With a delayed start to their season, the Dallas Stars knew they had to come out swinging. And swing they did. In their home opener against the Predators, they put on a show fans were hoping for after their Cup run last season. Five players scored seven goals, nine players had at least one point in the game. Defense was just as successful; Anton Khudobin started his season with a shut out.
On paper, the Predators are a decent team. So how did the Stars manage a 7-0 victory last night? Here are a few of my thoughts.
Both teams had more than their fair shares of penalties, Dallas with five, Nashville with eight. It’s early in the season and these players have had a lot of time off since playoffs, but 10 penalty minutes is bad regardless. 16 is negligence. I’m sure neither team is particularly happy about their PIMs, but the Stars at least were able to capitalize on their power plays. With high-powered shots from Pavelski raining down on Saros and Rinne, it was only a matter of time before one or two of them hit the net. And that’s glazing over Radulov, Benn, etc. Dallas had a very successful powerplay last season, and there were very few roster changes in the offseason. You can’t hang your goaltender out to dry with a ridiculous number of penalties.
If you look at the stats from last night, the Predators were the better team. More shots, more shots blocked, higher faceoff percentage, more takeaways. The four stats that did not favor them were their undoing. We already covered three of them above. The fourth is hits. The Stars out-hit the Predators 21-14. That’s nothing to sneeze at. 17 players on the Stars roster are just under or over 6’ and 200lbs. Even just a few of those players throwing their weight around for 3 periods is going to wear down any team, especially if you’re not reciprocating equally. It doesn’t help that, overall, the Predators are a smaller team. The Stars had their foot on the gas and didn’t let up, not to finish a check.
Jusse Saros is a very promising young goaltender, there’s no denying that. And Pekka Rinne is a very respectable goaltender in his own right as well. But there’s only so much a goaltender can do when their team takes 4 penalties in a period and the defense is too tired to properly defend. Saros had 15 saves on 20 shots, Rinne six on eight. Those numbers aren’t great, but there’s more to them than just the goalie. Maybe Saros wasn’t on his A-game last night, but a team can compensate for that. The Predators did not.
Conversely, Khudobin had a much busier night than Saros and Rinne. The Predators out-shot the Stars 34-28, so Dobi had his work cut out for him. Maybe his defenders could have blocked more shots to lighten his load, but he was laser-focused. He shut the Predators down, saving all 34 shots and earning Second Star of the game.
It’s a cliche for a reason: quality is better than quantity. The Stars put that on display last night. They started their season on the highest of notes and it will be exciting to watch them this season. I’d be surprised if they weren’t in the fight for first in the Central this year. As for the Predators, they have a lot of good pieces on their team, it’s a matter of getting those pieces to work as a unit. They’re 2-2 right now in a tough division (despite Detroit being in it, I know). Carolina looks strong, as does Tampa Bay. Columbus could get hot at any minute. And Florida looks like a brand new team, currently 2-0. The Predators will need to figure themselves out if they want to make playoffs.
-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)