DeBoer & Evason Beef a Splendid Subplot of Wild vs Stars Series

There is no shortage of storylines to draw upon when talking about the series between the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild. The Stars are up 3-2 and news that Joe Pavelski is planning to travel with the team to Minnesota for Game 6 is big news that could lead to the Wild being ousted from the postseason. That said, one of the more interesting subplots of the series has become the back-and-forth bickering between head coaches.

Pete DeBoer and Dean Evason have been using the media to get after one another, specifically when it comes to the topic of penalties. The exchanges are not only wildly entertaining but the display of gamesmanship being employed is top-notch, many of the statements forcing fans to form their own opinions.

A Background On Their Beef

DeBoer said during a recent media avail that the Stars knew going into the series that Minnesota was a highly-penalized team. Pointing out that they were the sixth-most penalized team in hockey, he hinted that their plan was to exploit that fact and push to draw penalties. He noted, “The goal was to make them pay for it. And we’re doing that.”

Pete DeBoer Dallas Stars
Pete DeBoer, Dallas Stars (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

When Wild coach Dean Evason was asked to respond to DeBoer’s comments, he noted that the Wild watch all of the Stars’ press conferences and that they saw DeBoer’s comments. He noted that the Wild felt the Stars had some big guys go down pretty easy. Insinuating that the Stars were diving to get calls, he noted, “We don’t do that. The Wild do not dive.” He said there are times he would love to go into the dressing room and tell his guys to embellish, but that’s not how his team plays hockey. He cited Kirill Kaprizov as an example, noting that he takes a ton of abuse but doesn’t go down, likely leading to a scenario where the Wild don’t get the calls they probably should.

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DeBoer was asked to respond to Evason suggesting the Stars were diving. He noted, “There’s a hockey term for that. It’s called deflection.” He added, “You know what, hey if I were coaching one of the most penalized teams in the league, I’d probably be doing the same thing. That’s good coaching.”

The Manipulating Officials Debate

This isn’t the first time in this season’s playoffs that the topic of manipulating officials has come up. Sheldon Keefe suggested during the Maple Leafs’ series with the Lightning that a veteran Tampa team was tricking the officials into calls that would even up penalties, specifically talking about Steven Stamkos forcing Auston Matthews to fight. The idea that teams are getting what they want by playing into the habits of the referees has become a concern.

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However, these exchanges between DeBoer and Evason are highly entertaining. This is two bench bosses trying to play the game outside the games and one has to wonder if it’s working. No one wants to give the other an edge and both know that the officials are listening. If Evason can successfully convince the refs that the Stars are diving, it’s a point for him. If DeBoer can convince the officials that one of the most penalized teams in the league is just doing what they do by impeding players, the refs will watch for it.

So Far, The Edge Goes to Dallas

Tracey Myers of writes that the Wild have struggled all series when it comes to special teams. She writes, “The Wild’s penalty kill has allowed nine goals on 22 opportunities against the Stars (59.1 percent,14th among Stanley Cup Playoff teams), and they’ve allowed at least two power-play goals in four of the five games in the series.” In other words, their inability to stay out of the box and kill penalties when they do get called is deciding the series. It makes sense that DeBoer and his Stars team would push all-in on this and try to create a situation where it’s the Wild’s downfall.

That the Wild are missing Joel Eriksson Ek and Mason Shaw, two of their top penalty killers, isn’t helping matters.

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