It may have taken a while to be made official, but it’s all set now. The Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators will meet up in round one of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, leaving the door open for plenty of excitement and a thrilling opening series.
As the Dallas Stars finally broke through the Wild’s defensive lines and began to build a lead in the third period of Saturday night’s game, their future began to look decisively clearer.
With a dominant 3-0 lead over Minnesota late in the third period, the Stars took one of the final necessary steps in their regular season campaign. They clinched the first wild card spot in the Western Conference and officially locked up a berth in the Central division bracket.
But then, the final question came into play: who would be their first round opponent?
Dallas had waited for their opponent to be revealed since securing a playoff berth on Tuesday. Would they slip to the second wild card spot and take on the Calgary Flames in round one? Or would they hold their ground and take on whichever of the Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, and St. Louis Blues finished in first place in the Central?
Just prior to the Stars wrapping up a 3-0 win, the Nashville Predators defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 to push their point total to 100 on the season. That total also helped them claim a second consecutive Central division title and the first overall seed in the division.
And so, the first round path was set for the Dallas Stars.
“They’re a good team,” said Stars goaltender Ben Bishop about the Predators. “Obviously, they’re a good team that has the experience. We had no control of who we were going to play and I think every team we had the possibility of playing is a good team. So, we have to do our homework and get ready for them. Obviously, it’s a fun place to play. So, just get ready and bring ’em on.”
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This will be the first time in history that the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators meet up in a playoff series. And with the recent past and near future in mind, the stage is set for what should be an entertaining and thrilling opening round in the Central bracket.
The Stars and Predators met up five times in the 2018-19 season, with Dallas posting a 2-1-2 record and Nashville posting a 3-2-0 mark. Both teams scored 14 goals in the season series. Two of the games required overtime. Dallas went 0-1-1 on home ice and 2-0-1 at Bridgestone Arena, while Nashville posted a 1-2-0 record on home ice and a 2-0-0 mark at the American Airlines Center.
The season series offered plenty of back-and-forth action, with physicality and goaltending taking center stage in many of the contests. There were comebacks, blown leads, and stellar defensive performances that made for an enticing five-game set.
On top of that, the series served as a filling appetizer for the 2020 Winter Classic, which will pit the Stars and Predators against each other on New Year’s Day at the Cotton Bowl. This playoff series will simply add another enthralling chapter to the prelude.
“They’re a good team and they’ve got lots of experience in the playoffs,” said Stars defenseman Roman Polak. “We just need to be ready, play our game, and we’ll be fine.”
For the 2018-19 regular season campaign, the Stars finished 43-32-7 while the Predators posted a record of 47-29-6. Dallas scored 2.55 goals per game and gave up 2.44 goals against per game, while Nashville averaged 2.88 goals per game and 2.59 goals against per game. The Stars finished the year with a home record of 24-14-3 and a road mark of 19-18-4, while the Predators went 25-14-2 at home and 22-15-4 on the road.
This will be the Predators’ fifth consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, while the Stars will be back in for the first time since the 2015-16 season when they won the Central division and Western Conference regular season titles.
The stage is set for plenty of fireworks in the opening round between two teams that are quickly building a rivalry with each other. With the Winter Classic a little less than nine months away and the possibility of getting one step closer to the Stanley Cup Final, both teams will be gunning for an opportunity to get a leg up.
“The fun begins now.” – Jim Montgomery
Here’s how the schedule looks for the opening round:
Game 1 (in Nashville): Wednesday, April 10, 8:30 p.m.
Game 2 (in Nashville): Saturday, April 13, 5:00 p.m.
Game 3 (in Dallas): Monday, April 15, 8:30 p.m.
Game 4 (in Dallas): Wednesday, April 17, 7:00 p.m.
*Game 5 (in Nashville): Saturday, April 20, TBD
*Game 6 (in Dallas): Monday, April 22, TBD
*Game 7 (in Nashville): Wednesday, April 24, TBD
The opening round is set and the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs are just three days away from beginning. The Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators will duke it out in a Central division showdown that should only set the table and create a more explosive buzz for the rivalry going forward.
“We knew any team we were going to play is a good team,” said Stars forward Tyler Seguin. “We’re obviously the underdogs and Nashville is one of, if not the best team in the NHL. I’m looking forward to getting to work and real excited to get there.”