The Canucks and the Wild open their Stanley Cup playoffs qualifying round in Edmonton, the NHL Western Conference COVID-19 hub city, on Sunday.
Sunday | Game 1
Minnesota Wild vs. Vancouver Canucks
7:30 p.m., Rogers Place, TV: Sportsnet. Radio: Sportsnet 650 AM
THE BIG MATCHUP
Brodin vs. Pettersson
Jonas Brodin is one of the NHL’s premier shutdown defenders. He’ll draw the matchup against Elias Pettersson, one of the league’s better centres. This battle is a microcosm of the Wild vs. Canucks matchup, which is about one of the league’s best defensive teams taking on one of the league’s better attacking teams. Where this matchup goes, so will the rest of the series, most likely.
FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Breaking the wall
In soccer, a team sitting in the middle of the defensive area, making it hard to get to the net is called parking the bus. The Wild are masters at applying this technique on the ice. No team gave away less to shooters than the Wild did this season. The Canucks pride themselves on being able to generate offence from the slot — the best-chance shots are taken from there after all. The series will surely be settle by which team is able to control Minnesota’s defensive zone.
2. Depth, depth, depth
The Wild aren’t studded with stars, but each line packs a bunch and their top four defence is among the league’s best — though their third pairing is not good, something the Canucks will hope to exploit. This is a team that comes at you in waves. The Canucks can’t say the same. They have some fantastic top-end players — like Pettersson and Quinn Hughes — but their fourth line is a one-trick pony and the third line has been shored up by Micheal Ferland but Adam Gaudette still struggles at times in his own end. And we know how much the Canucks lean on their goaltender in their own end.
3. Boes mode
In this summer’s training camp, Brock Boeser looked as fit and as sharp as he’s ever looked. Playing on the second line with Bo Horvat, he’s going to be leaned on to be the trio’s creative element, even if he’s traditionally been a shoot-first player. On paper it’s an intriguing line, but how well will he mesh with his straight-ahead linemates Horvat and Tanner Pearson?
4. Towers of power
If Alex Edler and Tyler Myers are reunited as a pair — they spent quite a bit of time with Troy Stecher and Oscar Fantenberg this season, respectively — how do they handle the quick Wild forwards? Neither is the best defender against the rush. Their games are built to recover pucks in the defensive zone and launch quick breakouts, creating offence that keeps them from having to play too much defence.
5. Crease crash
Wild head coach Dean Evason said he would tell his goalies on Saturday who would start in goal on Sunday. Most expect it will be Alex Stalock, who has been a steady presence for Minnesota all season. Dubnyk was the No. 1 until a midseason injury knocked him from the lineup and he struggled for form for most of the season as it is.
J.T. Miller — Elias Pettersson — Tyler Toffoli
Tanner Pearson — Bo Horvat — Brock Boeser
Antoine Roussel — Adam Gaudette — Micheal Ferland
Tyler Motte — Jay Beagle — Brandon Sutter
Alex Edler — Tyler Myers
Quinn Hughes — Chris Tanev
Oscar Fantenberg — Troy Stecher
Goalies: Jacob Markstrom, Thatcher Demko
Jordan Greenway — Eric Staal — Kevin Fiala
Zach Parise — Joel Eriksson Ek — Luke Kunin
Marcus Foligno — Alex Galchenyuk — Mats Zuccarello
Ryan Donato — Mikko Koivu Ryan Hartman
Ryan Suter — Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin — Matt Dumba
Carson Soucy — Brad Hunt
Goalies: Alex Stalock, Devan Dubnyk
Canucks: Josh Leivo (fractured knee cap)
Wild: Greg Pateryn (upper body)
Canucks: 24.2% (4th)
Wild: 21.3% (11th)
Canucks: 80.5% (16th)
Wild: 77.2% (25th)