Wild Check-In: Fiala, Kaprizov, Eriksson Ek & Middleton

The Minnesota Wild had a very successful past week, as they played four games and came out on top in all four. They took down the Montréal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks, Seattle Kraken, and the biggest surprise of them all, they finally beat the Nashville Predators. This time, they only had one game go to overtime and it was against the Predators.

They had to get through the week without a number of players and more were added to that list throughout the week. Thankfully they’ll be getting some of those players back this upcoming week before the postseason starts. Both goaltenders, Cam Talbot and Marc André Fleury, did well this past week and their rotation was switched up a little as well. Instead of one start each, they had two in a row for each goalie.

Wild’s Top Scorers Stay at the Top

It’s probably no surprise that Kevin Fiala is at the top of the scoring charts for the third or fourth week in a row. In the last four games, he has recorded 11 points and scored four goals plus seven assists to get there. By the end of the week, he had taken second place among all Wild players for most points in a single season, and for the second week in a row, he was named the NHL’s Second Star of the Week. The owner of first place in the franchise was right behind Fiala this last week in points, Kirill Kaprizov.

Kevin Fiala Minnesota Wild
Kevin Fiala, Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Kaprizov tallied two goals and eight assists for 10 points and second overall for the week. The bigger news surrounding him was hitting 100 points, the first time ever for a Wild player in franchise history. By the end of the Predators game, he was up to 103 points, which had him sixth among all NHL players as of Monday evening (April 25). He was a point behind Auston Matthews and five points behind Leon Draisaitl, which are some very respectable names to be in the company of.

He didn’t have the final point numbers that Fiala and Kaprizov had, but Joel Eriksson Ek had a big week himself. He scored two goals each in back-to-back games against the Kraken and Predators. Those four goals and two assists gave him six points for the week. After seven games without points, he came back with a bang.

Related: Wild’s Scorers Set More Franchise Records in Win Over Kraken

One more player deserves a mention here and that’s Jacob Middleton. He didn’t have a lot of points, but he played outstanding in the final game of the week. He was big defensively and helped save several goals but he also tried to go big offensively as well and snatched one point.

Wild’s Problem Area

There weren’t any big issues from a single player this past week but the biggest problem the Wild have been facing is their special teams. While they’ve done well on the power play, their penalty kill has dragged it down. As great as it is to score while a man-up, they need to be able to prevent goals while shorthanded too. They’re currently 27th in the NHL for their penalty kill, preventing goals only 75.4 percent of the time, which is a little over a percent higher than the last place Canucks.

Dean Evason Minnesota Wild
Dean Evason, head coach of the Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In the past, their penalty kill was almost always above 80 percent, in fact, this season is their lowest mark in franchise history. Before the postseason starts, they really need to buckle down and fix the penalty kill. Many times, the problem is leaving an open forward too close to the weak side post, and in their last game against the Predators, it seemed to happen again.

Obviously, when a team is a man down, they can’t cover all five players but they have to stick to their system which is typically a box and keep everyone to the outside of it, but they have to be on the move and make sure no one can sneak in behind them. They’ll need to keep an eye on this as the season draws to a close and the postseason begins.

Wild’s Final Week

This will be the final week of regular season hockey for the Wild and they’ll play all three games at home. They’ll take on the Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames, and the Colorado Avalanche to finish it out. If they win these last three games, they’ll secure home-ice advantage but it won’t be easy. The Coyotes have had some close games in the last few weeks and everyone knows how tough the Flames and Avalanche have been.

It’ll be interesting to see if the goalie rotation continues or if they’ll pick one of them and stick with them. At this point in the season, however, anything goes. With the last two teams being the Flames and Avalanche, they need everyone on their roster to possibly get wins but with a postseason spot secured, they don’t want to risk their top players getting injured. It’s hard to say what head coach Dean Evason will do, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulls Kaprizov and possibly Fiala from the lineup to ensure their health going into the playoffs.

Stay tuned to see how many more points Kaprizov can tally before the season ends and if the Wild can find a way past the Flames and Avalanche. The postseason is just around the corner and things are about to ramp up even more.

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