Wild Check-In: Boldy, Middleton, Fleury, Benn & Hartman

The Minnesota Wild’s last week of hockey was a bit rougher than the past month or so. They played three games but lost two out of the three. They lost to both the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues while also taking down the Los Angeles Kings. The Wild have struggled a bit without the presence of Jon Merrill, Matt Boldy, and Matt Dumba, but hopefully, that will be a short-lived issue as Boldy has already rejoined the lineup.

Despite the losses, the Wild had some great performances out of several players. However, with that greatness also came struggles for others. Again their leading scorers, Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello were at the top of the stats and also have the chance to break several franchise records going into this next week.

Wild’s Boldy & Middleton

While Kaprizov and Zuccarello were busy dealing with franchise records, Matt Boldy and Jacob Middleton were making huge impressions on the lineup. Middleton got things started first in their loss to the Blues as he scored his first goal in a Wild jersey. It was also the goal that could’ve put the Blues away but instead, they stormed back and took the game in overtime. However, that didn’t stop Middleton in their win over the Kings, as he stepped up and had two assists.

Jacob Middleton San Jose Sharks
Jacob Middleton, former San Jose Shark, current Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

He was a real surprise last week, especially with his offensive game, as he helped elevate the whole lineup when they saw how hard he worked. Boldy’s impact wasn’t until their last game against the Kings and it wasn’t a quiet one. He jumped into the play almost immediately after missing the previous four games due to an injury. He assisted on the first goal of the game and went on to score the second that started the Wild’s climb back to the lead against the Kings.

An honorable mention goes to Jared Spurgeon for continuing his point streak, as he is now up to seven consecutive games with a point. He’s tallied eight points, seven of them have been assists that tied a franchise record for the longest assist streak by a defenseman, the other being Ryan Suter.

Wild’s Benn Struggles in Return

With the recent string of injuries to the Wild’s defensemen, it made room for Jordie Benn to slide back into the lineup. However, his joining the roster didn’t go as smoothly as everyone hoped. In his first game back against the Blues, he was caught off guard and a forward blew by him to go on to score the tying goal that forced overtime. He did have three shots on goal, five hits, and a blocked shot, but unfortunately, only that tying goal against will be remembered.

Related: Wild’s Kaprizov & Spurgeon Tie Franchise Records in Win Over Kings

His second game back went a bit smoother. He tallied an assist after his shot deflected off of Marcus Foligno and he had a shot on goal plus a hit. While Benn had a difficult transition back, another teammate also had a rough week in terms of points. That player was Ryan Hartman, he started out the season strong in the points department but as of late, he’s struggled to score. He’s had plenty of chances but none have wanted to go through. This last week he had one point out of three games and 10 shots on goal. He’s trying but hasn’t found any luck recently.

Wild’s Goaltending Proves Resilient

Both of the Wild’s goaltenders suffered losses this past week, but the most surprising, yet rewarding performance had to be Marc-André Fleury’s against the Kings. He started out letting in three goals on the first five shots he faced which is extremely unlike Fleury. However, after that third goal, he showed his frustration and from that moment on, he was a brick wall. He stopped everything that came his way. As he played better, so did the rest of his team and that resiliency eventually carried through the whole roster and on to their 6-3 victory.

Wild’s Week Ahead

They’ll play four games in the week ahead, two at home and two on the road. They’ll take on the Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, and the San Jose Sharks. They’ve had luck against the Oilers, but struggled against the Stars, Blues and Sharks. This will be the Oilers’ first visit to Minnesota this season and hopefully, the Wild can continue their winning ways against them.

Minnesota Wild Celebration Kevin Fiala
Kevin Fiala celebrates a goal for the Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Stars, on the other hand, have been a difficult test for the Wild both at home and on the road. They were victorious in their first meeting but since then, the Stars have taken command. The Blues obviously brought down the Wild in the Winter Classic but also stole a win last week and will be looking to take the season series. The Sharks were a problem in their first meeting, but the Wild snatched the win the second time around and hopefully will be able to continue that streak.

The Wild have to put a stop to Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Joe Pavelski, Jason Robertson, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jordan Kyrou, Timo Meier, and Tomas Hertl. They’ll also have to find a way past each goaltending tandem. Though, some may be easier than others, as the Oilers’ duo of Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith have both been victimized by the Wild so far this season.

Having said that, they will still have to find ways to score on Jake Oettinger or Braden Holtby, Ville Husso or Jordan Binnington, and Adin Hill or James Reimer. There is a possibility the Wild could see former teammate Kaapo Kahkonen as well. It’ll be interesting to see if they can keep up their strong play from the second half of their game against the Kings. They only have 11 games left, and they’ll need every point they can get as the playoffs begin to come into focus.

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