The Minnesota Wild have been playing some very strong hockey lately and Tuesday night, Feb. 28, against the New York Islanders was no different. It was a close, back-and-forth game that remained tied through most of the night after a very busy first period. Normally, I watch all the Wild games on television but I was lucky enough to watch Tuesday’s game in person and it was one of the best games I’ve ever witnessed.
A 2-1 shootout win that came down to the Wild’s last shooter before sudden death, was an exciting finish. Watching on television provides a great insight into the game, but nothing beats seeing it in person and there were a number of things I noticed watching in person that fans don’t see from the camera lens.
Wild’s Kaprizov is a Workhorse
Kirill Kaprizov is truly a superstar, probably the hardest worker on the entire Wild roster, and one of the top workhorses in the NHL. While at the game, I was able to witness the team’s warmups and Kaprizov was hard to keep an eye on because he was always on the move. Whether he was stickhandling a puck, passing with Mats Zuccarello, or just skating laps, he didn’t stop often, and if so, not for long.
That transitioned to the game as well with Kaprizov constantly on the move. Normally when watching on TV, viewers are only able to see Kaprizov when he has the puck or is within the range of the camera, but there’s so much more he does outside of the camera’s viewpoint. I was able to watch him away from the puck and his hockey I.Q. is above any I’ve ever seen as he’s always watching the play and knows where to be all the time.
The most impressive thing, however, that I observed about Kaprizov was his ability to use both his inside and outside edges when skating and how much backward skating he does in the neutral zone. He’s always rotating and using his edges to make it possible for his body to face the play but also be ready for a quick breakaway in the opposite direction. While it’s great to see Kaprizov make plays over a TV, it’s nothing like seeing it unfold in person and see how much work he truly puts into his game.
Wild’s Foligno More Than Goals
After how many goals Marcus Foligno scored last season, this season has been quite disappointing. Last season he played in 74 games and scored a career-high 23 goals and assisted on 19 others for 42 points. This season, however, he’s played in 48 games and only scored four goals plus assisted on 11 others for a total of 15 points, almost three times less than last season and he doesn’t have much time left to get those numbers up.
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However, something that doesn’t get shown on camera and was very noticeable in person was Foligno’s dedication to his physical play. Everyone is aware of the big hits he throws when the spotlight is on, but he does so much more behind the play. He uses his body to push players out of open lanes and works hard to cut off opponents’ passes as well. A lot of it is just outside the camera’s purview but he deserves a lot more credit than he gets.
While goals are important, preventing them is even more crucial and Foligno has worked hard to do just that. Unfortunately for the Wild, that physical play caused Foligno to become banged up and he was forced to miss their next game against the Vancouver Canucks and possibly longer as he’s listed as day-to-day.
Wild’s Connection & Other Little Tidbits
Every NHL team has an identity and the Wild have been known as the team that is basically a family on and off the ice. While a lot of teams have groups of players that are close friends, it seems like the entire Wild roster is extremely close and there are no “cliques” so to speak, unless you are talking about the Swedish players and their card games.
Filip Gustavsson said once trades went down, teammates told Brandon Duhaime he’s out of their card table on charter. Can be an all Swedes game now. #mnwild— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithNHL) March 1, 2023
Clearly, Kaprizov and Zuccarello have a special bond, but they also are close with the rest of the team. Watching their warmups, it was clear how much fun this team has as they were all goofing around but also challenging each other. They’ll purposely check each other into the boards and battle for the puck all while smiling and warming up for their game. Apart from the connections on the Wild’s roster, during the actual game so much goes on that viewers don’t see on the TV.
One such item that stood out was the quickness of the Islanders’ equipment team as well as the awareness of a certain player, Zach Parise. He broke at least two sticks during the game and the speed of their equipment manager to grab the right stick and time it out to hand it off was quite impressive, but so was Parise’s awareness to know whether he should grab the stick and re-join the play or get off the ice. It may seem like an odd thing to notice, but it’s also quite astonishing to see how smoothly teams work to get things done.
Wild’s Unique Perspective
There is nothing wrong with watching a game from the comforts of home but it doesn’t beat the unique perspective an in-person view gets. The TV broadcast shows interviews and replays but going to the game allows fans to witness warm-ups, see the entire ice surface outside the limits of a camera lens, and real-time emotions that again are outside the camera’s view.
Watching the Wild in person gave me the chance to see this team’s chemistry and how well they truly work together. It also gave me the opportunity to see how talented Kaprizov is during an entire game rather than just parts of shifts shown on camera. I’m lucky enough to have tickets to another game in a month and, hopefully, I’ll have even more unique perspectives to share and also witness another win.