Dallas had an amazing regular season, notching 108 points and falling one point short of winning the Central Division. The Stars are in the middle of a very crowded Western Conference in terms of points. Dallas will hold home ice advantage in the first round and has notched the fourth-most points in the West.
The Stars are led by Jason Robertson who tallied 46 goals and 109 points, which both led the team. Roope Hintz and Jamie Benn both eclipsed the 30-goal plateau. Joe Pavelski notched 28 goals while the 2021 first-round selection Wyatt Johnson potted 24. Benn, Pavelski, Hintz and Mio Heiskanen all surpassed 70 points on the season as well. Jake Oettinger burst onto the scene last season as the Stars lost to the Flames in seven games. The 24-year-old did everything but win the series for Dallas and his spring success translated into this season as he went 37-11-11 with a 2.37 goals against average and a .919 save percentage in 62 games.
Minnesota was in the Central Division race until the season’s final week but still finished with a very respectable 103 points. The Wild finished sixth in the Western Conference only ahead of Seattle and Winnipeg among the eight qualifying teams.
Kirill Kaprizov notched his second consecutive 40 goal season, doing it in only 67 games. The star will enter the playoffs fresh off a lower-body injury that kept him out about a month leading up to the postseason. Matt Boldy was the only other skater with more than 30 goals for the Wild this season. The goaltender situation is complicated in Minnesota as there is a case for both Marc-Andre Fleury and Filip Gustavsson to get the game-one nod.
The Wild and Stars split four meetings this season but both Minnesota wins came via the shootout. This is worth noting as the shootout is not part of the postseason as the teams will play five-on-five until a winner is decided. These sides have met in the postseason one other time in their franchise histories when Dallas defeated the Wild in six games back in 2016.
What to Watch
The first thing to watch is the obvious matchup between the game’s best players in Kaprizov and Robertson. This series just as a feeling that whichever superstar produces more will move on. Both these players can take over and change games in an instant.
The second thing to watch is the Minnesota goaltending situation. Gustavsson has played most of the recent games as he brings a 22-9-7 record with a 2.10 GAA and .931 SV% in 39 games into the playoffs. Fleury carries a 24-16-4 record with a 2.85 GAA and a .908 SV% in 46 games into the postseason. I would not be surprised if we see both goaltenders in this series, especially if the Wild are down.
The final thing to watch is to see if Oettinger can continue his early playoff dominance. The 24-year-old held Calgary to 15 goals in a seven-game series last season, yet the Stars still could not advance. The offense needs to step up in what should be a low-scoring series.
Prediction: Minnesota Wild over the Dallas Stars in seven games
This series has the potential to be a defensive masterclass from both sides. Neither side has established scoring depth, while both sides are defensively stubborn with solid goaltenders in net. This is going to be another long series as the teams are so evenly matched. I will give the advantage to the Wild but would not be surprised if Dallas win this series.