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What we learned from the Minnesota Wild’s lone exhibition tilt

The next game Minnesota plays will be against Vancouver in their best-of-five series.

Colorado Avalanche v Minnesota Wild
 Valeri Nichushkin #13 and Nazem Kadri #91 of the Colorado Avalanche go up against Marcus Foligno #17 of the Minnesota Wild during the second period in an exhibition game prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on July 29, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

The Minnesota Wild began their summer hockey tour with a 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

Of course, the result was meaningless, but here are some takeaways for the Canucks following the Wild’s lone tune-up game.

A look at their potential line-up

Wild head coach Dean Evason didn’t tinker with his lines too much, and the Wild only dressed 18 skaters (as opposed to 20 skaters permitted for this game).

Here’s what his line-up looked like today.

Forwards

1) Jordan GreenwayEric StaalKevin Fiala

2) Mats ZuccarelloAlex GalchenyukMarcus Foligno

3) Zach PariseJoel Eriksson EkLuke Kunin,

4) Ryan DonatoMikko KoivuRyan Hartman

Defence

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon

Matt DumbaJonas Brodin

Brad HuntCarson Soucy

The third line of Parise, Eriksson Ek and Kunin primarily matched-up against the MacKinnon line throughout the game. That’s a predictable match-up that Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller and Tyler Toffoli should be ready for.

Stalock endures shaky start

It was not the start that Alex Stalock envisioned coming into this game.

He let in a goal less than 90 seconds into the game, after a juicy rebound off of his pad went right onto the stick of Joonas Donski.

On the second goal, there wasn’t much he could do as Nathan MacKinnon came streaking off the rush after a sloppy defensive play by Matt Dumba.

He also let in a third goal during a five-on-three power play to Gabriel Landeskog before being replaced by Devan Dubnyk midway through the game.

Dubnyk didn’t allow any goals, although he wasn’t really tested as the Avalanche floated towards the end of the game.

Most expect Stalock to be the starter for Game One against the Canucks. If I’m Vancouver, I’m peppering Stalock, who struggled with rebounds throughout his performance.

Dumba could be the Wild’s X-factor

Although Dumba got caught flat-footed on the MacKinnon goal, he showed why he should be considered a threat on the power play.

Dumba was on pace for a ridiculous 30 goals in 2018-19 before he was sidelined for the season with a torn pectoral. While his offence didn’t return this year, he showed why he’s dangerous with a rocket shot that beat Phillip Grubauer for the Wild’s first goal of the game.

While his defensive game can be exposed, he’s arguably one of the Wild’s most dangerous offensive players.

Canucks need to exploit the Wild’s third pair

The Avs only true even-strength goal, their first, was scored while Brad Hunt and Carson Soucy were on the ice.

Aside from Stalock’s rebound, the goal was preventable if Hunt and Soucy properly tied up the Avs skaters.

This appears to be a weakness for the Wild, and Travis Green should look to exploit this during the play-in.

Strong board play could be problematic for the Canucks

There were a few moments throughout the game where the Wild hemmed the Avs in their own zone with strong play on the boards.

Particularly with the Wild’s first line, it appeared as if Staal and Greenway would go and dig out the puck, and then try to set up Fiala for a scoring chance. They did that in the first period, where Fiala rang a shot off of the post.

Here’s another example of what I’m talking about, this time it was Spurgeon with the scoring chance.

Again, this grinding along the boards was an issue for the Canucks defence this season, and it’s easy to picture them getting into this situation during the play-in.

Fiala still has jump

As mentioned before, Fiala looked like the Wild’s best offensive player once again today, even if he didn’t score.

Both Staal and Fiala led the Wild forwards by being on the ice for nine scoring chances each in the contest.

They’ll need these two guys to provide offence if they want to keep up with the Canucks offence. For the Canucks, if they can find a way to shut down these two guys, there’s a good chance they win this series.