A Blues loss at the hands of the Capitals has assured Dallas as the Central Division Champions as the Western Conference Playoff picture has come completely into focus. The Wild, being the second wild card team, will begin their playoff journey on the road at American Airlines Center to meet the West's top dog. This is the third straight year in which the Wild will be forced to take on the top team in the Central. The Blues finish in second place and will challenge third-place Chicago. Nashville will know their opponent later tonight as Anaheim won today, and the Kings play the late game. It will have gone down to the very last games of the waning NHL season to determine all of the first round match-ups, keeping fans on the edge of their seat until the very end.
The Wild will meet Minnesota's former franchise for the first time in their playoff history. The Wild played the Stars fairly evenly throughout the season posting a 1-1-3 record, and one of the best things working in the Wild's favor is that there is no 3-on-3 OT periods in the playoffs. Playoff hockey is decided with the whole team on the ice, that that should work in the Wild's favor. The Wild was able to score in bunches against the Stars, but also allowed them to play catch up and get back into multiple games in which the Wild held an early lead. The Wild also struggled on special teams against the Stars and have had better fortune both on the penalty kill and power play since the teams last met. This will also be a key to the series for both teams.
While Dallas is known for having a prolific offense, it has long been stated that the Wild lineup is designed for playoff hockey with its ability to play suffocating defense. Dallas is also notorious for porous defense and inconsistent goaltending. They have several high-profile players in Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, John Klingberg and more. Seguin is currently injured, but set to return during the opening round. The Wild will also be without Thomas Vanek at the start of the series and it is currently unknown when he is expected to return. The Wild has also struggled mightily at American Airlines Center, but have the opportunity to flip the script in their first playoff series in the building.
Both teams feature plenty of speed and scoring through their transition game. The Wild enter the playoffs going 5-5 over their last 10 games while the Stars have gone 8-2. The Wild has shown its ability to run and gun with the Stars, but will have to slow the game down on the back end if they want to be successful. The team's ability to defend will define their ability to find success against the Stars. Stay tuned for continuing coverage as we will have lots content previewing the series in the coming days.