Round 1, Game 5 Preview: Minnesota Wild @ Dallas Stars

Down to a best of 3. Does the best goaltender win, or will someone else step up?

Round 1, Game 5 Preview: Minnesota Wild @ Dallas Stars
Credit: Tim Heitman / Dallas Stars

So, it's down to a three game series. A few tight games, and few blowouts - kind of what you'd expect. I'm not sure that too many people were looking for the slog that this series has turned into. Certainly, the hitting was to be expected - but the Minnesota Wild have been successful at shrinking the ice on the Dallas Stars. It's not like we haven't seen this brand of hockey before - more like the regular season whetted our appetites for something else.

Interestingly, the top players for both teams haven't been the ones determining the outcome. Jason Robertson has had difficulty getting his shot off, and Kirill Kaprizov has had difficulty getting his numerous shots into the net. Roope Hintz had his game, but it's been the mid-six guys who have made a difference.

For the Stars, that's Evgenii Dadonov and Tyler Seguin. For the Wild, Gustav Nyqvist and a few others. There has been a sideshow as well, featuring Mason Marchment and Max Domi up against Marcus Foligno and Ryan Reaves - not to mention Pete DeBoer versus Dean Evason.

There are seven other matchups in the first round, but this one is the mutt. Not pretty, but with plenty of bite. Both sides have taken their shots, quite a few of them of the cheap variety. Both teams have scored 13 goals. Minnesota would love a street brawl, but can't afford to unleash a Stars power play that is scoring close to two goals a game. Likewise, the Stars would like to unleash their speed attack, but can't afford to give up odd-man rushes the other way.

Goaltending can make a difference, as Marc-Andre Fleury showed in game two and Jake Oettinger showed in game four. As good as the netminders have been, the post have been even better. Could be, the team that goes post in, not post out will win this thing.

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) - Joel Hanley (44)

Jake Oettinger (29)
Scott Wedgewood (41)

Say what you will about Hanley - he gives you a consistent, playoff tested game. Sucks the offense right out of the barn. If Miller gets the call, he has the cannon from the point that will make the Wild less thrilled with their blocked shots (which has taken the Stars more out of their game than any of the physical "intimidation").

At some point, there is going to be a discussion about Marchment, Domi and the ethereal second scoring line. This series is nearing its end, and if there's going to be a Deus ex Machina to save the day, it needs to get ready to hit its mark.

Joe Pavelski is skating with the team, but coming back from concussion protocol seems ill-advised at this point.

Minnesota Wild Lineup

Kirill Kaprizov (97) - Ryan Hartman (38) - Mats Zuccarello (36)
Marcus Johansson (90) - Sam Steel (13) - Matthew Boldy (12)
Gustav Nyquist (28) - Frederick Gaudreau (89) - Marcus Foligno (17)
Brandon Duhaime (21) - Connor Dewar (26) - Ryan Reaves (75)

Jacob Middleton (5) - Jared Spurgeon (46)
Jonas Brodin (25) - Matt Dumba (24)
John Klingberg (3) - Brock Faber (7)

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

I'm not sure whether Lindell ever set Klingberg up with a better pass in the slot. For all of the haters out there, Klingberg and playoff hockey seems to be a thing. Partner him with the right guy, and he'll have a positive impact.

Likewise, does anybody ever notice how Jonas Brodin quietly and effectively is the heart of this defense?

Joel Eriksson Ek has moved from 19 seconds of play in game three to unexpected to return - perhaps a word of caution about jumping the gun in a return to the lineup.

Keys to the Game

Goaltending. At this point, barring something unexpected, the team that handles the crease will handle the series.

Heiskanen. Robertson/Kaprizov have both been contained. Heiskanen is the one Star who without a corresponding alternative on the Wild. There is a breakout game waiting to happen.

Special Teams/Officiating. So far, Dallas has won special teams, while Minnesota has dominated 5x5. At this point, I'm not sure either team knows where the line is between a penalty and a hockey play - and the team that guesses right could easily win game five.

Shots in tight. Neither team has been able to establish their offense from the crease. If one team can get inside, that could be a differentiator.