Wild’s Kaprizov & Defense Step Up in Win Over Coyotes

The Minnesota Wild once again showed they are capable of playing the high-quality hockey everyone got used to seeing last season when they took on the Arizona Coyotes yesterday afternoon. Some may think it’s not a big deal to beat the Coyotes who’ve been a very up-and-down team this season. However, they’ve taken down some tough teams like the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders recently, so a win was not guaranteed.

The Wild started out strong with a goal nearly halfway through the first period to put the Coyotes back on their heels a bit. They were able to hold the lead through the end of the period and extended it early in the second to 2-0. The Coyotes found a way to respond and make it 2-1, causing the Wild to backtrack slightly until the start of the third.

The Wild got back on track with a goal less than a minute into the final period and that spurred some momentum for them to find the back of the net one more time and push their lead to 4-1. Things seemed to be headed for an easy Wild victory but the Coyotes had other plans. They caught the Wild off guard not once but twice and closed the gap to within one goal with just under two minutes remaining in regulation. Luckily for the Wild, they were able to put a stop to the Coyotes’ final efforts and won the game 4-3.

Wild’s Kaprizov Continues Excellence

The Wild’s Kirill Kaprizov extended his point streak to nine games when he recorded three points in their win over the Coyotes. It was also his third straight multi-point game and the fourth overall during the streak. In his latest endeavor, he got the game going with the first goal for his 13th of the season and as the afternoon went on he added two more assists for his 13th and 14th of the season.

Kirill Kaprizov Minnesota Wild
Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Kaprizov leads the team with 27 points in 21 games played and continued both his own excellent play as well as lifting the play of his linemates. He was double-shifted most of the game because Wild head coach Dean Evason chose to play 11 forwards and seven defensemen. However, thanks to being double-shifted, Kaprizov was able to elevate the play of more of his teammates instead of just his own line as he played on three different lines at different times throughout the game.

Kaprizov’s goal came while sharing the ice with Marcus Foligno and Joel Eriksson Ek but his assists came from being on lines with Sam Steel and Mats Zuccarello, and Matt Boldy and Frédérick Gaudreau. Alongside his three points, he also had five shots on goal, one hit, and 22 minutes of ice time.

Wild Stepped Up in Foligno’s Temporary Absence

The Wild have been the recipients of some odd penalty calls lately, and their game against the Coyotes had another strange occurrence that involved Marcus Foligno. It appeared one of the Coyotes players intentionally started a fight with him but didn’t receive the same penalty treatment and that caused Foligno to lose his temper with the referees. He was given a total of 19 minutes in penalties and missed the rest of the second period as well as part of the third.

Losing Foligno forced the Wild to play with 10 forwards and seven defensemen, and it clearly showed as they struggled to keep the Coyotes off the scoreboard. While it’s understandable the frustration he was feeling, he caused his team to be down for not only four minutes on the ice but an overall total of 19 minutes without a forward when they were already shorthanded. He has to keep his cool in a situation like that and not be the reason his team goes down.

Luckily for Foligno, the Wild scored while he was sitting in the locker room, but so did the Coyotes. Thankfully the Wild kept their lead but it could’ve easily gone the other way. Hopefully, this was a lesson learned and he will be able to keep his cool as the season goes on.

Wild’s Defense Clicked

The Wild’s defense really stepped up against the Coyotes and helped goaltender Marc-André Fleury multiple times throughout the game including when Fleury accidentally gave the puck up, kiddy corner to his own net. Jacob Middleton stepped up in that situation and helped block the puck from getting to Fleury who was out of position.

Middleton wasn’t the only player who stepped up, Jonas Brodin had a great game and seemed right in sync after missing the prior two games due to illness. He hit a major milestone in his return to the lineup as well, as it was the 700th game of his career, and what’s even more astonishing is all 700 of those games have been with the Wild. He was able to celebrate his milestone by tallying an assist, a hit, three blocked shots, and a takeaway.

Jonas Brodin Minnesota Wild
Jonas Brodin, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Luckily for the Wild, their entire lineup was committed to playing an all-around game both offensively and defensively. That made all the difference in their win especially when Foligno missed the majority of the second period. They struggled without him, but stuck to their game plan and came out with the victory.

Wild Face Oilers

The Wild were able to shut down the Coyotes and former Wild forward Nick Bjugstad, but their next game against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, Dec. 1, will be even more challenging. They’ve had a lot of lineup changes recently and that includes their goaltending which is still in the air. It’s unclear if they’ll be able to have Filip Gustavsson backing up Fleury after a slight injury caused him to miss their game against the Coyotes, but he may be back in time.

It’s also unknown when Brandon Duhaime will be back after being injured in their win over the Winnipeg Jets last week. While Duhaime was recently added to the injured reserve (IR), teammate Ryan Hartman remains on the IR and has been since Oct. 30. With these injuries, the Wild will need Kaprizov, Steel, and Boldy to keep up their offensive contributions, especially against the Oilers who are a tough team to beat.

Related: Minnesota Wild Roundtable: Thanksgiving Edition

The Wild’s offense will have to find a way past Oilers goaltender Jack Campbell, but they may be in luck as he’s been struggling a bit lately. In his previous three starts, he’s let in three goals or more and has a record of 1-2, but he is still a strong goaltender and will be a handful. On the other hand, the Wild will have to be at the top of their game to shut down the NHL’s leading scorer Connor McDavid and his teammates Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Zach Hyman.

The Wild have a few extra days off to prepare for Thursday and they’ll need to practice hard to be ready. Luckily they’ll be going into this game after a win, and several of their players are on scoring streaks that will hopefully continue and help produce another victory.