Wild Check-In: Fiala Leads Way, Goaltending Struggles

This last week is one the Minnesota Wild will want to forget as they faced all Canadian teams. They took on the Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Calgary Flames. They, unfortunately, lost all three games and couldn’t have ended their road trip soon enough. Once again the Wild were hit with injury problems as Matt Dumba remained on the list, while Jordan Greenway was added (he may be out for some time too).

Even with the losses, they had players who succeeded and of course, they had players who struggled. The goaltending took a big hit compared to last week when they were starting to have trouble. Kaapo Kahkonen had been doing well lately, but even he lost a couple of games this last week.

Wild’s Fiala Leads the Way

Ever since the second week of January, Kevin Fiala has produced points almost nonstop. This last week he played in all three games and tallied four points. He scored a goal and three assists plus he had his 12th multi-point game. Not far behind was linemate Frederick Gaudreau, who tallied two points and kept his recent success going. He’s contributed points nearly every other game and this last week he had two straight games with points.

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

There were two more players that have to be mentioned on this list and they are Nick Bjugstad and Jon Merrill. Bjugstad made his return to the lineup on this trip and he was one of the few who had a great week. He made an impression in his first game back and kept it up from there. He had a total of four points on the road trip and two in this last week of games. He helped the fourth line take a step up and improve their play as well.

Related: Wild’s Kahkonen Struggles & Losing Streak Continues

Merrill had been pointless for quite some time until this last week when he had two points in three games. He also had five blocked shots, which places him third on the team behind both Dmitry Kulikov and Jared Spurgeon. While they had a decent week despite the team’s overall performance, there were some players that had issues.

Wild’s Third Line Falls

For the first time this season, the Wild’s third line of Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Marcus Foligno had no points among them. Both Eriksson Ek and Foligno had been on pace to have good seasons and there’s still some time left but they’ve taken a hit this week. Greenway was already struggling due to injuries and missing a number of games. Before this last week, this line was responsible for getting games started, but lately, that’s been absent.

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

Along with the third-line struggles, the entire team took a different hit in each game. Even their top line of Kirill Kaprizov, Ryan Hartman, and Mats Zuccarello had trouble finding the back of the net. Every team hits a slump during the year and the Wild’s trip to Canada was definitely one of those times. Hopefully, it won’t continue. Their other struggle was physicality, as the Flames threw hits consistently while the Wild had trouble taking the hits and dishing them out in return. They’ll have to improve on their physicality to get past the Flames in their rematch this week.

Wild’s Week Ahead

The Wild are back home again but their first game back won’t be easy. They have to face the Flames again, who just beat them 7-3. They’ll also have their first back-to-back in over a month and they’ll be on the road too. They’ll face the Philadelphia Flyers who they’ve yet to see this season and the Buffalo Sabres who they played back in December and lost in a shootout, 3-2.

The Flames will be coming off their win over the Wild while the Flyers will be coming off a game against the Edmonton Oilers. Following their game against the Flyers, they will head to face the Sabres. While they will have just played a game, the Sabres will be coming off one against the Maple Leafs but with a day off in between. In order to have a successful week, the Wild will need both goaltenders to step up and get back to the form they had before this latest road trip.

The Wild will need to step up as a whole, especially the first line. They’ll need them to find their scoring touch again to get through this week after their rough losses. They have to get back on the winning track soon, as there aren’t many games left and they’ll want to get as many points as possible before the regular season ends.

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