The Minnesota Wild’s season has been an interesting one for fans, they’ve had struggles and comeback victories including their recent shootout win against the New Jersey Devils. With it being Thanksgiving in the United States, there’s plenty for Wild fans to be thankful for in this young season. There’s a number of choices but the main three have to do with the team’s low number of injuries, Kaprizov’s scoring abilities, and their goaltending situation.
Wild’s Luck with Injuries
With the recent news of Jared Spurgeon’s lower-body injury being week-to-week, it may be hard to find a reason to be thankful on the Wild’s injury front. However, when the season is looked at as a whole, the Wild have been really fortunate. Their main goal scorers have been healthy, injury-free and the players who have been injured this season have been out for a short time.
Jordan Greenway was the most recent player to return from injury quite quickly, he missed only four games with a high ankle sprain. Other players who’ve been injured this season but returned quickly were Alex Goligoski and Dmitry Kulikov. The Wild were lucky with Goligoski’s injury, he was on the top defense pairing, and now with Spurgeon out, they’ll need Goligoski more than ever. Hopefully, the Wild will get some better news in regards to Spurgeon but time will tell.
Kaprizov’s Quiet Scoring
It’s been talked about all season, Kaprizov isn’t scoring goals every game. He may be quiet in regards to goals but he’s been tallying assists all season. Until their game against the New Jersey Devils, Kaprizov was on a three-game point streak, two of those were multi-point games. His linemates are also cashing in on goals thanks to all those assists.
The main Wild player to benefit from Kaprizov has been Mats Zuccarello. He’s been paired with Kaprizov for a majority of the season and he’s reached a new level of intensity. For Zuccarello, being on a line with someone that can match his speed and skill set has helped him tally enough points to earn a second-place spot on the roster tied with Ryan Hartman, at 14 points each. Other than his skill to tally points, Kaprizov has the talent to make everyone else around him better. Zuccarello is one example, Victor Rask, and Frederick Gaudreau are two more examples of players who have scored goals on passes from Kaprizov.
Even though Kaprizov doesn’t lead the team in goals he’s still accumulating points and contributing to wins in other ways. Wild fans should be thankful he’s been able to find other ways to record points besides goals. He’s also increased the physical side of his game, he’s already at 23 hits for this season compared to 29 all of last season. He’s been followed all over the ice by opposing players and has started to defend himself as well as steal the puck back by putting his body in the way. By adding physicality to his resume he continues to develop his all-around game.
Wild’s Goaltending Situation
The Wild’s goaltending situation is somewhat of a contradiction. They’ve had wins because of their goaltenders but their goaltenders’ stats are not something to be proud of. The Wild should be very thankful for Cam Talbot as he has saved a number of their wins with his show-stopping saves. His goals-against average (GAA) isn’t something to be envious of, at 2.87 GAA and his save percentage (SV%) is also something that could use improvement at .909 SV%.
He’s not alone in needing to upgrade his stats, Talbot’s backup Kaapo Kahkonen has played in four games but his stats are fairly low at 3.30 GAA and .870 SV%. It’s obvious both goaltenders need to fix things in their games to help their stats. The thing to be thankful for with these stats is the Wild have been able to win games. Both goalies have a winning record, Talbot’s is 10-5 and Kahkonen’s is 2-1-1. As much as the Wild would like their goalies to have better stats, as long as they keep winning games, things won’t be a problem.
Wild’s Holiday Season
The list for Wild fans to be thankful for could continue but those are the top three. Now that American Thanksgiving has been here, that means the holiday season has begun. Wish lists to Santa and New Year’s Resolutions will be right around the corner. The Wild will have a big month in December as they’ll be taking on some of the top teams in the NHL including the Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes and it’ll be a true test of their team’s skill.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW as well as a cohost on the THW Youtube show Chicks & Sticks which produces a new show every Friday. She’s been covering the Wild at THW for just over eight months and has been on Chicks & Sticks since it started in early May. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team.