The Minnesota Wild have completed the first week of the regular season and it didn’t go well. In their opening game, which was also their home opener, they faced the New York Rangers and were handed a devastating 7-3 loss. A couple of nights later they remained at home to face former teammate Kevin Fiala and the Los Angeles Kings and suffered another rough loss, 7-6.
After letting in 14 goals over the span of two games it’s clear the Wild have some things they need to fix. Not everything was bad, however, as there were some good things that happened as well. Throughout these rollercoaster games, there were players who stepped up big and others who could’ve done more.
Wild’s Boldy Sets the Tone
Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello were near the top of the stat sheet, as usual, but the welcome surprise was Matt Boldy who led the team with his four points (two goals, two assists) this last week. Zuccarello tied Boldy with four points (two goals, two assists) also and Kaprizov was right behind them with three points (one goal, one assist). The main reason Boldy stands out besides being at the top of the team in points was his level of play.
Boldy outworked nearly everyone and tried to carry the Wild on his back multiple times through those first two games. It was very evident in their game against the Kings when he forced his way through the opposing defense and scored back-to-back goals to give his team hope in the final minutes but, unfortunately, they ran out of time to finish the comeback. He has a Kaprizov-like quality to bring out the best in his linemates and that’s going to be a crucial talent as the season continues.
While Boldy was showing his talents, his linemate Frédérick Gaudreau matched his intensity. He wasn’t able to contribute any points despite having six shots on goal, but he did find a way to help out defensively when he blocked what would’ve been an empty net goal to keep his team within one against the Kings late in the game. Unfortunately, they failed to tie it up after Boldy’s two goals.
Wild’s Defense Needs Improvement
The entire team needs to do better but specifically, several members of the defense need to lead by example. Those players are Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin, the two players who typically lead the defensive core, but this past week they really struggled. They both recorded an assist but were also on the ice for most of the goals scored against them. Instead of pushing players away from their goaltender and knowing where the puck was, there were a few times they looked completely lost on the ice.
Brodin is usually one of the most disciplined players on the roster, but that was completely out the window this past week. He spent six minutes in the penalty box for unnecessary and undisciplined penalties that left his team without one of its best defensemen on the penalty kill. Last season he played in 73 games and accumulated just 18 minutes in penalties, but now he’s already a third of the way there and the Wild are only two games into the season.
The other two players that need to improve are Marc-André Fleury and Filip Gustavsson. The Wild’s losses were not only a result of poor goaltending but when a team is letting in seven goals a game, it has to be better. Fleury showed discipline in their loss to the Rangers, but he showed a great deal of frustration against the Kings when he banged his stick against the boards after a goal.
Sometimes it’s good for a player to show their frustration because they’ll push to work harder but, at other times, they play worse because the anger gets to them. Fleury is a mentor to Gustavsson and he needs to remember Gustavsson is learning from him and watching everything he does. Hopefully, these last two games were just a fluke, and their defense figures out its issues to support their goaltending more so Fleury and Gustavsson can show what they’re truly capable of because they’re better than this and they know it.
Wild Have Grueling Week Ahead
The Wild have three games this upcoming week and they’re not going to be easy. Thankfully they’ll be at home for two out of their three games. They’ll take on the Colorado Avalanche to begin the week followed by the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, and then they’ll finish up on the east coast when they take on the Boston Bruins in a matinee game. These three teams will not take it easy on the Wild and they’ll have to play better than they did last week.
If the Wild don’t improve this will be a very long week and they’ll still be without their first win of the season. However, there is hope as this team is young and has expressed they know what they have to do to win these games. They’ll be put to the test right away Monday night against the offensively-loaded Avalanche who won’t hesitate to rack up the goals but hopefully, the Wild can put a stop to them and finally get their first victory.
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.