Updated: Sep 18, 2019
Listen, that bad taste in your mouth you still have from Dallas ending the Predators' short 2019 playoffs campaign is natural, and it's valid. In fact, if you're a Preds fan and your feelings remain neutral towards the Stars, you might be a sociopath.
However hard this may be to swallow, the Stars actually did us a favor by beating us.
Dallas proved to the Preds and their fans that the roster David Poile was so intent on keeping static was inherently flawed. Last season was the first in a long time, if not ever, to appear as an utter failure on the team's part. The Stars simply wanted it more, and they got it. And they are only going to stiffen their competitiveness this year.
The Stars made some of the league's biggest moves this offseason.
Joe Pavelski, the 34-year old long time Sharks center, joined the team with a three-year deal worth $7 million per year. Pavelski has never presented too much of a problem for the Preds. Last year, he recorded four points in the three games he played against us, but hadn't put up more than two points since the 2011-2012 and 2009-2010 regular seasons, both in which he torched the Preds for six points. But with impressive youngsters Roope Hintz and Miro Heiskanen potentially matched up with Pavelski on the second line, he could become more of a danger for the Preds in front of the net. If Pavelski swaps places with Alex Radulov for the first-line center spot, he will arguably be a more potent force.
Luckily for Preds fans, we can keep on hating Corey Perry! Dallas picked up the 34-year old winger from Anaheim and signed him on for a year. Perry has steeply dropped off in production the past few years, and was out for most of last season recovering from knee surgery. Two days ago, Perry went down in training camp with a broken foot but will likely be ready by the start of the season, albeit rusty. In his 14 years in the NHL, Perry has a lofty career 36 points and a +10 rating against the Preds.
But briefly, let's resurrect this image:
That was nice.
Anyways, Perry will probably line up opposite Jason Dickinson on the left wing and have Radek Faksa anchoring the third line center position. Both Faksa and Dickinson are still relatively young and will benefit from having a seasoned Perry directing their offense.
Dickinson, notably, scored two goals against Nashville in Game 5 of the playoffs last year. He re-signed with the Stars this summer for two more years.
In just four NHL seasons, Faksa has haunted the Preds with 10 regular season points against them.
The Stars also re-signed first line defenseman Esa Lindell to a six-year contract this summer. Lindell really came into his own last year, recording career highs in goals, assists, and total points. He was a bit of a terror for the Preds; in five regular season games, he averaged a point per game. Lindell led the league last season in Defensive Point Shares (DPS)- meaning his efforts on defense resulted in points scored for his own team more frequently than any other player in the NHL. Even scarier, he will be on the same line with John Klingberg, Tyler Seguin, and Jamie Benn, who, along with Radulov, absolutely brutalized the Preds for a total of 26 points in just the six 2019 playoff games.
Mats Zuccarello, Valeri Nichushkin, and Jason Spezza are the only three players of note that left the Stars during the offseason. Zuccarello put up 11 points in the playoffs for Dallas, but the Stars were forced to forfeit the productive winger due to extremely limited cap space.
Ben Bishop had a hell of a year. He was just edged out by Tampa Bay's Andrei Vasilevskiy for the Vezina Trophy, but put up a career-record and league-best .934 save percentage and recorded an insane seven shutouts. While Bishop has been with the Stars, the Preds haven't had too tough of a time getting pucks past him. In four games against Nashville as a Star, he is 1-2-1 with 14 goals allowed. The Preds had a harder time facing Anton Khudobin; in the regular season, Khudobin went 2-1-1 against the Preds with only eight goals allowed.
Even with Khudobin's comparatively better stats against Nashville, Stars' head coach Jim Montgomery made the decision to start Bishop against the Preds in the first round, which clearly didn't do us any favors.
If the Preds want to have success against Dallas and assert dominance in the Central Division, they have to figure out how to stop that Seguin-Benn-Radulov line. They gutted us in the playoffs and there was seemingly no equal offensive response from the Preds. In the regular season, the three of them combined to produce about 36% of the Stars' total offense.
Not to beat a dead horse, but it would obviously help to have a decent power play. The Stars' power play ranked 11th in the league at a 21.03% conversion rate. We all know where the Preds finished in that category. It's a really good thing our penalty kill was good (sixth in the league, 82.07% kill rate), because we would have been washed every game if not. Problem is, Dallas' PK was even slightly better than ours: fifth in the league with a 82.77% kill rate.
The Stars and the Preds were neck-and-neck in the fight for the least goals allowed in the regular season. The Stars were 30th in the league with 200 GA, the Preds were 29th with 212 GA. Only the New York Islanders beat them out with 191 GA. This is a testament to both teams' juggernaut goaltending. Dallas and Nashville were ranked second and fourth, respectively, for the league's best save percentage. The Stars also put up 10 shutouts, the Preds with 7.
The upside is that when Dallas' first line isn't on the ice, that is when they become most vulnerable. Since those five players can't skate for 60 minutes every night, the Preds should be able to dominate with a calculated attack. The two teams don't face off this season until Dec. 14, but preparation starts now.