Two teams branded as sleepers, the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars, will face off in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2015-16. That was also the last time the Minnesota Wild advanced to the second round, and it’s been a few years since the Dallas Stars had success in the playoffs. To get a sense of each team's strengths and weaknesses, let's take a closer look at their respective statistics and compare them head-to-head.
Here's a tale of the tape for the upcoming series:
Dallas and Minnesota are both strong defensive teams ranking among the top-10 teams in categories like goals against, expected goals against, and penalty killing. The Stars are the better offensive team, though, and that’s why they will win this series more often than the Wild. DraftKings Sportsbook currently has the Stars listed as a -140 series favorite. The Wild are priced at +120.
Who is the better goaltender: Filip Gustavsson or Jake Oettinger?
Jake Oettinger is a bigger name, and rightfully so. Oettinger wowed us all in the first round of last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. He’s a former first-round draft pick and he’s had another good season. Filip Gustavsson also has pedigree, though, and the former second-round draft pick has shown that by putting up numbers that resemble Oettinger’s and other top goaltenders around the league. Gustavsson ranks among the top-five in goals saved above expected since Jan. 1st, while Oettinger’s numbers have dropped off. Dallas probably has the better goaltender, but with how good Gustavsson has played, that edge might not show itself enough over the course of a best-of-seven series. Marc-Andre Fleury is an option for the Wild, but the Wild can’t afford to give up any edge in the crease.
Can the Wild generate enough offense?
Minnesota is one of the worst offensive teams in the league this season at even strength and their power play has been average year-to-date. However, the Wild had a much better power play earlier in the season, prior to 2023, and the Stars have had arguably the easiest schedule in the NHL for the last three-plus months. There wasn’t much separating these two teams back then, and while the Stars do have more star power (no pun intended), there’s reason to be optimistic about the Wild’s chances. Dallas has two elite goal scorers in Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz, but the Kirill Kaprizov and the Wild might be able to match them if what we’ve seen out of Matthew Boldy recently carries into the playoffs. Boldy scored 14 goals in 19 games to end the season and the 2019 No. 12 pick looks to have arrived just in time. Minnesota ranked 12th in goals per 60 minutes in all situations during March and April, which was a positive change. Unfortunately, the Dallas was still better.
Who will win the series?
There are many ways a best-of-seven series can play out and it’s important to consider the entire range of possibilities when making series predictions. I calculate the probability of each team winning in four, five, six, or seven games and then use those predictions to price series prop markets such as the series winner, series spread, correct score, and total games. Here are my predictions:
Series Probabilities: Dallas Stars
Series Probabilities: Minnesota Wild
This series should be tightly contested, with Dallas winning about 56 percent of the time but opinions are all over the place on this one. My prediction is in line with the odds at DraftKings Sportsbook, but some outlets such as The Athletic has the Stars winning 64 percent of the time. Moneypuck, a hockey prediction website, has the Stars advancing to the second-round 54 percent of the time, though, so it all depends on what model you ask.