The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs continue to rewrite the history books. Another series is in the books as the Dallas Stars are moving onto the second round eliminating the Nashville Predators in six games. John Klingberg scored the overtime winner sending the Stars into a match up with the St. Louis Blues in the second round.
NHL Central Division Notebook: Stars Shine Bright over Nashville
Coming into the series, the x-factor for the Dallas Stars was Ben Bishop. Bishop had the ability to steal the series for the Stars. Going through Bishop’s history with Tampa Bay, he had done it before when the lights shined the brightest. In series clinching games dating back to his days with Tampa Bay, Bishop is 4-0 with .023 GAA and .992 save percentage and three shutouts. That is the definition of being money when his team needed him the most.
And Bishop has just not been clutch in elimination games for Dallas either. Even though he was hurt a lot this season, Bishop showed why the Stars signed him to the contract they did. He came up big for the Stars down the stretch of the season. Not to mention the fact, when Bishop was out of the lineup Anton Khudobin filled in nicely. The Stars were never out of any of all the games as Bishop gave the Stars a chance to win.
Speaking of his teammates, the Stars big boys came to play when the series is on the line. Who says you can’t win a series with just one line. Colorado and now Dallas are proving the doubters wrong. Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, and Jamie Benn stepped up when they all needed to. With the series tied at 2-2, Game 5 was crucial for both teams. In one of the biggest games of the year, each of those players recorded at least two points. Radulov had two goals, Seguin had a goal and an assist, while Benn had three assists.
Since being a healthy scratch on March 5th for being late to a meeting, Radulov has scored 16 goals, that includes the playoffs. As a matter of fact, since the whole Jim Lite incident involving Benn and Seguin, these two players have come to play for the Stars. Lite was right in one aspect the Stars were too talented not to make the playoffs. Another player who made an impact for the Stars was Mats Zuccarello. Since being traded from the Rangers, Zuccarello was a difference maker. All he did was score goals for Dallas including three in the playoffs.
On the other hand, the Nashville Predators big boys did not show and play in the series. This is an ongoing problem for the Predators. Once the playoffs come the offense dries up. As it is the Predators are offensively challenged. Viktor Arvidsson, who set a franchise record for goals in a season, did not have a single goal in the playoffs. Meanwhile, Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris, Filip Forsberg, and Mikael Granlund combined for a total of four goals. Not good enough to win in the playoffs. Changes could be coming to the core after a first-round playoff exit.
Speaking of changes, remember all those moves the Predators made at the deadline, none of them worked out. Granlund never found his rhythm in the offense. It showed especially in the playoffs. Wayne Simmonds, who the Predators acquired at the trade deadline, was injured for most of the series. While Brian Boyle also was a non-factor for Nashville. Simmonds and Boyle were brought in to be more physical, but it was the Predators that got pushed around. One bright spot for the Predators was Rocco Grimaldi, who came into his own in this year’s playoffs.
History will not look too kindly on Pekka Rinne and the playoffs. Since his poor game five performance against Pittsburgh in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, Rinne has come up short for the Predators. The knock continues to be on Rinne that he can not win the big one. As much as Rinne is good in the regular season, the playoffs is another story. Again Rinne came up short for Nashville. Not that Rinne had a bad series, but when a goalie allows 10 goals in two games, that never bold well for your team.
Another factor why the Stars won this series was special teams. The power play for the Stars came alive in Game Four of the series. In that game, the Stars power play went 3-for-4. While neither team’s power play was excellent in the series, the Stars were able to manage to score four goals. On the other hand, Nashville’s power play went 0-for-15. Coming into the series, Nashville owned the worst power play in the league. That trend continued into the playoffs.
Even though the 2011 Boston Bruins showed you can win with not scoring a goal on the power play. But in today’s NHL a team needs to score on the power play to win games. Special teams are very important.
Next up for the Stars is a meeting with the St. Louis Blues. Stay tuned for a series preview in the coming days.
Notes: Head Jim Montgomery is the fourth 1st-year head coach to advance his team to the playoffs. John Klingberg is the 9th player in franchise history to score an overtime goal series-clinching goal. The list of players to score OT goals to clinch series in Stars/North Stars history: Brenden Morrow 2008 v Sharks (4OT) Brett Hull 1999 vs BUF (3OT) Mike Modano 1999 vs STL Joe Nieuwendyk 1999 vs EDM (3OT) Mike Keane 1998 vs SJ Steve Payne 1984 vs STL Dino Ciccarelli 1983 vs TOR Al MacAdam 1980 vs TOR