A day before the Nashville Predators opened the season in Dallas coach Barry Trotz said he wanted his team to be better on the road than it was a year ago. He also laid out some of the ways that could be accomplished.
“We have to be really, really tighter in terms of defense, and more committed,” Trotz said prior to the team’s departure on Friday. “We have to come out with real good starts and take the crowd out of it when we can. Don’t give them anything to get excited about, by it taking penalties or things like that.”
The Predators were good enough to notch a 3-2 shootout victory over the Stars. It was their first season-opening victory ever in a true road game. The only other time they were credited with a road win in Game No. 1 was in 2000-01 when they defeated Pittsburgh 3-1 in Japan — actually a neutral site.
The defense could have been tighter as goalie Dan Ellis faced 40 shots, including four in overtime.
However, the first penalty of the night was called against Dallas 41 seconds into the contest, and the first goal was scored by Nashville captain Jason Arnott 67 seconds later. The Predators kept the Stars off the scoreboard for almost two full periods and thus for much of the night kept the crowd of 18,532 at American Airlines Center from getting involved.
“Just like our building gives us a lot of positive energy, that happens in a lot of other buildings where (the home team) gets a lot of positive energy,” Trotz said.
Three of the four times the franchise has reached the postseason it was at least .500 in away games during the regular season.
Nashville was 16-21-4 on the road last season. That was its fewest victories outside the Sommet Center since it won 16 in 2003-04 and its fewest road points (36) since it had 32 in 2002-03.
Six of the last season’s final eight road games ended in defeat, albeit three of them in overtime or shootouts.
“Last year we lost a lot of road games,” Trotz said. “You look back at the losses and it was either special team or situational play, or just getting off to a bad start. It’s hard to take teams out of their game, especially when they’re at home.”
Assuming that this version of the Predators will be a better team at home — as has been the case the past seven seasons — there exists the opportunity for a real strong start. Four of the next five games are at home, beginning Thursday against Colorado.
“We have to build on positives and wipe out any negatives we have in games,” Trotz said. “It’s about getting better from Game 1 to 82. The pace is going to pick up, the intensity and physicality of the game is going to pick up.”
Plus, 40 more times they’re going to have to pick up and go play somewhere else.