Wild vs Canucks - NHL Qualifying Round Preview & Prediction
We continue to inch closer to the restart of the NHL season, which will begin with the postseason. The NHL playoffs will have 24 teams in it with the 16 of those teams playing in eight best-of-five Qualifying round matchups. The Top four teams in each conference will then square off against each other in a round-robin style format to determine the seeding of those four teams. The four teams from the West that win their Qualifying Matchup will face the top four teams in that conference and the same for the East.
Here are my other Previews:
Today, we will discuss the matchup between the Minnesota Wild and the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks are listed at -130 while the Wild come in at +110.
A Look At The Wild
Regular Season Stats & Rankings: Minnesota comes in ranked 12th in scoring at 3.16 gpg, 25th in shots per game at 30.1, and 10th in powerplay conversions at 21.3%. On the defensive end of the ice, they finished at 24th in goals allowed at 3.14 gpg, 11th in shots allowed at 30.7 spg, and 25th in penalty kill at 77.2%.
The Minnesota Wild were 35-34 on the year and they finished in 6th place in the Central Division with 77 points. It was not a great season for them but still, they have done enough to reach the postseason and they will take on a Vancouver team that they were 2-1 against during the regular season. Minnesota did play well right before the break as they won eight of their final 11 games. The offense has been a little above average for much of the year but even better of late as they averaged a solid 4.25 gpg over their final eight games. The Wild scored three or more goals in each of those eight games and they could have some similar success in this series against a Vancouver team that was not great in the crease this year. Eight players scored 11 or more goals for the Wild this year, led by Zach Parise, who had 25, while Kevin Fiala was 2nd with 23 and 3rd was Eric Staal with 19. Leading the team in points was Fiala with 54 while 2nd was Ryan Suter with 48 and 3rd was Staal with 47.
Minnesota’s problems this year came at the other end of the ice where they were 24th in the league in goals allowed. They allowed 11 goals in their final two games but also allowed just 22 goals in their previous nine games. Alex Stalock has not been the problem as he has gone 20-15 with a 2.67 GAA on the year, but he did struggle away from home, going 8-9 with a 3.13 GAA. In his career, he has gone 1-1 with a 2.00 GAA against the Canucks and 1-1 with a 1.82 GAA in four career postseason games. Devan Dubnyk did not have a great year, going 12-17 with a 3.35 GAA overall, including 6-8 with a 3.58 GAA on the road. In his career, he has gone 14-15 with a 2.54 GAA against the Canucks and 8-18 with a 2.72 GAA in 26 playoff games. I would expect Stalock to get the bulk of the playing time in this series.
A Look At The Canucks
Regular Season Stats & Rankings: Vancouver comes in ranked 8th in scoring at 3.25 gpg, 18th in shots per game at 31.2, and 4th in powerplay conversions at 23.7%. On the defensive end of the ice, they finished at 21st in goals allowed at 3.10 gpg, 28th in shots allowed at 33.3 spg, and 16th in penalty kill at 80.5%.
The Vancouver Canucks will break a four-year absence from the playoffs this year. They went 36-33 on the year and finished in 4th place in the Pacific Division with 78 points. That is just one more point than the Wild had this year. Vancouver did finish in 7th place in the Western Conference overall but had the season not halted, there is a good chance they could have missed out on the postseason. The Canucks did not play well down the stretch as they won just six of their final 17 games. The offense was feast or famine down the stretch as Vancouver averaged a solid 5.33 gpg in their final six wins, compared to hanging up just 1.91 gpg over their final 11 losses. They will need the good offense to show up in this series. Vancouver has five players on their team with at least 21 goals, so they have some scorers. Leading the team has been led by JT Miller and Elias Pettersson, who both have 27 goals while 2nd is Bo Horvat with 21. Tyler Toffoli has 24 on the year but just 6 with the Canucks. He started the year with the Kings. Leading the team in points was Miller with 72 while Pettersson had 66.
Vancouver was not great on the other end of the ice, especially down the stretch as they allowed 3.63 gpg over their final 11 games. That is not good and they will be facing a decent offensive team in this series. Jacob Markstrom is the top guy in the crease after going 23-20 with a 2.75 GAA in 43 games played, including 10-11 with a 3.04 GAA on the road. In his career, he has gone 1-2 with a 2.63 GAA against the Wild. He has no playoff experience. Thatcher Demko will back up Markstrom and he has gone 13-12 with a 3.06 GAA on the year, including 4-8 with a 3.30 GAA in games away from home. Demko has no playoff experience and he has never faced the Wild. Will no playoff experience in the crease help or hurt the Canucks? We shall see.
Prediction: The Canucks have no experience in the crease, but let’s take a look at Minnesota goalies for a moment. Alex Stalock has just four games of playoff experience while Devan Dubnyk is 8-18 in his career in the postseason. It’s kind of a wash between the goalies. Markstrom vs Stalock should be a good battle to watch. The Canucks have the edge on offense and they have the edge on special teams as you can see by the numbers above. Vancouver did not play all that well down the stretch but I feel that the break will help them. They have more scorers and will get some revenge from having lost two of three to the Wild during the regular season. Expect the Canucks to win this series in five games.
Odds take From Betonline.ag
Stats Garnered From Hockey-Reference