Minnesota Wild (+158) at Dallas Stars (-175, 5 o/u)
The Minnesota Wild (38-33-11, 87 pts) are quietly making their fourth straight postseason appearance. The team will have an uphill climb facing the no. 1-seeded Dallas Stars (50-23-9, 109 pts), but they’ve managed first-round upsets each of the past two years and largely return the same, playoff-tested roster. Game 1 between the Wild and Stars goes tonight at the American Airlines Center in Dallas (9:30 PM Eastern).
The early story of these playoffs is injuries. Major stars like Steven Stamkos and Evgeni Malkin are on the shelf, and the injury bug hasn’t spared Minnesota or Dallas. The Wild will be without leading scorer Zach Parise (upper body), who didn’t even travel with the team to Dallas and will miss at least the first two games of the series.
“It changes lines and the combinations we have and special teams. In every area of the game, it will have an effect,” said Wild center Mikko Koivu to the Associated Press.
As if losing Parise’s team-high 25 goals isn’t bad enough, winger Thomas Vanek (18 goals) and third-line center Erik Haula (14 goals) are both banged up, as well, and will be game-time decisions.
The Stars’ injury woes center around their first-line center, Tyler Seguin (Achilles). Seguin has been practicing with the team again, but has been ruled out for Game 1.
The loss of Seguin (73 points in 72 games) looks huge, on paper, for a Dallas team that relies on its prolific offense. But, in reality, the Stars were able to finish strong without their top center, going 8-2 in their final ten.
There’s no getting around the fact that Dallas is severely lacking in playoff experience. The franchise is making just its second playoff appearance since 2008. (They were dusted by the Ducks in the first round in 2014.) They dominated the regular season head-to-head against the Wild, though, winning four of five. While three of the four wins came in OT, the team’s 21-4 SU record against Minnesota at home is too strong a trend to bet against.
Pick: Dallas Stars (-175).
(Photo Credit: DalStars9 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)