Stars vs. Wild Series Preview

Will Kari Lehtonen main the pipes to open the series against the Wild? Photo Courtesy: Dominic Ceraldi
Will Kari Lehtonen man the pipes to open the series against the Wild?
Photo Courtesy: Dominic Ceraldi

By Stephen Elliott

The Dallas Stars finished the regular season atop the Western Conference for the time since 2003. As a result, the West’s best home record will have home-ice through Conference Playoffs.

Their number one seeding means their first round opponent will be the eighth seeded Minnesota Wild. This will be the first playoff meeting against each other since the North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993 and the Wild franchise joined the league.

Don’t think the fans of the great state of hockey have forgotten about that move either. In just six years after the move, the Dallas Stars went to the playoffs three times that included the 1999 Stanley Cup Championship. Do I even need to remind them about Minnesota darling Mike Modano, who proceeded to be recognized as the Stars’ all-time player?

Yes it has been a while coming for revenge to be setup between these franchises. Yet, you can’t help but feel Minnesota’s vengeance will have to wait another year, at least.

Twenty-two points separated these teams. The Wild had a rollercoaster ride in the regular season. Towards the middle of the season, Mike Yeo was fired in his 5th year as the coach. The drama began to unfold, but new coach John Torchetti took the reins and guided the Wild to this season’s playoff appearance. The Wild haven’t been playing playoff hockey. Unlike most teams, the Wild’s playoff fate was decided nearly by default as other contenders, (like the Colorado Avalanche), knocked themselves out relatively early. So the Wild could afford to lose their last five games of the season and not break a sweat about missing the postseason.

The Stars meanwhile were battling for the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl and needed to continue winning. Their biggest blow came when Tyler Seguin received a laceration to his achilles in the middle of March. But the injury to one of their top scorers did not slow down their offense. In the final ten regular season games (all games Seguin missed), the Stars scored three or more goals in winning all eight.

Twenty-two points separated these teams in the regular season and the Stars won four our of five meetings. The Wild ranked last in goals per game among the conference’s playoff teams and their goals against average were not much better. That offensive total gets depleted even more if Zach Parise cannot play.

The Stars have the upper hand in just about every category. Offensively, they still rank top in goals per game and have the league’s fourth best power-play complimented with the 10th best penalty-kill. Yet this team can fall into trouble if they do not score. Their goals against average is the worst among all playoff teams even though their shots against ranks top ten. Head Coach Lindy Ruff has not said who he plans to start at goal, but Kari Lehtonen was the go-to towards the end of the season. If either goalie struggles, Antti Niemi being the other, watch out because it could be their demise.

I’ve already sugar coated this enough to hint at my view on how the series will end up. Nobody really knows how any of these playoff series will happen so do you really need to know what my prediction will be? Fine, here you go, just so you can say I was off by a game or an entire team. Stars win in five (4-1).

Here’s the series schedule, which all will be on Fox SouthWest.

Series Schedule- All Times Central
4/14   vs Minnesota   8:30 pm
4/16   vs Minnesota   7:00 pm
4/18   at Minnesota   7:30 pm
4/20   at Minnesota   8:30 pm
*4/22 vs Minnesota   TBD
*4/24 at Minnesota   TBD
*4/26 vs Minnesota   TBD