How Do Opening Round NHL Playoff Qualifying Series Work?
National Hockey League action is on the horizon as the Stanley Cup playoffs begin on August 1, 2020. Several teams were battling for the final playoff positions, when the season was halted on March 12, so the postseason has been expanded from 16 to 24 teams. To accommodate the additional contenders, a qualifying round has been added prior to the quarterfinal series. The top four teams in each conference received automatic entry into the second round.
Two round robin series feature the top four teams in both conferences and they are playing each other to determine the top seeds for the remaining playoff rounds. Colorado, Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Dallas were the top four teams in the Western Conference. The remaining 16 teams are playing eight qualifying series and the winner’s advance as the bottom four seeds in both conferences. Vancouver is the No. 7 seed in the West and Minnesota is the No. 10 seed.
Minnesota vs. Vancouver Qualifying Series Schedule
All games will be played at Rogers Place arena in Edmonton.
Game 1 - Sunday, Aug 2: Minnesota @ Vancouver 10:30 PM ET
Game 2 - Tuesday, Aug 4: Minnesota @ Vancouver 10:45 PM ET
Game 3 - Thursday, Aug 6: Vancouver @ Minnesota Time TBD
Game 4 - Friday, Aug 7: Vancouver @ Minnesota Time TBD *
Game 5 - Sunday, Aug 9: Minnesota @ Vancouver Time TBD *
* If Necessary
Minnesota Wild vs Vancouver Canucks Series Preview
Playing well, with a 7-3-0 record prior to the pause, Minnesota (35-27-7) finished 10th in the West and sixth in the Central Division standings. The Wild posted 77 points and were one point behind Vancouver and Nashville who tied in eighth place in the West. Following a run of six straight playoff appearances, Minnesota failed to qualify last season. The Wild won just four games and were eliminated in the first round during their last three playoff series.
Vancouver (36-27-6) was slumping prior to the pause as they closed the regular season on a 6-9-2 slide. The Canucks finished tied for eighth in the Western Conference, with 78 points, and fourth in the Pacific Division. They earned the No. 7 seed in the West with a .565 win percentage which was slightly better than the .564 mark Calgary posted. Vancouver is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2015 when they lost in the opening round to Calgary.
Minnesota and Vancouver met three times during the regular season and the Wild posted a 2-1 series win. Bo Horvat scored twice and Vancouver won the first meeting 4-1 on the road in January. Minnesota jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead and won the second game 4-2 on February 6 at home. Mats Zuccarello had two assists, Alex Galchenyuk scored the shootout winner, and Minnesota won the third meeting 4-3 on February 19 in Vancouver.
The Canucks and Wild posted similar statistics during the regular season. Vancouver averaged 3.30 goals per game (GPG) on offense and allowed 3.14 GPG on defense. Minnesota averaged 3.19 GPG on both offense and defense. With all games being played in Edmonton, Vancouver loses a regular season edge as the Canucks posted a solid 22-9-4 record at home but were 14-18-2 on the road. Minnesota was slightly better with a 16-16-2 record on the road.
Series Pick: Vancouver Canucks -124
Canucks vs. Wild Game 1 Betting Odds
Early odds, for Game 1 of this qualifying round series, are currently posted at the FanDuel Sportsbook. Not far off the series winning prices, Vancouver is the moneyline and puck line favorite in the first game. The total is listed at 5.5 goals. The Wild have won five of the last seven meetings and five of those contests resulted in six or more total goals. Minnesota is loaded with playoff veterans and that gives the Wild a slight edge over the Canucks.
Acquired in the offseason, from Tampa Bay, J.T. Miller was the Canucks leading scorer with 72 points over 69 games. Elias Patterson (60), Quinn Hughes and Bo Horvat (53), plus Tanner Pearson and Brock Boeser (45) round out the top point producers for Vancouver. Jacob Markstrom (23-16-4) posted a 2.75 GAA over 43 starts during his fifth full season with the Canucks. Markstrom suffered a knee injury late in the year but is expected to start.
Kevin Fiala was traded from Nashville to Minnesota, at the 2018-19 NHL trade deadline, and led the Wild with 54 points over 64 games. Ryan Suter (48), Eric Staal (47) Zach Parise (46) and Mats Zuccarello (37) round out the top five point producers for the Wild. Minnesota hasn’t announced whether Alex Stalock (2.84 GAA 20-11-4) or veteran Devan Dubnyk (3.35 GAA 12-15-2) will be their starter in goal. Bet on Vancouver winning Game 1.
Game 1 Pick: Vancouver Canucks -125
Futures Betting Odds - Qualifying Series Total Games
The strength of both teams, the Canucks offense and the Wild defense, make this a fairly even series. Minnesota is a veteran-laden team and the Wild are deep on defense. Vancouver is a young squad and they played above expectations during the NHL regular season. FanDuel is offering a “Series Total Games” prop and a 3-0 sweep by either team is the underdog. I am going in the opposite direction and betting on this best-of-five series going the distance.
Series Total Pick: 5 Games +150