PREVIEW: Vancouver Canucks vs. Minnesota Wild
Dylan Callaghan-Croley (@DylanCCSports)
July 31, 2020
What They Did in the Regular Season:
Vancouver Canucks: The rebuild in Vancouver is coming to an end and the Canucks are getting ready to contend once again. This season, the Canucks were 36-27-6, finishing above .500 in the regular season for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild were 35-27-7 in the regular season, finishing with 77-points and sixth in the Central Division. The Wild fired head coach Bruce Boudreau late in the regular season and handed the reins over to Dean Evason who was 8-4 in his 12-games as head coach.
Offensive Analysis: EDGE - VANCOUVER CANUCKS
The Canucks were one of the league’s top 10 scoring teams this season averaging 3.25 goals per game while also owning the league’s top power plays scoring on 24.2% of their opportunities. They’ll enter the qualifying round led by J.T Miller who posted 27 goals and 45 assists for 72 points in 69 games this season. Rising franchise player Elias Pettersson finished the regular season with a near point-per-game season, totaling 66-points (27 goals, 39 assists) in 68 games. Overall, their scoring depth goes pretty deep with seven players notching 10+ goals and 17 players with 10+ points. They added some depth prior to the deadline in former Los Angeles Kings forward Tyler Toffoli who played at a point-per-game clip before the shutdown. He’ll add a strong veteran presence who has some much needed playoff experience to the Canucks lineup in this restart.
The Wild’s scoring attack was above average this year compared to the rest of the league, averaging 3.16 goals per game which ranked 12th in the league. Their power play finished 11th in the regular season, succeeding at a 21.3% clip. The Wild are one of the few teams in the league this year that don’t have a dominating scorer, their leading scorer being Kevin Fiala who had 54 points in 64 games. What they do have, however, is a ton of scoring depth. In total, 19 different Wild skaters had 10+ points this year and 16 had 20+ points. They were able to get production from all four lines which is something not all teams can say.
Defensive Analysis: EDGE - EVEN
Defensively, the Canucks were a below average team in the regular season, allowing 3.10 goals per contest, ranking 21st in the league while their penalty kill was about leave average at 82.8%. Their blue line is one that is talented but hasn’t always performed to expectations.The star of the blue line of course is 20-year old Quinn Hughes who in time should develop into one of the league’s top defenseman. Hughes was the Canucks top defenseman this season when it came to Corsi For at Even Strength, coming in at 52.7%. He also posted a blueline high 52.7% Fenwick For at Even Strength. That being said, despite these obvious plus signs for Hughes heading into the qualifying round, he was also among the Canucks lowest players in terms Team On-Ice Save percentage when he was on the ice. When on the ice, opposing teams scored on about 14.5% of their shots.
Beyond Hughes, the Canucks have a talented top two duo of Alexander Edler and Tyler Myers. Neither were perfect in 2019-20 by any stretch but still have the potential to be one of the league’s top defensive pairings and can shut down the best opposing goal scorers when on their game. Overall, the Canucks blue line will need to step up their game from where it was during the season if they hope to make a run into the playoffs. In goal for Vancouver will be Jacob Markstrom who was 23-16-4 in the regular season in 43 games played. He posted a .918 save percentage and a 2.75 goals against average. He’ll be backed up by the formerly highly touted prospect Thatcher Demko who was 13-10-2 this season with a .905 save percentage while allowing 3.06 goals per game.
On paper, the Wild have one of the more talent defensive corps in the league led by the likes of Jonas Bordin, Ryan Suter, Matthew Dumba, Jared Spurgeon, and Carson Soucy. Each of them have the ability to produce on both ends of the ice as well, all producing at least 10+ points this season. You won’t find many teams with defensive pairings as consistent as the Wild’s top two which will make them a tough team to beat in any series. In the net for the Wild will likely be Alex Stalock who was 20-11-4 this season with a .910 save percentage and a 2.67 goals allowed average. Longtime Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk will serve as the backup but struggled this season with a .890 save percentage while allowing 3.35 goals per game.
Special Teams: EDGE - VANCOUVER CANUCKS
The Canucks get the edge when it comes to special teams as they have a top-5 power play in the league and a league average penalty kill. On the other hand, the Wild have a quality power play this year ranking 11th in the league at 21.3% Surprisingly, however, where the Wild have struggled a lot this year is in the penalty kill, killing off just 77.2% of opponents power plays which ranked among the worst in the league during the regular season. With that, we’ll have to give the Canucks the edge on special teams.
In the end, I think the Canucks will be too much for the Wild to handle offensively as Vancouver has a little bit more fire power at the top of their lineup than Minnesota. Additionally, if special teams become a factor in this series, Vancouver’s top of the league power play against a Minnesota penalty kill that struggled for the most part does not spell good news for Minnesota.