2020 NHL Playoffs – Qualifying Round – VAN vs. MIN

Updated: July 29, 2020 at 3:07 pm by Brock Seguin

The Vancouver Canucks were trending towards their first playoff berth since 2015 but now they’ll have to beat the Minnesota Wild to get there.

Vancouver has not won a playoff series since 2011 when they went to the Stanley Cup Finals and the city was nearly burned to the ground. Minnesota was a perennial playoff team until last year but they haven’t won a series since 2015.

The Wild got the best of the Canucks during the regular season, winning the series 2-1.

Schedule

Game 1 – Sunday, August 2nd @ 10:30 PM ET
Game 2 – Tuesday, August 4th @ 10:45 PM ET
Game 3 – Thursday, August 6th @ TBD

if necessary:
Game 4 – Friday, August 7th
Game 5 – Sunday, August 9th


Record

36-27-6 (16th)

35-27-7 (21st)

GF/PG

3.25 (8th)

3.16 (12th)

GA/PG

3.10 (t-19th)

3.14 (t-23rd)

5v5 SV%

.919 (14th)

.915 (20th)

PP%

24.2% (4th)

21.3% (t-10th)

PK%

80.5% (16th)

77.2% (25th)

CF%

48.43 (23rd)

49.60  (17th)

Avg. Age

27.4 (10th Oldest)

28.1 (5th Oldest)

Playoff Experience

480 (20th)

609 (13th)

5v5

Projected Lineups

Pearson – Horvat – Boeser

Miller – Pettersson – Toffoli

Roussel – Gaudette – Ferland

Motte – Beagle – Sutter

Edler-Myers

Hughes – Tanev

Fantenberg – Stecher

Greenway – Staal – Fiala

Parise – Eriksson Ek – Kinin

Foligno – Galchenyuk – Zuccarello

Donato – Koivu – Hartman

Suter – Spurgeon

Brodin – Dumba

Soucy – Hunt

The 5v5 play is likely going to define this series because it is such an interesting matchup. Vancouver was among the top-10 teams in generating offence at even-strength but struggled to defend. On the other hand, Minnesota was the best defensive team at 5v5 but was well below average at creating chances. These teams are polar opposites so it will be intriguing to see which philosophy can prevail.

The other area where these teams are completely different is their lineup construction. Vancouver is very top-heavy with their best six forwards skating on the top-2 lines and generating all of the offence. Whereas the Wild go with a much more balanced, deep approach.

Arguably the most important match-up will be the Bo Horvat line vs. the Eric Staal line. The Staal-Kevin Fiala duo made up for a lot of the Wild’s offence, especially in the second half–when Fiala was tied for 11th in the NHL in goals (since Jan.1). The problem for Vancouver is that Horvat, Tanner Pearson and Brock Boeser have struggled in their limited time together. If the Staal-Fiala duo can get on the board, their other three lines should match-up well with Vancouver.

@J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson and Tyler Toffoli is the Canucks’ best offensive line but they are going to have a tough time against Jonas Brodin and Mathew Dumba all series. That duo ranked third in ExpectedGoalsAgainst (1.90) among pairs who played at least 400 minutes together.

Advantage: Minnesota

Special Teams

Projected PP Units

PP1: Toffoli – Horvat – Pettersson

Miller – Hughes

PP2: Pearson – Gaudette – Ferland

Boeser – Myers 

PP1: Parise – Staal – Fiala

Spurgeon – Suter

PP2: Kunin – Galchenyuk – Zuccarello

Hunt – Dumba

On the surface, it looks like the Canucks have a top-5 power play and Minnesota is just inside the top-10. When you take a deeper dive into the numbers, you find that they were both propped up by very high shooting percentages–16.42 SH% (VAN – 3rd in the NHL) and 15.88% (MIN – 5th).

In actuality, the Canucks were 25th in ExpectedGoalsFor and 22nd in generating ScoringChances with the man advantage. For Minnesota, they were second-last in ExpectedGoalsFor and the worst at generating ScoringChances. It seems like both teams defied the laws of regression over the course of the season but that’s something that could certainly catch up to them in the postseason.

Minnesota has a better chance of maintaining it because the Canucks penalty kill is not very good. Despite ranking in the middle of the pack in actually PK%, they were seventh-worst in ExpectedGoalsAgainst and gave up the third-most ScoringChances against. Minnesota’s underlying numbers on the PK show they’re closer to a top-10 unit but their goaltending struggled.

Advantage: Slight Minnesota

Goaltending

Vancouver might not be nearly as good defensively as Minnesota but Jacob Markstrom is fully capable of covering that up and stealing games. You could call him a late-bloomer, as he enjoyed a career-best year in his age-30 season. He ranked 14th among qualified netminders in SV% (.918) and 11th in Goals Saved Above Average (6.66). The Canucks defensive struggles led to Markstrom having the third-highest ExpectedGoalsAgainst/60 (2.58).

For Minnesota, they aren’t even sure who their Game 1 starter is going to be. Both Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock will see playing time in their scrimmage on Wednesday and that should help their coaching staff make a decision. 2020 was not a kind year for Dubnyk. After posting a SV% of at least .918 in his first three years in Minnesota, he dropped to a .913 last year and plummeted to an .890 this season. His struggles led to Stalock setting career-bests in starts (36) and wins (20).

Based on their regular season statistics, Stalock would be the logical choice but Dubnyk has a lot more playoff experience. Either way, neither goalie is as good as Markstrom.

Advantage: Vancouver

Prediction: Vancouver in 5

It’s great to give up the fewest scoring chances against but if you don’t have a goalie that can stop the few chances you give up… it doesn’t really matter. Even if the Wild can limit the Canucks’ top-6, there is enough talent on those top-2 lines to push a few past Stalock/Dubnyk. I think it will be tightly contested series and Minnesota will give Vancouver everything they can handle but the edge in goal is the key to this best-of-5.



Minnesota Wild, NHL Playoffs, Vancouver Canucks