Conventional wisdom would dictate that the Canucks enter the series as favorites since Vancouver had more points. Although it was officially a # 7 seed to # 10 seed clash, the difference between their regular season records was very small.
Vancouver finished just one point higher than Minnesota in the regular season, having both played the same number of games (69), and the Canucks had the best goal differential (+11 against 0). The Wild had a thin edge in their season series, with a shootout victory in Minnesota on February 19 as the difference, although two of the three games were played at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
- January 12: Canucks 4-1 win in Minnesota
- February 6: Canucks defeat 4-2 in Minnesota
- February 19: Canucks 4-3 shootout loss to Vancouver
While betting sites seem to favor the Canucks by a small margin, analysis site MoneyPuck.com does not like their chances at all.
Hockey is almost back. Golden Knights with the best odds to win the Cup followed by the Flyers https://t.co/Xm8baqGqGI pic.twitter.com/x7fppGaYNv
– MoneyPuck.com (@MoneyPuckdotcom) June 5, 2020
MoneyPuck gives the Canucks only a 39.2% chance of beating the Wild, making Vancouver the biggest outsider of their model’s eight qualifying round series. The Canucks’ probability of winning the Stanley Cup is only 0.7%, less than 22 of the other 23 remaining teams (Winnipeg is 0.5%).
Canucks fans can be reassured that MoneyPuck also ranks the Pittsburgh Penguins (40.4%) as a big outsider against the Montreal Canadiens, despite the fact that the Pen finished with 15 more points in the regular season . But the New York Islanders (48.4%) are the only other high-level team chosen to be upset by the Florida Panthers.
MoneyPuck has a complicated formula for producing this probability data (which you can read here), but one thing it does is that it values games played recently more than games earlier in the season.
Maybe that’s why the site lived up to the St Louis Blues’ chances of winning it all last year:
– MoneyPuck.com (@MoneyPuckdotcom) April 9, 2019
The Wild started the 2019-20 season with four consecutive losses and posted a 4-9-0 record in October. Vancouver, on the other hand, quickly came out of the gates with an October 8-3-1 record.
Minnesota had a poor record 27-23-7 when they fired Bruce Boudreau on February 14, and went 8-4 under new head coach Dean Evason before the game was stopped on March 12.
The Wild had the sixth best percentage of points (0.658) in the NHL after February 1, while the Canucks (0.444) were 26th. If you increase the sample to games since January 1, they were closer, although the Wild (0.607%, 8th) was still way ahead of the Canucks (0.555%, 18th).
The Canucks’ biggest perceived benefit is the goal, where Jacob Markstrom is set to face Alex Nal, a career NHL substitute before this season. But Stalock is one of the main reasons for Minnesota’s turnaround, posting a .920 save percentage in 18 games since January 1. Markstrom, at that time, posted a% SV of .915 in 16 games.
It is also interesting to see how the players of both teams have behaved since January 1. JT Miller was a beast for the Canucks, holding a big lead scoring with 36 points in 29 games, while Quinn Hughes scored many points (25) as did Elias Pettersson.
Brock Boeser missed 12 games due to injury and had offensive difficulties (7 points in 17 games), while Tyler Toffoli scored 10 points in 10 games after returning from a trade with the Los Angeles Kings.
Minnesota, meanwhile, was relatively healthy in the last period, and was led by 23-year-old Swiss forward Kevin Fiala. They acquired Alex Galchenyuk in February, in an exchange that sent Jason Zucker.
It remains to be seen how these two teams will compete after more than four months of absence. The Canucks were limping to the finish line when the season was interrupted, but will be close to full health by the time the puck drops, according to the status of Micheal Ferland and Josh Leivo.
Was Minnesota’s solid play in January, February and March a sign that a good team had found its place? Or was it a hot streak, which was cooled by a long layoff?
How will age come into play? Most of the Canucks’ stars are between 20 and 20 years old, while the Wilds are mainly led by players over the age of 30.
These are of course unprecedented times, which adds an extra wrinkle to any prediction.