The Vancouver Canucks will be in deep against the Minnesota Wild, but scoring depth, goaltending, and the special teams will drive them into the final 16.
Every hockey fan and their dog is happy to hear that the NHL has approved a return-to-action plan that’ll call on the top 24 teams to return and complete the 2020 season and crown a Stanley Cup champion. Plenty of work remains to be done in order to make this plan 100% operational, but the format has been set, and the Vancouver Canucks will be facing off against the Minnesota Wild in a best-of-five play-in series.
It’s bound to be a tightly contested battle throughout the entire series. The Wild are known for their great defensive systems and low scoring games, but the Canucks have burst through as a high-scoring, face-paced club this season. The two styles of play complement each other, and it’s going to make for a wonderful and exciting series to watch. Let’s take a look at what could be the difference-maker for Vancouver.
Jim Benning acquired an elite core, but he also surrounded those players with a good, strong supporting cast. He gathered a vast variety of players with different talents, that when put together, have the ability to out-compete and outscore their opponents.
Gone are the days of a two-line team. Thick from top to bottom, Vancouver has seven players this season who were already at or were pacing for a minimum of 20 goals this season. The Canucks were the only team of all 31 NHL squads who possessed such a high number of goal-scorers.
If the Canucks can stay healthy not only will they take down the Wild, but they have a roster deep enough to survive a deep playoff run. Could this finally be the year? This team has what it takes, and they have multiple players who can get them to where they need to be. The Wild are no match for the Canucks forward depth.
Is there really anything more to say than that? The 30-year-old first-time NHL All-Star had himself one hell of a year. His eight stolen wins rank him mountains above the rest of the NHL’s best goalies. That stat alone proves he can win games on his own. Regardless of the play in front of him, when Markstrom sets his mind on a “W”, he doesn’t quit until he gets it.
The injury to his knee in February has knocked him out of action since, but with the extra time off he’s fully healthy and shouldn’t take long to get back to game shape. His knee shouldn’t be concerning but if it is, Travis Green knows he can always fall back on rookie Thatcher Demko.
The Canucks hold the advantage in goal as long as Markstrom is good to go.
The Canucks relied on a top-five power play to get them to the dance this season, and that isn’t about to change. Vancouver has a plethora of scoring talent, and because of that, they have two effective man-advantage units.
24.1% is good enough to land the fourth-best power play across the continent. Untouchable with the puck, Quinn Hughes wheels and deals from the blueline until he finds an open Elias Pettersson or Brock Boeser. Both loaded with an incredibly accurate and powerful shot (Boeser’s wrist-shot and Pettersson’s one-timer), they’re expected to fire at the net and score. Fail to score and the team’s two best net-front players Bo Horvat and J.T. Miller are there to bury home the rebound.
Sitting outside the top 10 with a 21.3% conversion rate while up a man, the Wild will need all the extra help they can get. The Canucks were awarded a lot of power plays this season and the Wild need to do what they can to stay on the referee’s good side.
The Canucks have a deadly power play that the Wild will need to keep off the ice. If Vancouver gets rolling on the man-advantage they can be very difficult to slow down. Watch out.