Wild Check-In: Fiala & Gaudreau Continue Their Dominance

The Minnesota Wild faced two difficult opponents in the Winnipeg Jets and Carolina Hurricanes this week. The five-day break for the All-Star Game appeared to get the better of them as they struggled in their first game back. The loss to the Jets was the first time they’ve been shut out all season. They came out strong in their next game against the Hurricanes, had a rough third period but fought through it and came out on top.

Through these two games, the Wild had several players continue their top-notch play while, as a whole, the team struggled in certain areas. Thankfully for what seems like every week of the season, their goaltending continued its strong play. They’ve’ done so well that they’re’ on a continual rotation instead of having Cam Talbot be the consistent starter every night.

Wild’s Success is Not Just Scoring

The Wild have had several players who’ve been successful in the scoring department. However, in this last week of play, they had a forward who stepped up big defensively. That player was rookie Connor Dewar who was the top shot blocker this last week. He even beat out the team’s top shot-blocking defensemen, Jon Merrill, Alex Goligoski, and Dmitry Kulikov. He blocked six shots between the two games, five against the Jets and one against the Hurricanes.

There are two repeat names on the offensive side of things who’ve made the list numerous times this season. The first is Kevin Fiala, he’s played some of his best hockey the last two months. The progression he’s made has been very impressive, and it continued into these last two games. He had one shot on goal in the shut-out loss to the Jets but had a stellar performance in the win over the Hurricanes. He scored a goal and tallied an assist for his 10th multi-point game of the season.

Kevin Fiala Minnesota Wild
Kevin Fiala, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Fiala was not the only one to have a strong week, his linemate, Frederick Gaudreau, was right behind him. He also scored a goal and tallied an assist for his third multi-point game this season. His faceoff percentage was the best of the Wild’s consistent centers at 52% in the last week, and against the Hurricanes, it was an impressive 57.1%. He may not be tallying points in every game, but he’s been doing well in other areas that included faceoffs.

Wild Struggle Together

A couple of players had a difficult time in the last week, but nothing was significant enough to be mentioned. However, the team had a hard time in both games. The primary issue came against the Jets, where they looked like an entirely different team and not in a good way. They had trouble connecting on passes, and they couldn’t get anything past Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. The Jets found a way to outplay the Wild and made them pay for it the entire game.

Related: Wild’s Fiala, Gaudreau & Kaprizov Step Up in Win Over Hurricanes

In the matchup with the Hurricanes, they looked like a different team once again, but in a good way. They connected on their passes, their speed was up, and they took more shots. They played consistently until the third period, when things started to unravel. They scored two consecutive goals to open the period, but then the Hurricanes fought back with two goals of their own and started to outplay the Wild. That’s where their goaltending came in, and Talbot stood his ground to keep his team in the lead. They went on to win 3-2 and start their two-game homestand on a win.

Wild’s Upcoming Week

This upcoming week is when things become chaotic with games every other day. The Wild will play Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings this week. They’ll face the Detroit Red Wings at home, head on the road to face the Winnipeg Jets, and return home to take on the Florida Panthers. They have yet to face the Red Wings this season, and it’ll be interesting to see these two team play for the first time. Both teams have players who’ve been on scoring streaks recently, and they have strong goaltenders. The Red Wings have struggled more than the Wild this season, but they can’t be underestimated.

Their rematch against the Jets will be one to watch, as it got pretty heated in their previous meeting. The Wild will have Marcus Foligno back from his two-game suspension that occurred last week against the Jets. They’ll have to put all of that behind them and play their style of game to get past them.

Marcus Foligno Minnesota Wild
Marcus Foligno, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

That leaves the Panthers, who beat the Wild in a close one 5-4 back in mid-November. They’ve continued to be one of the strongest teams in the league, and the Wild will have their hands full when they face off against them on Friday, Feb. 18. Thankfully they’ll be at home, where they’ve done very well this season with a record of 15-3-1 in 19 games played. There are only two teams higher than the Wild in terms of point percentage when playing at home; the Panthers and the Colorado Avalanche.

This next week will give the Wild a taste of what the rest of the season will be like, and it’ll truly test their abilities. Hopefully, their goaltending stays strong, and they focus on playing their style of hockey. If they do those things, they’ll do well.

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