The Minnesota Wild have stormed back from a 3-1 deficit in their first-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights to force Game 7. After back-to-back victories against the Golden Knights, the momentum is back in the Wild’s favor. The winner of Friday night’s Game 7 in Vegas will face the Colorado Avalanche in the second round to declare a Honda West Division champion.
The Wild will need to be at their best on Friday. Vegas has a lot more playoff experience, but anything can happen in one game. Here’s a look at three keys to Game 7 for the Wild.
Let Talbot See The Puck
A major reason for the Wild’s comeback in this series – and their success this season – is Cam Talbot. He came up huge in Game 6 with a 23-save shutout to plant some doubt in the minds of the Golden Knights.
In every game of this series, at least one goalie has seemed impossible to beat. Talbot has been everything the team needed him to be and more through six games. In Game 7, the Wild need to make sure Talbot sees the shots clearly with minimal traffic in front.
Talbot will have to be unbeatable for the Wild to win Game 7, and he will be with the support of his team. The Wild will have to make sure he has a fighting chance to see the puck on each shot, and chances are he will provide them with an excellent opportunity to win. If the Wild allow the Golden Knights to get bodies in front of the net and screen Talbot, the likelihood of some pucks finding their way to the back of the net increases. Also, traffic in front creates more chances for tips and deflections, making the goalies’ job much more difficult.
Kirill Kaprizov Being Dynamic
Kirill Kaprizov has yet to put his stamp on this series. The Wild’s point production has been well spread out throughout the series, instead of the young Russian carrying all the weight offensively. Twelve players have at least two points, while Matt Dumba, Jordan Greenway, and Jonas Brodin have three. No one player has four points yet.
However, Kaprizov is the Wild’s most dynamic offensive threat with 27 goals in the regular season, but he only has one in the playoffs. He also has one assist, but the team needs more from him. He will need to be all over the puck in Game 7, just like he was in the regular season. Kevin Fiala had his memorable moment in Game 6; maybe Kaprizov will have his in Game 7.
Kaprizov can impact the game in so many ways. Whether he scores or not, he can help the Wild dominate possession. His skating ability allows him to create space for himself and his teammates in ways only a few players can. He has the ability to create plays out of nothing, and if so much attention gets put on him, it will free up space for his line-mates to have success. He needs to have his best game of the postseason on Friday night.
Be Aggressive The Entire Game
To win Game 7, the Wild need to have their foot on the gas for the entire game. They played with a new level of urgency in Games 5 and 6 because they knew a loss meant elimination. Now, the Golden Knights face that same reality.
The Wild allowed 40 shots against in Game 2 and Game 5 and failed to land 20 shots of their own in both of those games. Talbot’s remarkable performance stole the win in Game 5, but low shot totals in Game 7 won’t put the Wild in a favorable position to win. They need to play with an aggressive forecheck and compete for every inch of ice. Not just for long stretches or a whole period, but the full game.
This season has been a memorable one. On Friday night, the Wild will attempt to keep their playoff run going. If they can accomplish these three keys to the game, they will book a date with the Avalanche.
Sports writer covering the Minnesota Wild. Graduated with a degree in sport media, also working with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.