With the new year passing, a new month and week have begun for the Minnesota Wild. However, before we can discuss the upcoming week, we must talk about the one before and the three games that took place against the Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars, and, finally, the St. Louis Blues, whom they played in the Winter Classic to start 2022 and played again on Dec. 31 to end the calendar year.
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They started the week off strong with a big win over the Jets, hit a bump with a loss against the Stars, but bounced back to end the year with a win over the Blues. Over the past week, the Wild had some unexpected players rise to the occasion and some penalty struggles for others.
Wild’s Hartman Rises
Ryan Hartman didn’t take the top spot on the Wild’s scoring charts, but he was a close second. He’s played in six games since his return on Dec. 18 after being out almost two months with an upper-body injury. He played in all three games this past week and made it clear he was ready with two goals and an assist. His two goals came in their recent win over the Blues on Dec. 31, and both were perfect examples of his on-ice awareness. He knew exactly where to be and capitalized twice.
After being out for so long, it was crucial for Hartman to get some points early on so he could keep his confidence level up, and he did just that. He’s also made himself at home on the second line with Matt Boldy and Frédérick Gaudreau, which at first seemed like an odd combination. Hartman is a very gritty player compared to Boldy and Gaudreau, who lean towards the finesse side, but the same could be said when Hartman was on the top line with Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello, and that line worked very well last season.
While Hartman had a great week, another player stood out as well, and that was defenseman and captain Jared Spurgeon, who was one point ahead of him with two goals and two assists. He was key in both of their wins over the Jets and Blues, with a goal and assist in each game. The Wild will need his recent surge in production to continue as the season progresses.
Wild’s Penalty Issues Remain
The Wild have been in penalty trouble most of this season, and it has cost them. There have been small flashes this season when they’ve played extremely disciplined and stayed out of the box. However, they haven’t found a way to do it consistently, and it’s becoming a bigger problem. This past week they were the second-highest penalized team in the NHL, and for most of the season, they’ve been in that same position.
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They had two misconducts this past week that brought their season total to seven, just two away from their franchise high of nine from the 2012-13 season. Matt Dumba accumulated the most penalty minutes for the week with 12. While that is a high number, 10 of those minutes were handed out in one misconduct for yelling at the referees. He received it in the final minutes of their game against the Stars, and while it only affected him for the last two minutes of the game, it still shows a lack of discipline that shouldn’t happen.
Jake Middleton was the recipient of the other misconduct after an altercation with another player that was handed out in the final seconds of their win over the Blues. Those were the only penalty minutes he received all week, and while both he and Dumba are very physical players, the player that followed them in penalty minutes is slightly less physical.
Surprisingly Boldy rounded out the top three in penalty minutes for the week and spent eight minutes in the box when he could have been on the ice scoring goals. The Wild need their players to clean up their play and stay out of the box as much as possible if they want to keep winning games.
Wild’s Upcoming Week
The Wild will have another three-game week that starts at home before a road game and then home again. They’ll face the Tampa Bay Lightning, then back-to-back games against the Buffalo Sabres and Blues.
They’ll have to watch out for players like Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Tage Thompson, Alex Tuch, Jeff Skinner, Rasmus Dahlin, Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Pavel Buchnevich. While they try to stop those scorers, they’ll have to find a way to score against the likes of Andrei Vasilevskiy, Craig Anderson or Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, and Jordan Binnington. The Wild will have their hands full this week and, hopefully, they can end it on a high note.
Mariah Stark (Holland) is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW. She’s been covering the Wild at THW since October of 2020 and specializes in game takeaways and weekly check-ins. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team to help fans connect on a more personal level and to keep an eye on the latest follow her on Twitter @MariahEStark.