The Dallas Stars continued to improve in Game 5 against the Nashville Predators on Saturday afternoon. Game 5 was their second straight five-goal outburst, coming after Game 4 where the power play in the first period produced three of the game’s five goals. On Saturday, the Stars extended that goal-scoring magic to their 5-on-5 play, which dominated the game.
In the series, both teams have been physical. The Stars’ physicality, however, has been throughout the flow of the game and it has led to in-game advantages. The perfect example is Jamie Benn’s assist on Alexander Radulov’s second goal on Saturday.
Nashville’s physicality, on the other hand, has been forced, and it’s put them in the penalty box often. The Predators are looking for hits to make, and in doing so, they’re not playing hockey. If Dan Hamhuis keeps thinking about laying Mats Zuccarello out in the neutral zone, the Stars win this series in six.
Nashville head coach Peter Laviolette had options to hit the reset button in this series during Game 5. With last change, he could set up his preferred matchups. Based on ice time, the preference appears to have been matching top lines and checking lines against each other. The top line matchup created scoring chances on both ends, but ultimately played in the Stars’ favor. Matching checking lines led mostly to a running clock.
Having lost home ice and staring down a win-or-go home scenario, the Predators are faced with a dilemma. Major changes reek of desperation and don’t add anything substantive to their chances. On the other hand, as the series has progressed, it has tilted toward the Stars, so the Predators needs to do something to stop the bleeding.
At this point, I’d expect the Predators to push what got them to the top of the Central Division during the regular season. That means a heavy dose of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson. It means Roman Josi activating from the point and P. K. Subban antics, perhaps mixing in a bit of physicality that pushes the legal limit.
Outside of the top tier, I’d expect Kyle Turris paired with different combinations, including both Brian Boyle and Rocco Grimaldi.
Fans have heard it in Dallas about the Stars for most of the year, but this time the shoe is on the other foot, as Nashville needs their best players to be their best players. So far this series, they have not done that. If they can’t do it tonight, it’s likely time to go back to Music City and start on that offseason golf swing.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Jason Dickinson - Roope Hintz - Mats Zuccarello
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Justin Dowling - Jason Spezza - Tyler Pitlick
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Jamie Oleksiak - Ben Lovejoy
Nashville Predators Lineup
Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidsson
Mikael Granlund - Kyle Turris - Rocco Grimaldi
Calle Jarnkrok - Colton Sissons - Craig Smith
Brian Boyle - Nick Bonino - Austin Watson
Roman Josi - Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm - P.K. Subban
Dan Hamhuis - Dante Fabbro
- Tyler Pitlick has struggled the last few games. Mattias Janmark slots in well if he’s ready to go.
- Jamie Oleksiak’s poorly angled skate beat Ben Bishop for Nashville’s third goal, and Oleksiak only played two shifts after the mistake. Taylor Fedun started the series, but Oleksiak has been good for matchups since he drew in, and his place on the third pair has been earned.
- Two of the Stars’ three wins in the series have come after Nashville opened the scoring. Since the beginning of March, there have only been two games where the Stars have given up the first goal when they haven’t subsequently come back to at least tie the game at some point in regulation. This is a resilient team, and for a Stars fan that is a hard concept to get your head around sometimes.