Wild goalie picture uncertain for opener vs. Canucks

Wild goalie picture uncertain for opener vs. Canucks

While the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs will be the most unusual postseason in NHL history, they still offer both the Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks a chance to end long droughts when the two clubs begin their Western Conference qualifying round series on Sunday night in Edmonton.

The Wild haven’t won a playoff series since 2015. That was also the last year that Vancouver even reached the postseason, and the Canucks haven’t won a playoff series since defeating the San Jose Sharks in the 2011 Western Conference finals.

Both teams face a unique challenge entering this best-of-five series on neutral ice, after close to five months of inactivity due to the league shutdown. As far as Wild forward Jordan Greenway is concerned, however, situational differences don’t matter when the Stanley Cup is at stake.

“You really never know how many cracks you’re going to get at it,” said Greenway, whose five career playoff games all came during Minnesota’s first-round loss to the Winnipeg Jets in 2018.

“I think you have to make the most out of every playoff opportunity that you get. Obviously the first time I played in the postseason it wasn’t very long, so … I would love to build off that and take what I learned from that first experience.”

Travis Green said that “adaptable [is the] word of the camp so far,” though the Canucks head coach noted the familiarity of the day-to-day routine staying within the so-called bubble environment the NHL has created in Edmonton.

“It doesn’t feel anything different than being on the road, minus being able to walk around the city to go to a restaurant,” Green said. “But that’s really what you’re doing anyway when you’re on a road trip is go to the rink, go eat, go to the hotel. So far, it’s been all right. It’s been good, really.”

The Canucks (36-27-6, 78 points) are the designated home team during the five-game series since they finished a point ahead of Minnesota (35-27-7, 77 points) during the regular season. The Wild were 2-1-0 in three games against Vancouver this season.

Alex Stalock and Devan Dubnyk each played for roughly half of Minnesota’s 3-2 exhibition loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, so there isn’t any hint as to which goaltender will start Game 1.

While Stalock had better numbers during the regular season, Dubnyk is the much more experienced postseason performer. Stalock has one start and an 0-1 record in four career playoff games, while Dubnyk is 8-18-0 with a 2.72 goals against average and .904 save percentage over 26 playoff games (all starts).

The Canucks have less suspense between the pipes, as Jacob Markstrom is expected to make the first playoff start of his ten-year NHL career. Markstrom has fully recovered from knee surgery Feb. 26 that forced him to miss Vancouver’s last eight regular-season games.

Micheal Ferland is also likely to return from an even longer injury absence. Ferland has been sidelined since Dec. 10 due to concussion symptoms, but he was on the ice during the Canucks’ 4-1 exhibition loss to Winnipeg on Wednesday. Jake Virtanen did not play in the exhibition contest, so Ferland could move into Virtanen’s spot on a forward line.

This is the second postseason meeting between the two franchises. The Wild won a seven-game Western Conference semifinal series against the Canucks in the 2003 playoffs, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit.