Hockey is back, and the National Hockey League had a terrific opening day on Saturday. Sunday will feature another full slate of games, and there are some excellent matchups on the schedule.
The Vancouver Canucks will “host” the Minnesota Wild in the series opener on Saturday, although this game will be played in Edmonton. This game is a meeting of the 7 and 10 seeds in the Western Conference, and it is a best-of-five series.
Vancouver enters the playoffs as the seven seed, and they racked up 78 points during the regular season. Minnesota compiled 77 points before the pandemic and will be the ten seed in the West.
FanDuel Sportsbook has the Vancouver Canucks at -110 in game one of this series.
Canucks Excel on Special Teams
The Vancouver Canucks were terrific on special teams before the league shut down, and they should be able to pick up where they left off. Special teams play a huge role in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and this could allow the Canucks to go on a deep run.
Vancouver converted on 24.2 percent of their power-play chances and killed off 80.5 percent of their penalties. This efficiency will force the Minnesota Wild to be disciplined when trying to challenge the Canucks.
J.T. Miller was the best offensive player for the Canucks this season, and he will need to carry this offense. Miller leads the team with 27 goals, 45 assists, and 72 points, but he has gotten plenty of help.
Jacob Markstrom has been the best goaltender for the Canucks this season, and he should be in net for the series opener. Markstrom has stopped almost 92 percent of all shots faced, and he also has a pair of shutouts this season.
Wild Need More Offense
The Minnesota Wild were averaging 3.16 goals per game before the league suspended operations, but they gave up 3.14 goals per game. This lack of defense led to the Wild playing in a ton of tight games, and they will be looking for more offense in this series.
Zach Parise leads the Wild with 25 goals this season, but there are several goal scorers on this roster. Ryan Suter leads the team with 40 assists, and Kevin Fiala has racked up a team-high 54 points.
Minnesota was solid on special teams this season, but their numbers aren’t as good as the Canucks. The Wild converted on 21.3 percent of their power-play chances and killed off 77.2 percent of their penalties.
Alex Stalock has emerged as the top goaltender for the Wild this season, but Devin Dubnyk is another reliable option. Stalock has four shutouts so far this season, and he has stopped 91 percent of all shots he has faced.
Canucks Win Series Opener
This best-of-five round should be one of the best qualifying restart series’, and these two teams are very evenly matched. The most significant gap between the two sides is on special teams, and that will likely play a massive role in deciding the outcome of this game.
Vancouver is a tough team to stop when given a man-advantage, and their penalty kill has been terrific this season as well. Minnesota is decent in both areas, but they will have to be extremely disciplined in this game.
Don’t expect a ton of goals scored in this game, and it will likely come down to the wire. In the end, the Canucks are just a slightly better team, and they win the series opener.
Head to FanDuel Sportsbook and bet the Vancouver Canucks -110 over the Minnesota Wild.