NHL Playoffs Pick: Can Wild Rise Over Stars As Large Underdogs In Game 1?

Doug Upstone

Thursday, April 14, 2016 12:41 PM UTC

Thursday, Apr. 14, 2016 12:41 PM UTC

Of the eight first round matchups in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Dallas is the second-largest favorite at -265 taking on Minnesota. This is no accident and well deserved for this NHL pick.

The Stars have played like stars for the vast majority of the season, as acquiring 109 points was no easy feat playing in the Central Division, where over the last five weeks, St. Louis and Chicago also took a seat at the head of the division table. Ultimately it was Dallas who took the crown in the their final contest of the season.

Minnesota's journey was just as intense, but on a much bumpier and winding road. In the midst of losing 12 of 13 over 34 days in January and February, the Wild fired their coach, with many believing they were underachieving. That appeared to be prophetic as Minnesota won 15 of their next 22 to essentially place them in playoff position before wrapping it up. However, the Wild have lost five in a row and can only hope to swing back to winning.

The NHL odds at BetDSI have Dallas as -175 money line favorites for this 9:35 EDT start on NBCSN and they are likely to be even higher when the puck first drops.

Must Read: Betting Tips For First Round

Minnesota Has to Come Up With Familiar Large Underdog Strategy
With leading scorer Zach Parise out indefinitely, for NHL picks, taking Minnesota in Game 1 of the series or any game for that matter in the series would test even the greatest optimist. As stated, the Wild cannot be in good frame of mind on current losing streak and facing a team like Dallas with their offense, if Minnesota trails 2-0 in the first period of any contest, it could get ugly, fast.

So what does the Wild do, turn to goalie Devan Dubnyk. The 6'6, 29 year old netminder has a .925 save percentage in 106 games with Minnesota, suggesting he is quite capable. In his case, the old hockey term of "standing on your head" definitely applies to Dubnyk, who will have put together a highlight reel for ESPN not only in the encounter, but three other times for Wild to engineer monumental upset.

Dubnyk is talented if not erratic and with Dallas the worst defensive team in goals allowed in the tournament , if two scorers develop a hot curved stick, a 2-1 victory in this or any tilt is possible.


Dallas Just Has to Play Their Game
For Dallas, what they need to do is more predictable than an episode of NCIS (pick the city). The Stars mission will be make Minnesota feel like they are playing 6-on-4, coming at the Wild like a meteor shower, with a barrage of shots. Even if they do not score at first, the idea of this unrelenting pressure could lead to Minnesota penalty and the league's No.4 power play takes on the No.27 penalty killers.

The mission for the Stars defense is not to give the Wild a morsel of hope and contain their limited offense which averaged 2.6 goals a game, with Parise in the lineup for 70 of them.

Dallas can get careless, as they gave up 15 shorthanded goals, the most in the NHL (league average just over 7) and this would breathe life into the underdog.

What to Expect and Winner
Dallas won four of the five meetings this season, though three of them were quite competitive, going into OT. If Lindy Ruff's team is serious and establishes the way they want to play, this conflict and the next should see multiple goals' wins for the Stars in the Western Conference.

If Dallas starts the series that the outcome is a foregone conclusion and gives Minnesota hope, this contest and others could be more engaging than first thought.

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Free NHL Pick: Dallas Stars -176
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker

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