The Wild eventually fired its head coach, Mike Yeo, and brought in John Torchetti, its AHL Affiliate’s head coach. The team responded by putting some wins together, but faltered once again before finally clinching a playoff spot with only 87 points. Minnesota is entering the playoffs having only six goals in its final five regular season games, all loses. The Stars head into the postseason having won six of its final regular season games, outscoring opponents 24-14. The good news for the Wild is that everyone starts with a clean slate in the postseason, and anything can happen.
Dallas is entering the playoffs relatively healthy, but are missing one of its top forwards in Tyler Seguin. He is recovering from surgery to repair his Achilles tendon that was partially cut by a skate, but he could be back for game one of the series. Minnesota will be without star forward Zach Parise to start the series. Erik Haula could miss some time during the seven game series, and Thomas Vanek is week-to-week.
The Stars were the best offensive team throughout the regular season averaging 3.23 goals scored per game played. The contributions came from up-and-down the lineup with 12 different players having scored 10 or more goals. The Wild had 11 players with 10 or more goals scored this season, but it just seemed like they couldn’t get everyone going all at once. The two key players to watch on offense for the Stars are Patrick Sharp and Jamie Benn, Dallas’ leading scorer. If Seguin can’t go then Sharp will need to step up and produce. If Parise can’t go then the Stars will have to pay attention to Mikko Koivu, who led the Wild in points.
Minnesota has a good top pairing on defense with Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon, but it gets a little dicey on defense after them. Marco Scandella and Matt Dumba have been inconsistent this season, so if either of them is in the lineup, Dallas will need to pressure them to force either into making mistakes. The Stars defense has been decent, but they can play a little loose at times, which they will need to stop if they want to advance to the next round. The Stars will give up some goals (228). The Stars have more depth and balance on the blueline than the Wild.
The biggest question heading into the postseason for the Stars is who does head coach Lindy Ruff star in goal. Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi have been sharing the net all season, and have similar numbers. The goaltending will be the x-factor for Dallas especially if they play loose in front of him. If the Wild want to win this series then Devan Dubnyk will have to be outstanding since he’s going to see a lot of rubber come his way.
The special teams could have an impact in the series. Dallas has a top 10 penalty kill and power play. Minnesota had a mediocre power play and one of the worse penalty kills during the regular season (27th). If the Stars can convert on some power plays, then it could be a long series for the Wild.
If Dallas plays the way they are capable of then this should be a quick series that the Stars will win in five games.