Wild Check-In: Kahkonen, Boldy & Sturm Lead the Way

This week’s Check-In features more wins for the Minnesota Wild as they improved their record to 27-10-3 and were tied with the St. Louis Blues for third in the Western Conference as of Jan. 31. The Wild played three games in the last week – against the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, and New York Islanders – and won all three.

Minnesota Wild Celebrate
Minnesota Wild Celebrate (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Several players stepped up to help carry the Wild through the week, while a couple of players needed to step up their game. Of course, Kirill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala, and Mats Zuccarello have made this list almost every week and deserve to be mentioned again, but other players earned the honor this week as well.

Kahkonen Led the Way

Wild goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen has stepped up and not just last week. He has been outstanding in Talbot’s absence due to injury. In seven games, he had a 6-0-1 record and a save percentage of .934. He kept their winning streak going against the Canadiens last week and stole a win over the Islanders after making 40 saves.

The next player to make this list is rookie Matt Boldy. There aren’t enough good things to say about the newcomer, who has looked like a veteran since his first game. He has fit right into the lineup and has been a perfect match for Fiala, who has struggled to find the right partner for most of the season. Boldy played in all three games last week and tallied two goals and five points. He also found out he won’t be leaving anytime soon.

Finally, in last week’s Check-In, we noted that Nico Sturm needed to improve, and he did just that before he was pulled out of the lineup. After the game against the Canadiens, he went into COVID protocol and hasn’t played since. However, he tallied three points (a goal and two assists) against the Habs, his first points in almost two weeks, while several players kept their point streaks alive last week.

Fiala extended his point streak to 11 games with 14 points. Since his return from injury, Kaprizov has extended his streak to seven games and 12 points, while Zuccarello had his streak end against the Islanders. Before that, he had an 11-game streak and 18 points. Despite these accomplishments, the Wild had other players who struggled.

Rask Struggled

Victor Rask made this list last week again this week after no improvement to his game aside from one point scored. Rask didn’t record any shots on goal, blocked shots, or takeaways, but he did get one hit. His game was not been impressive, and the Wild need him to step up if they are going to keep him in the lineup for the busy month ahead.

Victor Rask Minnesota Wild
Victor Rask, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Ryan Hartman also wasn’t up to his usual goal-scoring ways, with one point in his last three games. However, he did have five shots on goal, three blocked shots, two takeaways, and one hit. Thankfully, if that’s the worst it gets for Hartman, the Wild will be okay.

Wild Overall

Against the Islanders, the Wild nearly lost the game after a lousy second period. There were giveaways, slip-ups and overall the team struggled to get anything going. Teams will always have issues here and there but this was sudden and out of character considering how well they’ve played recently. Thankfully, Kahkonen stood tall and made sure his team stayed in the game.

Related: Wild’s Kaprizov, Fiala & Eriksson Ek Shine in Win Over Islanders

The Wild managed to find their game in the third and left with their fifth win in a row. However, they’ll need to figure out what caused their collapse to make sure it doesn’t happen again. They have a busy month coming up, and they’ll have to be at their best if they want to stay in the playoff picture.

Wild’s Upcoming Schedule

The Wild’s next month is going to be a challenge. After long breaks at the beginning of the season, they will now be playing a game every other day for the next month as they catch up on their rescheduled games.

The team will need both Talbot and Kahkonen to be at the top of their game as well as for their offense to continue their impressive point streaks. They have one more game this week against the Chicago Blackhawks before the All-Star break. After that, it will be a dash to the finish line, and hopefully, the Wild will keep up their winning ways.

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