Gustavsson Gets Wild Net For Game 1
Since May 13th 2022 when the Blues closed out the Wild in six games, we have waited with anticipation for another crack at the Stanley Cup playoffs. The next chance to see just how far this Wild team has come in it's progression.
We are here, we know where the road begins and that is in Dallas against the Stars who finished in second place in the Central five points ahead of the third place Wild.
Dallas Stars Record 47-21-14 108 pts
Home Record: 22-10-9
Road Record: 25-11-6
PP %: 25% (5th in NHL)
PK%: 83.5% (3rd in NHL)
Minnesota Wild Record 46-25-11 103 pts
Home Record: 25-12-4
Road Record: 21-13-7
PP %: 21.4% (15th in NHL)
PK %: 82% (10th in NHL)
Head to head rocord in 2022-23 Season:
12/4/2022 Wild 6 @ Stars 5 (SO)
12/29/2022 Stars 4 @ Wild 1
2/8/2023 Wild 1 @ Stars 4
2/17/2023 Stars 1 @ Wild 2 (SO)
The tale of the tape would suggest the Stars hold the upper hand in all areas of this matchup. They won two of the four meetings while the Wild's two victories came via the shootout. Dallas has a top five unit in both special teams powerplay 5th and Penalty kill 3rd in the NHL while the Wild are 15th and 10th respectively.
For the Wild they have not seen the Stars since their offense was given a hige boost with the acquisition of Marcus Johansson, which has ignited Matt Boldy once again. There are also the additions of Oscar Sundqvist, Gustav Nyquist, and former Stars defenseman, John Klingberg.
Dallas also made some key deadline deals that brought in Evgenii Dadanov and Max Domi to bolster the attack. Neither player has lit it up offensively but both will be counted on to provide secondary scoring in the post season as well as the intangibles that each can bring to the table as well.
Dallas is well balanced up front with the their top line of Robertson, Hintz, and Pavelski, and their second trio of Marchment, Domi, and Seguin. Benn, Johnston, and Dadanov form the third line and the fourth line is equally tough with Faksa, Glendenning, and Dellandrea.
The Wild will have their hands full as they have shown at times that the faceoff circle can be a shortcoming. That could be magnified against the Stars with their depth down the middle and experience.
The Stars blueline is led by Miro Heiskanen and former Wild stalwart, Ryan Suter. Esa Lindell and Jani Hakanpaa form the second pair and Thomas Harley and Colin Miller are the Stars thrid pair of defenders.
Once the Wild, get through those guys, Lakeville's own, Jake Oettinger is between the pipes to stop everything that comes his way.
For the Wild they are a much improved squad who may have faltered a bit down the stretch dealing with a slew of injuries. They had their chances to move up and grab the Central Division crown but in the end came up short. Was it a case of learning from last season where they pushed hard to very end to get home ice, only to come up short when the playoffs began?
Who knows but either way the Wild are a different team this season and everything up until this point point was about getting here. The fact is that no matter who they would be playing in the playoffs, it is going to be a tough opponent and the goal is still the same, win four games and move on.
Joel Eriksson Ek skated today and Dean Evason was not going to say if he was going to play or not, but either way the sight of #14 on the ice is a huge positive. JEE is the one player that is really irreplaceable for the Wild as he is coulted on in every facet of their game.
Kirill Kaprizov is back and healthy which changes the dynamic of this Wild team without question. Kaprizov is a top talent in the NHL and he is a 200 foot player who works tirelessly in all three zones. He is ultra skilled for sure and the fact that he also works as hard as he does makes him that much more special.
Filip Gustavsson is getting the start for the Wild in goal ahead of Marc-Andre Fleury and deservedly so. Gustavsson has been the steadier of the two and his numbers this year are simply outstanding. Fleury is a tremendous teammate and is there should the need arise to go to the sure fire Hall of Famer.
It should be a fun series and one that has the makings of a long hard fought battle between these two Central Division rivals.
I have said it before and it rings true every year, winning the first round of the playoffs is the hardest!
It's always Hockey Day in The State of Hockey!