3 Things Wild Need to Fix Before Game 2 Against Stars

The Minnesota Wild came out victorious in Game 1 of their Round 1 matchup against the Dallas Stars on Monday, April 17. It was a fast-paced, physical battle that took a lot out of both teams. The Wild got the jump with the Stars answering back before the Wild had the final say. While they came out with the win, there are some things they need to improve on before they meet for Game 2.

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They did great at starting the game with energy and quick feet that caught the Stars off guard plus they were taking shots instead of wasting chances. What they need to watch out for is taking irresponsible penalties, improving faceoffs, and focusing on the Stars’ goaltender Jake Oettinger.

Wild’s Irresponsible Penalties

The Wild were in command following their first goal by Kirill Kaprizov in the first period until they hit penalty trouble at the beginning of the second. First, Ryan Hartman took an unnecessary boarding penalty that let the Stars show how powerful their powerplay is as they scored just three seconds into it to tie the game at one. That was just the start as Marcus Foligno took a slashing penalty shortly after, and once again the Stars scored just six seconds into the power play, this time to take the lead.

Ryan Hartman Minnesota Wild
Ryan Hartman of the Minnesota Wild scores a goal past Jake Oettinger of the Dallas Stars in the second overtime period in Game 1 of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Photo by Sam Hodde/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Wild can’t afford to take penalties unless it’s absolutely unavoidable. The Stars have a strong power play and there’s no reason to give them a chance to use it. Each game is going to get more physical and the Wild have to keep their composure specifically Hartman and Foligno, both of whom like to yell when they get penalized. If they do take penalties, they need to go straight to the box without argument and not risk adding more minutes to their penalty.

If the Wild take a penalty they have to step up their penalty kill. Luckily for them, in the second half of Game 1, they were able to kill off some big chances while a man down. Hopefully, in Game 2 they will stay out of the penalty box or go 100 percent on the penalty kill.

Wild’s Faceoffs Need Help

Apart from the penalty kill the Stars also exploited the Wild’s faceoffs. The Stars won 57 percent of their faceoffs while the Wild won 44 percent. Normally that percentage would be fairly decent but in the postseason it has to be better, especially in the defensive zone. They can’t allow the Stars to win offensive zone faceoffs as they are too quick on the setup and the Wild’s goaltender isn’t able to get set in time to block the shot.

Related: Wild Have to Work Harder Without Eriksson Ek

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It would also greatly help the Wild’s own offensive zone chances if they can win more faceoffs and create more shooting opportunities. Faceoffs are key to scoring goals and can change the course of a game, which means the Wild have to be better if they want to win these games. However, a big boost would come in the form of Joel Eriksson Ek, if he’s ready to start playing yet. His presence would make all the difference and could be the key piece the Wild need to get that boost.

Wild Need to Figure Out Oettinger

Watching Game 1, Oettinger is similar to the Wild’s goaltenders in the fact that he likes to come out of the net and play the puck. He may not create big risks but the Wild’s offense needs to keep an eye on him and exploit that part of his game. Players like Matt Boldy, Brandon Duhaime, and Sam Steel are all good at pressuring in the offensive zone and would be great players to surprise Oettinger.

The Wild did figure out ways past Oettinger who seemed impenetrable during certain parts of the game and that’s key to the Wild’s confidence level. Knowing they can beat him can help their nerves in future games and help them continue to force shots. The final item on this list is shots on goal, which the Wild definitely improved on but will have to continue especially in Game 2.

Jake Oettinger Dallas Stars
Jake Oettinger, Dallas Stars (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

They didn’t focus so much on passing instead of shooting as they did in the regular season which got them in trouble many times before. The only way they’ll score goals is if they keep shooting and forcing plays to happen rather than trying to make the highlight reel play. The Wild are good at playing a gritty game and they need to focus on that to win Game 2.

Wild in Game 2

It looks as though most things will remain the same for Game 2. Since they won, they’ll likely keep Gustavsson in the net and most of the lineup intact. The only question mark is Eriksson Ek, if he’ll play, and who they’ll take out as everyone has played exceptional hockey to this point. However, he’s also an important piece they’ve missed since he was injured.

The Wild have to stop taking irresponsible penalties, start winning more faceoffs and force Oettinger to make mistakes. If they can do those things, they’ll have a very strong chance to take down the Stars in Game 2 and get a big jump on the series.