Round 1, Game 3 Preview: Dallas Stars @ Minnesota Wild

Game 2 was all on Fleury. Right?

Round 1, Game 3 Preview: Dallas Stars @ Minnesota Wild
Credit: Tim Heitman / Dallas Stars

The Minnesota Wild didn't have an answer to the Dallas Stars transition game in game two of their first round playoff series. From the moment that Roope Hintz scored on a short-handed breakaway, the Wild were chasing. Sure, they made it interesting with two goals in 11 seconds, but the Stars never let off the gas.

The buzz, both pre-game and after, was about Marc-Andre Fleury getting the call in net. Fleury didn't have his best game, and it certainly goes against standard hockey wisdom to roll with a goalie rotation in the playoffs. Given the way the teams played, its not clear that having game one hero, Filip Gustavsson, in net would have made much difference.

For all the talk about physical toughness surrounding this series, there was a feeling of mental implosion surrounding the way that the Wild finished the game. When a team doesn't have an answer, players lash out - and the parade of Minnesota skaters headed down the tunnel with 10 minute misconducts had the subtle stench of desperation.

The Wild's best shot for the series remains a quest to pull the Stars into the muck. It could still work - and you can't blame a team (or coach) for trying.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Jason Robertson (21) – Roope Hintz (24) – Tyler Seguin (91)
Mason Marchment (27) - Max Domi (18) – Ty Dellandrea (10)
Jamie Benn (14) – Wyatt Johnston (53) – Evgeni Dadonov (63)
Joel Kiviranta (25) - Radek Faksa (12) - Luke Glendening (11)

Ryan Suter (20) – Miro Heiskanen (4)
Esa Lindell (23) – Jani Hakanpää (2)
Thomas Harley (55) - Colin Miller (6)

Jake Oettinger (29)
Scott Wedgewood (41)

No reason to mess with success. Glendining missed quite a bit of the early portion of the game, but came back to play regular shifts.

Pete DeBoer likes to roll lines, and so matchups in Dallas weren't that pronounced. With the game in Minnesota, Dean Evason gets his first chance to consistently create matchups that he wants - something to watch as the game progresses.

Minnesota Wild Lineup

Kirill Kaprizov (97) - Sam Steel (13) - Mats Zuccarello (36)
Marcus Johansson (90) - Matthew Boldy (12) - Marcus Foligno (17)
Gustav Nyquist (28) - Frederick Gaudreau (89) - Oskar Sundqvist (70)
Brandon Duhaime (21) - Connor Dewar (26) - Ryan Reaves (75)

Jacob Middleton (5) - Jared Spurgeon (46)
Jonas Brodin (25) - Matt Dumba (24)
Jon Merrill (4) - Brock Faber (7)

Filip Gustavsson (32)
Marc-Andre Fleury (29)

Given the hubbub, there would probably be a riot in St. Paul if Gustavsson doesn't get the nod in the crease.

Outside of that, the Wild defense seems settled, with Faber holding his own after just four NHL games. Minnesota has two game changers up front who could alter the talent advantage that the Stars have enjoyed. Ryan Hartman as top line center balances that unit in a way that Steel can't. Also, and probably most important, Joel Eriksson Ek anchors the middle of the lineup when he's in.

The Wild don't have the same scoring depth as the Stars. Missing key players is a part of that, but they also need to find a way to get Kaprizov going without losing their defensive structure.

Oh - and John Klingberg looks like he's going to be making he series debut - on his off side.

Keys to the Game

Easy answers in Goal. Minnesota has been extremely focused on the "what if" scenarios surrounding Gustavsson not being in net for game two. If he's just good, not great - now does the team react? Beyond that, Oettinger was better on the road than at home during the regular season. We haven't seen "Calgary" Jake to date, but he could be lurking.

Speed. After two games, this series doesn't depend on the Minnesota goon factor. It depends on the Stars speed game. If Dallas is skating, they're winning.

Special Teams. Dallas has two top five units - and they've been difference makers. Minnesota may want to clog things up on the ice, but that usually brings whistles - and for two games, that strategy has been like throwing fuel on the fire.

Returning Players. If both Hartman and Eriksson Ek return, the dynamics of the game change. Hartman makes the Wild top line more balanced. Eriksson Ek adds center depth, with potential impact at both ends of the ice. Of course, there's "back" and then there is 100% back.