The NHL playoffs qualifying round is in full swing, and one Western Conference series is set to play its second game Tuesday night in Edmonton. The Minnesota Wild have a chance to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series, while the Vancouver Canucks aim to tie things up at one game apiece.
Here is a recap of Game 1, a preview for Game 2, as well as a free pick. Currently, Minnesota is favored slightly at -115.
In the first game of the series, dominant defense and goaltending were the reasons for Minnesota’s 3-0 win. Goaltender Alex Stalock earned the shutout, stopping all 28 shots to earn his first career postseason win.
Defensively, the Wild played great defense and stayed out of the box, giving the Canucks just one power-play opportunity the entire game.
Minnesota’s offense was spurred by Jared Spurgeon, as the defenseman scored two goals in the game. Spurgeon’s first goal, as well as Kevin Fiala’s tally in the opening frame, were both on the power play. Spurgeon’s second goal was an empty-netter in the final minute of action.
Keys to Victory
Minnesota will win if: The defense has a repeat performance. The Wild are a veteran team going up against a young core in Vancouver.
Many of those vets reside on defense, including Spurgeon, Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin. Those four all played a big role in limiting the Canucks to just three high-danger scoring chances all game long.
If Minnesota’s defensive core can continue to limit those chances and force shots from the blue line, it won’t take another shutout from Stalock to earn the victory.
Vancouver will win if: They wear the Wild down. Part of the benefit of having lots of young skaters on the ice is the ability to play at a high energy level all the time.
Although that wasn’t the case in Game 1, the Canucks will try to create chances by spending a lot of time in their zone and cycling the puck. This will allow some of their young stars like Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, or Quinn Hughes to be able to make a play with the puck after tiring the defense out.
These players, along with the team leader in points, J.T. Miller, will need to bring their best to avoid a huge deficit in the series.
Expect to see a rematch of the Game 1 netminders. For Minnesota, that would be Stalock, who went 20-11-4 with a 2.67 GAA and .910 save percentage in the regular season. For Vancouver, it would mean Jacob Markstrom, who during the season went 23-16-4 with a 2.75 GAA and .918 save percentage.
This is desperation time for the Canucks. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see head coach Travis Green shake up the lines in an effort to jolt the offense, as well as add a young scorer like Jake Virtanen, who was scratched in Game 1.
Look for Vancouver to attack the net harder than ever and see if they can get lucky this time around against Stalock. I’m picking the Canucks to make the necessary improvements and even up the series.
Pick: Canucks -105