The first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs has been shocking and, at times, extremely lopsided.
In the Eastern Conference, we have seen the Tampa Bay Lightning emphatically knocked out in one of the most stunning upsets in league history, while the Pittsburgh Penguins continued their slow, methodical decline by losing four straight games to the New York Islanders. Even the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals were blown out by Carolina in Game 3 to allow the Hurricanes to crawl back into the series.
Out West, the San Jose Sharks have looked completely helpless at times against the Vegas Golden Knights thanks in large part to their goalies and the team’s overall meltdown, while the Colorado Avalanche are on the verge of potentially taking complete control against the top-seeded Calgary Flames.
One series that still seems to be very much up for grabs is the Dallas Stars-Nashville Predators matchup that has been about as close as a series could possibly be heading into Game 4 on Wednesday night.
While the Predators are holding a 2-1 lead in the series, it would be almost impossible to argue that either team has had the upper hand so far.
Not only has every game been ultimately decided by just a single goal, but a significant portion of the series has seen the two teams deadlocked on the scoreboard.
Heading into Wednesday the two teams have spent more than 116 of the 185 total minutes playing to a tied score. That is more than 62 percent of the series, and significantly more than any other series has experienced in the first round. There have only been six total minutes in the series where either team held a multi-goal lead.
Maybe that shouldn’t be a shock given the way the regular season went for both teams, finishing second (Dallas) and third (Nashville) in the NHL in goals against. Their five head-to-head matchups were also just as close on the scoreboard, with two of the games going to overtime.
Goaltending is almost certainly one of the driving forces behind all of this as Ben Bishop was one of the league’s top goalies this season and has continued that great play into the playoffs.
Nashville’s Pekka Rinne has matched him save-for-save so far in the series and also plays behind one of the league’s best defenses.
This is the type of series where it is almost impossible to pick a winner because it might literally come down to just one or two plays on any given night. When you have two teams that are this evenly matched and playing such a low-event, low-scoring series, you are pretty much turning every game into a coin toss. It can literally come down to any one shot, one call, or one bounce to determine the winner.
Put it all together and you have a series that is going to have fans of both teams pulling their hair out in madness, living and dying with every single shot because the next shot could literally be the difference in which team moves on.