I’m expecting a very exciting and competitive series in the Central Division for this first-round matchup between the #2 seed Dallas Stars and the #3 seed Minnesota Wild, who are quite evenly matched in this series. These teams split their four regular season matchups, each winning on the road and then at home. The Wild won the first game 6-5 in a shootout on December 4th in Dallas, the Stars answered back with a 4-1 win in Minnesota on December 29th, won 4-1 again at home on February 8th, and then the Wild finished the regular season series with a 2-1 win at home on February 17th, once again coming in a shootout.
The Stars had a very good regular season and were a solid, competitive team throughout the entire year, finishing 47-21-14 in the second seed in the Central, just a point behind the Avalanche. They ended the regular season on fire, on a six-game win streak, picking up at least a point in eleven of their last 13 games and only losing one of their last nine games.
Dallas has played well on both ends of the ice this season. They’ve scored an average of 3.41 goals per game, the seventh-most in the NHL, on an average of 31.9 shots per game. They’ve generated the twelfth-most expected goals (3.33 per game) and the eighth-most high-danger shots in the league. Dallas has been very good on the power play, ranking fifth in the NHL, scoring on 25% of their opportunities. Young star Jason Robertson leads them in scoring this year with 109 points, 46 goals, and 63 assists.
The Stars been very good defensively, allowing just the third-fewest goals in the NHL, an average of 2.62 goals per game on an average of 29.9 shots allowed per game. They’ve given up the second-fewest expected goals (2.73 per game) and the second-fewest high-danger shots. The Stars have been fantastic on the penalty kill, the third-best in the NHL at 83.5%. Goaltender Jake Oettinger been good this season with a 37-11-11 record, a 2.37 GAA, a .908 save percentage, and five shutouts.
The Minnesota Wild have also had a fantastic season, finishing the regular season in third place in the Central Division with a 46-25-11 record. They played great hockey late in the season, with an 18-4-6 record in their last 28 games, including their last several games where they sat many of their usual top players in anticipation of the playoffs.
Minnesota’s struggled quite a bit offensively this season but they have improved a ton in the latter part of the season, even in Karill “the thrill” Kaprizov’s absence. On the year averaged 2.91 goals per game, the tenth-fewest in the NHL, on an average of 30.9 shots per game. They’ve generated the eleventh-fewest expected goals (3.08 per game) and the twelfth-fewest high-danger shots in the league. The Wild have scored on 21.4% of their power play chances. They’ll get back their star leading scorer Kirill Kaprizov (75 points, 40 goals), who was out for a good chunk of the end of the regular season. Mats Zuccarello leads them with 45 assists.
For their struggles offensively, the Wild have more than made up for it defensively as one of the best teams in the league on the back end. They’ve allowed just the sixth-fewest goals in the NHL, an average of only 2.62 per game on an average of 31.1 shots allowed per game. They’ve given up the twelfth-fewest expected goals (2.98 per game) and the seventh-fewest high-danger shots. Minnesota has killed off 82% of their penalties, the tenth-best in the NHL. The goaltending tandem of Fleury and Gustavsson has been fantastic this year. Marc-Andre Fleury is projected to start in goal in Game 1 with his playoff experience. Flower’s been very good this season with a 24-14-4 record, a 2.82 GAA, a .910 save percentage, and two shutouts. Filip Gustavsson has been even better statistically, with a 22-9-7 record, a 2.10 GAA, a .931 save percentage, and three shutouts.
I think this ends up being a coin flip of a series, but I’d give a slight edge to the Stars to win it. I already have two small futures on the Wild, half a unit on them to win the Cup and a unit on them to win the Western Conference, with plenty of value to both. Although I don’t think either of these teams actually wins the Cup, I like that value on Minnesota. Not enough to completely let it ride though, so I will hedge on it with 1.5 units on the Stars to win the series. The play I love on this series though is for it to go at least six games and I will take the series to go over 5.5 games for 2.5 units along with half a unit on it to go to seven games.
I would slightly lean the Stars win Game 1 at home but not enough to bet it. The over/under is interesting to me in this series and I’d lean the games in this series trend under, but with both teams trending over late in the series and the under 5.5 juiced up to -120, I’ll stay off it in Game 1 and re-evaluate. I’m staying off Game 1 entirely.
.5u Minnesota Wild – Stanley Cup Champions (+2000)
1u Minnesota Wild – Western Conference Champions (+800)
1.5u Stars to win series (-150)
2.5u Stars/Wild over 5.5 games (-167)
.5u Stars/Wild over 6.5 games (+220)
Game 1 Bets
None, sitting this one out.
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