The NHL is back underway and will see another five games up on the board for Sunday. One of these games will be Game 1 of the Qualifying round for the Minnesota Wild and the Vancouver Canucks. These two teams will look to take a pivotal Game 1 as they try and set the pace for this series. The puck will drop in this matchup at around 10:30 PM Eastern time.
Minnesota earned a record of 35-27-7 throughout the season before the pause. This was good enough to earn the Wild the tenth seed in the Western Conference. Minnesota had won three of their last four before the season halted. Now the Wild will look to prove that their push later in the season was no fluke and that they belong in the round of sixteen.
The Canucks put up a record of 36-27-6 in the regular season this season. This helped put Vancouver in seventh place of the West. The Canucks hit a bit of a rough patch before the pause, losing five of their last seven. Now Vancouver will look to get back into contention with a big win over Minnesota on Sunday night.
These two teams had similar records and stories throughout the season. They would find some success, but it would be followed by a losing streak. Both teams will put that behind them as they begin a best of five series to try and earn their way to the round of sixteen. I expect these two young teams to come out quickly on Sunday night.
The first game of the season series between these two teams was on January 12 in Minnesota. Marcus Foligno helped tie the game up with a goal for the Wild, but it was not enough. Bo Horvat scored twice, while J.T. Miller had two assists for the Canucks. Jacob Markstrom stopped 23 of the 24 shots he faced to help give Vancouver a solid 4-1 win.
The second game of the season series stayed in Minnesota on February 6. J.T. Miller and Antoine Roussel both scored for the Canucks, but it was not enough. Kevin Fiala and Brad Hunt both put up a goal and an assist to help the Wild bounce back with a win. Alex Stalock turned away 24 of 26 shots to help give the Wild a 4-2 win at home.
The most recent game of the season series shifted to Vancouver on February 19. It was a tight one as Mats Zuccarello earned two assists for the Wild. Quinn Hughes had two assists, while J.T. Miller found the back of the net twice. The game went past overtime into a shootout. After trading goals back and forth, Alex Galchenyuk ended it for the Wild in the fifth round to give Minnesota the 4-3 win.
These two teams saw plenty of each other in the later stages of the season, which should help lead to an exciting series. J.T. Miller found a lot of success against the Wild and they will try and keep him quiet this time around. Kevin Fiala had two strong outings for Minnesota in both of their wins over the Canucks and will look to keep that going.
The Wild’s power play was solid throughout the season, capitalizing on 46 of their 216 power play chances, which was good for a 21.3 percent power play rate. Minnesota’s penalty kill was not quite as strong though. The Wild allowed opposing teams to score 47 power play goals on 206 opportunities, which is a 77.2 percent kill rate on the season.
Vancouver’s special teams were also really strong this season. The Canucks scored on 57 of their 236 power play attempts, which is a 24.2 percent success rate. Vancouver’s penalty kill was also strong, holding their opponents to 42 goals on 215 chances for an 80.5 percent penalty kill this season.
Both teams had strong power play, but it might be the Wild’s penalty kill that could leave the door open for Vancouver. If the Canucks can connect their power play against Minnesota’s shorthanded squad, it could give them a big advantage in this series. The Wild will have to look for a way to break through on Vancouver’s power play as well to even up the odds.
Minnesota has to decide between Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock for Game 1. Dubnyk earned a save percentage of .890 and a 3.35 GAA throughout 30 appearances this season. Stalock was able to put up a .910 save percentage and a GAA of 2.67 in 38 appearances this season. Dubnyk looked much sharper in the exhibition game, but Stalock had a much better season.
Jacob Markstrom will likely get the nod in the crease for Game 1 of this series. Markstrom earned a record of 23-16-4 throughout his appearances this season. He posted a save percentage of .918 and a GAA of 2.75 throughout those games. Markstrom looked really good backing the Canucks this season and will look to help give them the edge in this series.
Vancouver is in a much better position goalie wise coming into this series. The Canucks have a true number one goalie coming in, while the Wild have to decide between longtime backup Stalock and Dubnyk. I believe that Stalock will get the start in Game 1 of this series, but Minnesota might switch it up with Dubnyk if Stalock struggles at any point.
I really like how the Canucks are coming into this series. They had a slightly better season, but with their edge on special teams and in net, I think they can take Game 1. Minnesota found ways to win two of the regular season matchups, but do not expect Vancouver’s young stars to be quiet in this series. If the Wild leave the door open for the Canucks, Vancouver is going to run them over.
BetOnline has the Canucks listed as a -111 against the money line in this game. This implies that Vancouver will win this game only 52.6 percent of the time. I think that the Canucks should be bigger favorites in Game 1 of this series. Vancouver has some solid advantages coming into this game, which make them have a lot of value in my mind.