The Minnesota Wild has made the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year, and for the third consecutive year they are meeting the Central Division champion in round one of the playoffs. This time it is the Dallas Stars.
Game 1 of the series is set for Thursday at 8:30 p.m. central time on NBCSN, so thanks for the late start, NHL.
So, what is the best medicine entering the playoffs? This season, the Wild seem to think that losing five games in a row is the best way to enter the postseason. It probably is not the best way to do it, but hey, the Wild is giving it a shot.
It is impossible to figure out what team will show up. Will it be the Wild team that plays with urgency and grit? Or will it be the opposite, the ‘what time does the game start?’ team that never shows up.
If history tells us anything, the Wild will show up. The problem is, this season is one like no other. The Wild have been unbelievably great, to unbelievably disappointing, to ‘where did this come from?!’ To ‘Yup, I recognize these guys, I just watched them for two months. It wasn’t entertaining.’
The worst part about this is that the Wild has a good chance to be without their best player, Zach Parise, for the first game of the series in Dallas. Thomas Vanek has already been ruled out and head coach John Torchetti said he feels good about Erik Haula being able to play after missing a few practices.
Parise is the biggest concern, he didn’t play in the regular-season finale against Calgary, and hasn’t practice the last couple days. The Wild will need his presence in the lineup for them to be successful. The Wild will only go has far has the motor of Parise takes them.
The Stars have their own injuries to worry about. Tyler Seguin is coming back from an Achilles injury, and looks ready to play in game one. Minnesota will need Haula in the lineup if they have any hope of slowing down the Stars’ top line centered on Seguin and Jamie Benn. They are two of the most dynamic, if not the most dynamic, scoring tandem in the NHL.
Benn was second in the NHL with 89 points, only trailing Patrick Kane who had 109. With 41 goals, he led best offensive team in the NHL, which averaged 3.23 goals a game. Their defense was not as good, and is their weakness.
The Stars defensemen are prone to turnovers that can turn into goals for the opposition quickly. Alex Goligoski and John Klingberg are very good offensive defensemen, but become a liability when they try to do much with the puck and when they are in the defensive zone.
They give up bad goals, and the Wild will have to take advantage of that. The addition of Kris Russell at the trade deadline will be huge for Stars in the playoffs, and has been huge for this in the second half of the season.
Russell blocks a lot of shots and plays very good in his own zone. If the Stars win the cup, he will be a huge reason for it.
If the Stars are able to limit their turnovers, it will be very hard for the Wild to keep up with the Stars high-octane offense.
The Wild had the ninth best goals against average, allowing 2.49 goals per game. If Minnesota can hold the Stars to under three goals per game, which is not likely, I like their chances in this series.
Most people will believe that if you shut down the Benn and Seguin line you will beat that Stars, but that is not that case.
The Wild will have to play disciplined and make this a grind-it-out series. The Stars can get scoring from any line. Dallas has three, 30-goal scorers. The Wild do not even have one. If it turns into a shootout, it will be just like Chicago in the 2015 playoffs.
Fans will have to wait to see which Minnesota team shows up. Hopefully, it’s the gritty one.
Prediction – Stars in 6