Canucks roundtable: Predicting the best-of-five series vs. the Wild

SAINT PAUL, MN - JANUARY 12: Tyler Myers #57 of the Vancouver Canucks defends Mikko Koivu #9 of the Minnesota Wild during the game at the Xcel Energy Center on January 12, 2020 in Saint Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)
SAINT PAUL, MN - JANUARY 12: Tyler Myers #57 of the Vancouver Canucks defends Mikko Koivu #9 of the Minnesota Wild during the game at the Xcel Energy Center on January 12, 2020 in Saint Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Vancouver Canucks will meet the Minnesota Wild in a best-of-five play-in series. Here’s how we see it playing out.

As it turns out, the Vancouver Canucks will get their shot at the Stanley Cup.

The NHL’s return to play plan will see 24 teams earn an opportunity at championship glory. The four best teams in each conference will get first-round byes, while the other 16 playoff teams compete in a best-of-five qualifying round to determine the remaining playoff bracket.

Right now, the league doesn’t have a firm timeline on a return date. But it’s not too early to predict a Canucks-Wild playoff series.

Staff at The Canuck Way offered their analysis and predictions for the qualifying round. Here’s how we think it’ll play out.

Alex Hoegler

The Wild certainly don’t match up with Vancouver in terms of scoring depth, speed and star power. They’re one of the oldest teams in the NHL, and yet, they’ve remained remarkably competitive during a rebuilding phase.

Minnesota won two of the three regular season meetings, and they’ve won five of the last seven showdowns overall. Vancouver obviously has better forwards and a clear advantage in goal, with Jacob Markstrom playing like a Vezina Trophy candidate.

But the Wild have had Vancouver’s number for a while now, and their stingy defensive unit can provide problems for the likes of Elias Petterson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and J.T. Miller. That’s why I see this series going the distance.

When all is said and done, however, Markstrom, Pettersson and Quinn Hughes will take over the series as the Canucks punch their ticket to the sweet 16.

Prediction: Canucks in five

Bailey Broadbent

I’m fully expecting an exciting series between Vancouver and Minnesota, in what will be the first post-season appearances for Boeser, Hughes, Pettersson and Markstrom.

In analyzing the matchup, the Canucks have the edge when it comes to forward depth. Regardless of what combination of lines head coach Travis Green comes up with, a group that featured five players with 18+ goals will give the Wild a run for their money.

Defence is another story, as an underrated core headlined by Jared Spurgeon and Matt Dumba likely have the slight edge over Vancouver, although Hughes will likely have something to say about that.

Finally, Vancouver takes the edge in goaltending, as Markstrom’s MVP caliber season largely overshadows the dismal season starter Devan Dubnyk had between the pipes for the Wild. While I don’t expect the Canucks to run away in this series, especially considering just a single point separated the two teams in the regular season, Vancouver wins in four games.

Prediction: Canucks in four

Owen Gibbs

It’s easy to look at this qualifying series and regard the Wild as an easy matchup. Vancouver has been considered the heavy favourite by many, and for good reason, as they have several easily identifiable advantages over Minnesota.

For starters, the Wild specialize in highly defensive hockey, with their greatest assets on the back end, such as Spurgeon or Ryan Suter. The Canucks, meanwhile, are an offence-first squad. They will most likely enter this play-in round with a fully healthy roster that can provide three forward lines’ worth of scoring if used properly.

They should be able to keep play in the Minnesota zone long enough to outscore the Wild and prevent their own defence corps from being overwhelmed.

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Furthermore, Vancouver has far and away the better goaltending duo and an excellent power play stacking up against Minnesota’s poor penalty kill (25th in the league at 77.2 percent).

However, the Wild are not a team to be overlooked. It’s worth remembering that the two teams were only one point apart at the pause in play and had similar underlying stats.

Just like Vancouver, Minnesota is a team with a strong power play, while the Canucks penalty kill is mediocre (16th in the NHL at 80.5 percent), albeit not quite as bad as that of the Wild.

Much has been made of the fact that the Wild won the season series as well. I am not as convinced as many that this will be a major factor in whether Vancouver will be able to advance, seeing as they were missing key players in each loss, one of which came in a shootout.

However, a season series is never nothing. Finally, the Wild have one of the biggest X-Factors in this matchup, Kevin Fiala. He had a breakout season in 2019-20, demonstrating that he is perfectly capable of putting the team on his back and carrying them to victory.

That said, I do believe Vancouver will win this play-in series. Their healthy forward group will be enough to overwhelm the powerful Minnesota defence and mediocre goaltending, and they will be able to outscore a Wild team that will be starved for offence outside their top line, but it will not be easy.

Prediction: Canucks in four

Rick Warman

The best-of-five series between the Canucks and the Wild features two teams heading in opposite directions. Vancouver is a team with a young core of top-end stars on an upward trend. Whereas, the Wild are composed of stars in their declining years.

Both rosters will be relatively healthy after the long layoff and eager to resume play. The advantage goes to the Wild as far as playoff experience, but the Canucks star-studded youthful lineup may adapt to the resumption of play more quickly than their counterparts. The goaltending of Markstrom should prove to be the difference in the series.

Prediction: Canucks in four

Joshua Rey

I’m excited to have the Canucks back in the playoffs despite the circumstances. Though Vancouver lost two of the three regular season meetings, I like their chances here.

Minnesota’s core is led by Suter, Zach Parise, Mats Zucarello and Eric Staal, but they aren’t getting any younger. And though they have the experience, I’m not sure if they can handle the speed and skill of the Canucks young core of Pettersson, Boeser, Horvat and Quinn Hughes.

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In goal, the Canucks have the advantage as Markstrom has put up a stellar season and is going up against Dubnyk, who has struggled this season. It won’t be an easy series, and the Canucks will have to watch out for Fiala, who enjoyed a breakout season (23 goals, 54 points).

Prediction: Canucks in four