new coaching system...
Anish Patel over at On the Forecheck has been kind enough to answer a few questions about the new look Predators for us. And for all you closet Nashville fans, my thoughts on the Stars are up on their site as well.
My questions, Anish's answers:
1) The Predators have a bunch of shiny new toys after this offseason. What were your thoughts of the new acquisitions after the first game, specifically the Ribeiro-Neal line?
I am liking what I see so far. Jokinen and Neal had great games I thought. Even though they didn't notch a point, they created opportunities and had a great pace to their game. By the end of the night, Neal had 7 shots and Jokinen had 6. I mentioned this in my recap of the game, but it looked like Neal was definitely playing as if he was out to prove that he could get it done without Malkin. I thought Volchenkov had a great defensive game playing alongside Seth Jones. He even got a couple of bone crushing hits in during the game. I thought Roy and Ribeiro had average games. Its seemed like it took them a little bit to get used to a new system. By the end of the game though, it looked as if they felt more comfortable, and played more freely. As far as the Neal-Ribeiro line goes, I loved what I saw on Thursday night. They were able to create chances and be aggressive on the forecheck. I am not a fan of having Gabriel Bourque on the top line with them, but it seems like Laviolette might rotate through different options to find the right fit for them. I wouldn't mind seeing Filip Forsberg up there with them. Speaking of which...
2) Filip Forsberg had an impressive showing in the first game, notching two assists Thursday night. What do you see as the ceiling for him?
I think the ceiling is very high for him. He showed great speed and ability on Thursday night. I would love to see him on the top line one day with Neal and Ribeiro, but at the same time, he showed such great chemistry with Craig Smith and Calle Jarnkrok, that I don't know if we should mess with something that isn't broken. Don't get me wrong, he still a very young player that needs to fine tune his game still, but he is definitely progressing a lot faster than most people expected. I believe playing in a possession based system is helping with Forsberg's development. Forsberg, to me, seems like a player that needs to play against tougher competition in order to develop and hone in on his skills. Last year he spent most of his time going back and forth from the minors. This year, however, I don't see him setting foot in Milwaukee for the entire season. It also helps that Laviolette loves playing young offensive talent on a consistent basis.
3) Following the first game of the post-Trotz era, how apparent were the changes in play style, and what type of team should we expect the Predators to be this season?
The changes in style of play were very apparent in the first game of the season. From the get go, there was a different energy surrounding this team and the fans. The Trotz era brought us grind it out, dump and chase, ugly, fundamental hockey. That style definitely was successful for us for many years, but eventually, lack of skill and talent on offense caught up to the team. The Laviolette era brings us up tempo, puck possession, aggressive hockey. In today's NHL, offensive hockey seems to be the way to go. During the entire game, it felt like I was watching a completely different team from last year. I knew that we would see a change, but I didn't think it would come this fast. There was no dump and chase involved in the game plan. They possessed the puck through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone to create opportunities. When they lost the puck, they had an aggressive forecheck that caused chaos and turnovers. I know it has only been one game so far, but it seems like the guys in the locker room are not only buying in to the system, but are going all in on it. If they continue to believe in it, expect to see a fast paced team that won't let up for sixty minutes. The scary thing about this Predators team is that they haven't forgotten their defensive roots. The play both ends of the ice in a physical and fast paced manner. The rest of Conference III should not take this team lightly any more.