Canucks vs. Wild qualifying round preview: Q&A with Minnesota editor

VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 29: Elias Pettersson #40 of the Vancouver Canucks scores on Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Minnesota Wild during their NHL game at Rogers Arena October 29, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver won 5-2. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 29: Elias Pettersson #40 of the Vancouver Canucks scores on Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Minnesota Wild during their NHL game at Rogers Arena October 29, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver won 5-2. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Vancouver Canucks will meet the Minnesota Wild in the qualifying round. Here’s what a Wild editor has to say about the series.

We don’t know when, but eventually, the Vancouver Canucks will square off against the Minnesota Wild in a best-of-five for the right to enter the final 16.

The NHL’s return to play format will give 24 teams a shot at the Stanley Cup. The top four in each conference get a bye: The Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals in the East and the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche in the West.

So if Vancouver does get past Minnesota, they’ll then have to prepare for a showdown with one of the elite squads in the West. That’s all for another day, however. The Wild are the first priority.

While fans in Vancouver and the State of Hockey prepare for the highly anticipated showdown, Lake Martin from Gone Puck Wild was kind enough to offer some insight and analysis on the Wild’s end.

Here’s what he had to say:

The Canucks and Wild once had a bitter rivalry in the Northwest Division. Do the Wild and their fans still view the Canucks as a rival?

Lake: It’s tough to say if the Wild fans view the Canucks as a rival still. Time heals plenty of wounds and most of the Wild’s intense rivalries were born through the new divisions: Chicago, Colorado, Winnipeg. Still, I think Wild fans may rekindle the view of the rivalry because of the intensity of games this season and the words of Todd Bertuzzi telling fans they were wasting their time buying tickets to Game 6 still live in our minds.

The Wild have sold off several productive veterans dating back to last year, and they’re still pesky and competitive. What have been the keys to this?

Lake: The Wild have gone through a sneaky rebuild in the past two seasons. After a lack of success throughout most of the 2010s with players like Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, and Mikael Granlund, Paul Fenton decided it was time to restructure the core of this team with younger players. While Kevin Fiala struggled early, with age he’s turned into a consistent threat. Pairing him with Zach Parise has been great for both players involved.

In general, the Wild are getting the production they needed from their youth to be competitive. The Wild lack a player who can take over the scoring for an entire season (like Marian Gaborik did for years) but they score as a committee. The Defensive group is one of the best in the league and if the goaltending could even be league average, the Wild would likely have been fighting for a divisional playoff spot (in a normal season) rather than fighting for a wild card bid.

Which three Wild players will make the biggest impacts in a best-of-five?

Lake: The three players that will have the biggest impact in the best of five, we’ll go with one person from each positioning group. For forwards, it’s Fiala. He’s evolved into the game breaker that Fenton stated he could be, he has elite skating ability, unbelievable hands, a lethal shot, and has become more responsible in his own end. Playing on a line with Parise has been invaluable. Parise’s known for his grittiness on the ice and I believe that it has worn off on Fiala.

It’s incredibly difficult to nail down one defenseman that will have the biggest impact. Jared Spurgeon is consistently one of the best defensemen on the ice in a game and he rarely gets talked about. Jonas Brodin is in similar strata as Spurgeon. He’s just consistently solid on the ice, has phenomenal skating and positioning, and is rarely in the wrong place. He’s like a young Ryan Suter.

Of course, there’s also Matt Dumba. A rather disappointing season for Dumba, but with the time off, maybe teams forget exactly how lethal he can be on the ice. So in this roundabout way where I’ve listed three players, we’ll only count Spurgeon.

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Finally, in general for biggest impact, the performance of whatever goalie they put in net is going to be important. Devan Dubnyk has had an awful season, but between him and Alex Stalock, he’s had more playoff experience. Stalock was on an absolute heater during the last 20 games of the regular season, but will that have stuck during this pause? Difficult to say.

The Wild could also promote Kaapo Kahkonen, who was labeled the best goaltender in the AHL recently. Will they be comfortable putting a rookie in net for the playoffs? Who knows. I expect Stalock to get the net. If he plays like he did in the last 20 starts he had in the regular season, he could be a nightmare for the Canucks.

Which Canuck player do you think the Wild need to account for the most?

Lake: The player who is the most concerning for the Minnesota Wild is between Elias Petterson, Brock Boeser  or Jacob Markstrom. Both Petterson and Boeser are incredibly talented players who can score.

Personally, I’m more intimidated by Boeser than Petterson, as Boeser seems to always have a good game against the Wild and we’ve yet to see either play in the playoffs where the game is much more physical and lawless.

Markstrom also slots in here because he’ll likely be 10 percent healthy for the series and has the ability to steal games for the Canucks. Combo that with most of these players will not have played organized hockey in three to five months, shots could easily be soft muffins.

What’s your series prediction?

Lake: I’m not just making the homer pick, I think the Wild will win in 5. This is a tough draw for the Canucks. They likely deserved a matchup that gave them more of an advantage, they were only one point back on the Flames who had played one extra game. Sort of weird that the Stars get a bye from the play in and not the Oilers (who had two more points in two more games than the Stars, but now there are three Central Division teams getting byes and only one in the Pacific) which led to the Canucks getting a tougher matchup.

I believe there is some value to having players that have “been there” and have playoff experiences like Parise, Spurgeon and Eric Staal. The classic story of “penalties do not exist in the playoffs” could easily hurt the Canucks. And ultimately, I believe the Minnesota Wild are a team more prepared and built for the physicality and grind of the playoffs.

Players like Marcus Foligno, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin, and Ryan Hartman will be physically demanding and taxing for the Canucks players. If the Canucks can expose the Wild goaltending, they’ll make this series very difficult to win.


Thank you very much, Lake, for taking the time to answer our questions as we await the showdown between the Wild and Canucks.

For what it’s worth, staff members at The Canuck Way unanimously picked Vancouver to win the series.

Next. 3 veterans the Canucks will rely on the playoffs. dark

The best-of-five qualifying round will mark just the second postseason meeting between Vancouver and Minnesota. They first met in the second round of the 2003 playoffs, where the Wild upset the Canucks in seven games.