Vancouver Canucks vs. Minnesota Wild: Playoffs Opening Round Free Pick & Predictions

Canucks vs. Wild
Vancouver Canucks vs. Minnesota Wild: Playoffs Opening Round Free Pick & Predictions

The NHL returns to the ice with the Western Conference resuming action in Edmonton. The seventh-seeded Vancouver Canucks are matched against the No. 10 seed Minnesota Wild in the Opening Round. The Canucks gained 78 points in 69 games but lost a seeding tiebreaker on regulation wins. The Wild were on the playoff bubble when the season was paused with 77 points in 69 games. The best-of-five series opens Sunday at 10:30 p.m. EST with a potential Game 5 slated for Aug. 9.

Free Picks & Predictions

These two teams are about as evenly-matched as can be on paper. They finished just a point apart in the standings during the regular season and they basically split the season series. Vancouver won once in regulation, Minnesota won once in regulation, and the third game was a 4-3 win for the Wild in a shootout. Both teams also surprised experts a bit with their success, though for vastly different reasons.

The Canucks are led by youth all around the lineup with six of its top-eight scorers this season 24 years old or younger. That includes 21-year-old Elias Pettersson, who had 66 points in 68 games this year, and 20-year-old defenseman Quinn Hughes, one of the two frontrunners for the Calder Trophy. Jacob Markstrom backstops the team with a solid .918 save percentage and 2.75 goals against average, and this will be the 30-year-old’s postseason debut.

Minnesota’s lineup is a bit more experienced, but it is also far less explosive than Vancouver’s skaters. The Wild’s leading scorer was Kevin Fiala with 54 points, but he was also the only player under-30 in the team’s top-six scorers. The ageless Zach Parise led the team with 25 goals, and Eric Staal had 19 goals and 47 points to help the effort as well. Like so many teams though, Minnesota has a question in goal with Alex Stalock, who had a very good goals against average of 2.67 but an average .910 save percentage this season.

Not surprisingly, Vancouver is tied as the favorites with the longest odds on the board at NHL betting sites in New Jersey. It’s an easy bet to make at -122 odds on the Canucks to win the series, but there are other options as well for backing Vancouver. One option would be to bet on Vancouver to sweep at +625 odds or the safer wager would be to pick the Canucks in four games for a nice price at +400.

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

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