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Wild and Stars Series Predictions: Staff Picks

Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Game One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round is finally upon us. And as we do for every playoff series, we let the Hockey Wilderness staff opine, pontificate, and make predictions for the the way the series will go. We've broken down the match-up and we've come up with the results. Let's see what they said:


Why the Wild Win:

Dark magic. I think if they harness the power of the Mighty Mississippi River as an energy source for a revitalizing enchantment they might have a chance. This team needs to find a resonating harmony to be successful. Everything would have to fall together perfectly.

But really, how do we want to define winning? I once wrote a paper about the need to break out of a success/failure binary, and start asking what we really need to be happy? I'll consider it a win if my playoff watching buddy and I get through the round without any crying at the bar. Surviving is winning. Getting to the summer is winning. If we can all learn something from this experience, that's winning. Let's set the standard really low, I want to come away with at least some sort of 'W'.

(But actually, goaltending and defense. If the Wild make it past the first round it will be because the Stars get bad goaltending and the Wild's defense manages something spectacular. Though goaltending is synonymous with dark magic, so I had it right all along.)

Why the Wild Lose:

Because that's what makes sense. That's what they do. They lose. Look at them.


That at some point in the series a game goes into over time, and I get back from the bar at one in the morning, and I wind up lying on the living room floor listening to hardcore and worrying about Jonas Brodin. This is what the past has taught me to expect from the playoffs, and I am prepared for it.

There are no winners. The Wild won't win, and no matter what the Stars do, they'll still be the Stars, which is really unfortunate for them.

Time isn't real, but I expect the agony to last for five games.


Why the Wild Win:
Dubnyk steals a game or two. The Wild are able to shut down John Klingberg and company, meanwhile the Wild's scorers (Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle,and Erik Haula) get hot and are able to put the puck in the net. Kari Lehtonen and/or Antti Niemi are their usual, average selves, but that's not enough against Devan Dubnyk, who has re-discovered his form from last-year and is heroic.

The Wild are out-shot most games, but shot totals in general are low, because the Wild are able to slow the game down and Dallas can't run back and forth how they've tended to do. The Stars defensemen get taken advantage of and the Wild come out on top in 6 games.

Why the Wild Lose:
Lehtonen and Niemi play very well. The Wild aren't able to slow down the Stars, who run rampant and out-shoot the Wild drastically night after night. Dubnyk plays well, but asking him to make 30+ saves a night ends up costing the Wild the series. They win one home game, but ultimately lose in 5 to a Stars offense that is just too good for a struggling Wild to overcome.


The Stars win in 5. The Wild don't play particularly well, given that they haven't for several months. Nino and Coyle play well, but not well enough. Niemi and Lehtonen don't stand on their heads, but you don't really need to when the other team can't get more than 26 shots in a night. The Stars win each game by at least 2 goals, the Wild win one at home, and are bounced after the third game in Dallas.

Dakota Case

Why the Wild Win:

Of the 16 goaltending tandems entering the 2016 postseason, it can be argued Dallas' is the worst. The Stars may have clinched the division, but it's not because of their top two goaltenders. Kari Lehtonen posted a 2.76 goals against average and a .906 save percentage in 43 games, while off-season addition Antti Niemi compiled a 2.67 goals against and a .905 save percentage in 48 appearances. It's not pretty, and Minnesota has toppled much better tandems in recent playoff history. If Dallas has a weak link, it's in goal, and this tandem is definitely concerning for them. Another advantage? No three-on-three overtime, so that's a plus!

Why the Wild Lose:

Dallas didn't need good or even average goaltending to clinch the division title. They had Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and John Klingberg, in addition to a star studded supporting cast. Including Jason Spezza, the Stars had three players in the top-32 in league scoring, with Benn leading the entire league - save for Chicago's Patrick Kane - with 89 points. On defense, Klingberg was fifth among NHL defensemen with 10 goals, 58 points and a plus-22 rating in 76 games.

Without Zach Parise, Thomas Vanek and Erik Haula, it's going to be difficult to snatch the puck away from these guys and create momentum of Minnesota's own, which means Dallas is going to have their way with the Wild. Sometimes the best defense is offense, and Dallas certainly lived up to it this season.


Dallas in five. Injuries and the predictable unpredictability of this John Torchetti-coached team have sunk Minnesota before the puck has even been dropped on Game One. It's going to be a long offseason.


Why the Wild Win:

The only way the Wild come away victorious is a combination of 2 things: They win the special teams battle AND the goaltending battle. The goaltending battle could be doable, but the Wild are going to have to go back to basics and play shutdown defense in front of Dubnyk. The Wild really struggled in both PK and PP opportunities against the Stars this season, but all those games came before the Torchetti era. The PP must wake up and the Wild must stay out of the box. The Wild have performed well against the Stars this season when playing tight defense and creating momentum off turnovers.

Why the Wild Lose:

The Wild lose if they allow Dallas to dictate the pace of the game. The Wild are built to suffocate and frustrate their opponent into submission. If they try to run and gun with the Stars, they don't have the personnel to sustain it over a best of 7 series. The Stars have a really big advantage on the PP, so if the Wild give in to the antics of Antoine Rousell, they are doomed. They also lose if none of the 3 injured forwards are able to make it back into the lineup by game 3, which is very likely. Haula coming back could be a game-changer on both sides of the puck though.

Stars in 6. The injury bug has decimated the scoring and the emotional outlook of the team, but they will still find a way to show up when their back is against the wall.


Why the Wild will Win:

Jason Zucker remembers he's a fast sniper, picking up the slack for Zach Parise. Everyone on defense plays at a high level at the same time, making it easier for Dubnyk to get hot and steal the series with a >.940 SV%.

Why the Wild will Lose:

Dallas plays like Dallas, applying massive amounts of offensive pressure to both wear down Minnesota's two scoring lines, and exploit Minnesota's two AHL-caliber lines. Whatever deficiencies Dallas has on defense won't matter because Minnesota won't be able to gain the offensive zone often. Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen will be good enough for the task at hand.


Stars in 4. Dubnyk might steal a game, and if he does, God bless him. But otherwise, I have a hard time believing Minnesota will take a game with the injuries they've sustained.


Why the Wild Win:

Like migratory birds the Wild must face the Blackhawks and therefore fate will somehow allow them to limp through the first round to meet them in the second. Perhaps some dedicated Minnesota fans will kidnap Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn or an easily vaccinated childhood illness will rear its ugly head, rendering half the Stars unable to play. Those are key winning strategies for the Wild at this point.

It's true the Wild have started winning games in Dallas of late and Mikko Koivu is having an amazing year. If the Wild could find a little fire and really get moving they could win at home and even take a win on the road, which is what they need to advance. However, I think the other plans have a better chance of success.

Why the Wild Lose:

Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek are completely broken, while Erik Haula is somewhat broken. With that many of the regular players out, the Wild aren't going to pull out of their slump. At the end of the season the Wild didn't win to get into the playoffs this year, the Avalanche just lost more. Add in the fact the majority of the games happen in Dallas, where Minnesota traditionally has terrible luck, and I don't see how they could actually pull this off.

It'd be amazing if they did.


The Wild take seven games to make a first round exit because they drag everything out.


Why the Wild Win:

The Wild win because they use their defensive skill to their advantage and the youngsters such as Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund among others step up and get hot again. Devan Dubnyk plays his game and helps steal a game or two for us

Why the Wild lose:

The youngsters don't step up despite Parise and Vanek being out, The defense implodes especially on the PK and the Stars sneak by with their offensive depth.

Prediction: Wild in 6


Why the Wild Win:
Not unlike their late season surge, any success the Wild have in the playoffs will be a direct result of Devan Dubnyk standing on his head. Goaltending is arguably the only area that the Wild have an edge in this series, and so to make up for the offense that will be lost with the Parise and Vanek injuries, Dubnyk will likely need to post a Sv% in the .930 range. Not impossible, but far from likely.

Why the Wild Lose:
Dallas is a better team. Unlike in Minnesota, their stars actually do star things. Nino and Haula have exceeded all expectations as a duo, but asking them to shut down the likes of Benn and Seguin over an entire series seems like quite a stretch. And even if Benn and Seguin get shut down, there are still the Sharp's, Spezza's and Klingberg's of the world to deal with. Also, with the Parise, Vanek and Haula (for now) injuries, the bottom six of the Wild is essentially a waiver wire scrap heap. The Stars are going to be able to get some very favorable matchups at home.

The Stars depth eats up the likes of Stoll, Carter, Porter, Dalpe, and Jones, leading to the Stars controlling the majority of shot attempts, scoring chances, and goals. Dubnyk plays well, but is unable to achieve hero mode for more than a single game.

Stars in 5.


Why the Wild Win:

Minnesota is going to have to play in the Dallas end all series long. The defensemen of the Stars hate to play in their own zone and and hate having to worry about forecheckers. Creating turnovers at their blue line and keeping the Stars on the defensive will be the way to go. Parise comes back and figuratively carries this team on his back and scores more gigantic goals for this team. Kari Lehtonen??? More like  "Lettin' In" in regards to the puck. The Wild take advantage of the questionable goaltending the Stars possess.

Why the Wild Lose:

The Wild have played too much in its own zone and has to resort to chipping the puck out, dumping the puck in, or icing the puck too much as it struggles to get any offense going out of the zone. Jamie Benn does Jamie Benn things and Dubnyk can't stop enough of the 40 shots he faces a night.

Prediction: Stars in 5. I can't quite give it a sweep, though i think it's closer to that than going 7. Minnesota gets one win in Game 3, but can't sustain the style of game they need to play to win the rest of the way. Too many injuries to too many important players, at the worst time possible.


The Dallas Stars against the Minnesota Wild. The number 1 seed against the number 8 seed. An offensive power house against a dumpster fire. What could go wrong for the Wild, right?

To say the Wild limped into the playoffs would be putting it nicely. They are a team full of holes, and this series is going to be their greatest test if they are to get through the first round of the playoffs.

Why the Wild Win:
Pure luck, is that a good enough analysis? The wounded Wild are going to need to play virtually mistake-free hockey, and even in that vein it would probably take 7 games. Devan Dubnyk is going to need to play out of his mind. The veterans are going to need to lead by example and we're going to need some timely scoring from some unsung heroes. Impossible? Not at all. The Wild certainly could shock the world and eliminate the Stars. It won't be easy, but in the playoffs nothing comes easy.

Why the Wild Lose:
They buy into the fact they are the underdog, and nobody expects much of them this post season. If they come into game 1 with their heads hanging low, resigned to an early exit, that's exactly what will happen. If they play exactly like everyone thinks they're going to play, that's how they'll lose. They have every excuse on the planet to fold. They could do everything at near perfection and still come out of the series as losers.

I don't see a happy outcome for the Wild this time. I know, shocking isn't it? Stars in 5.