The Minnesota Wild are set to take on the Vancouver Canucks in the Qualifying Round. Game 1 is schedule for a 9:30 PM CT puck drop in the Edmonton hub site. At Zone Coverage, we will have all the angles broken down through the Qualifying Round and more if the Wild were to continue on this postseason run.
We gathered all of the hockey writers at Zone Coverage to offer their series predictions. They wrote their reason for why the Wild will win the series and a counterpoint for why the Wild will lose. Finally each author gave their prediction for how the series plays out.
Here is Zone Coverage’s Wild vs. Canucks Qualifying Round Series predictions:
Why the Wild win:
Plain and simple, the Wild win because they get better goaltending in this series. The Wild are a good team at 5-on-5 with great defense, yet their achilles heel this past season has been goaltending, which is in the bottom third of the league. The Wild win because they have the right goaltender in net and exploit the depth issues on Vancouver’s roster.
Why the Wild lose:
Goaltending fails them. The polar opposite of why they win. Poor goaltending returns and the Wild can win track meets with the Canucks. The power play can’t bail out the poor performance in net, and it leads to a quick exit for the Wild and they now get a long layoff until the start of the 2020-21 season.
Minnesota in 5. They have a slow start to the series but they figure it out and turn it around after falling behind 2-1 in the series.
Why the Wild will win:
According to a poll by The Athletic, 73% of Wild fans don’t want Minnesota to win, hoping instead for a one-in-eight chance at Alexis Lafreniere. They’ll win because Wild fans will never, ever get what they want. That’s not to say I don’t have hockey reasons for my prediction — Minnesota is a better team than you think, and their defense remains as solid as ever. With four months off, players like Eric Staal, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise don’t have the usual collection of bumps and bruises. And of course, there’s Fiala’s propensity for taking over games.
Why the Wild will lose:
Goaltending, goaltending, goaltending. Alex Stalock picked things up at the end of the season, but he faced 78.3 goals in 38 games this year, and gave up 97. That’s about a half goal per game you can spot Vancouver, right there. And Dubnyk was radioactive, giving up a whopping 93 goals on 62.7 expected goals against. Their best shot in net might be Kaapo Kahkonen, the AHL Goalie of the Year. But will Dean Evason be willing to upset the apple cart in a veteran locker room on his first days as the full-time head coach? Hard to imagine, but it’s hard to imagine Minnesota’s veteran goalies outshining Jacob Markstrom.
Vancouver in 4. Minnesota plays competitive games, but even if the Wild defense limits chances, Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser and company can make the most of them. Especially against Minnesota’s goalies.
Why Minnesota wins:
The Wild’s path to victory is solely on the defensive end. While the only real breakout-type player is Kevin Fiala at this juncture, Minnesota’s deep defensive corps will need to keep some of the dynamic Vancouver players at bay with shutting down the middle of the ice. The Wild will need to get goals where the offense can on Vancouver’s inexperienced defense and shut down the top scorers the Canucks have to offer. If Minnesota wins, the games should prove to be lower scoring overall.
Why Vancouver wins:
Vancouver’s electric young forwards prove too much for Minnesota’s older roster. Boeser and Pettersson can lead the way to overpower the Wild’s defense and get past the team’s overall porous goaltending, where both of Minnesota’s NHL goaltenders ranked near the bottom of the league in goals against and save percentage this past season. In addition, if the Wild are undisciplined early in this return with regard to penalties, the Canucks will prove a tough opponent on the special teams. While Minnesota ranked 25th in the NHL on the penalty kill this past season, Vancouver was fourth best, scoring nearly 25% of the time.
Vancouver in 4. This will definitely go to either four or five games. Vancouver is favored as the No. 7 seed, but the teams are closely matched, even if their strengths are on different areas of the ice.
Why the Wild Win:
Minnesota’s structure might be the most boring answer ever. However, that does not mean it is not effective. The Wild were the second-best team in the league in expected goals against. They simply shut offenses down. If the Wild are going to win this series, it’ll be because they don’t allow the high-octane offense of the Canucks to do what they want to do in the offensive zone. The structure is key to that and boring as it is, they’ll need to rely on it to keep moving on.
Why the Wild Lose:
It’s great that Minnesota has found a guy that can be a game-breaker in Fiala. It’s okay for him to be selfish, it’s okay for his linemates to look to set him up. What’s not okay is for the rest of the team to be passengers when Fiala is on the ice. If the Wild can’t find scoring and scoring threats to be more than just a Kevin Fiala, there’s no way the Wild can keep pace with the Canucks’ scoring in the series.
Vancouver in 4. This was billed as an even series, and I believe this will play out just like that. However, the goaltending for the Wild is too volatile and it’ll falter when it needs it the most.