This is the first Minnesota Wild Weekly Check-In of the postseason and it’s been an up and down week. They opened their first-round series against the St. Louis Blues and played four games in the last week. They started off with a rough loss in Game 1, where they looked nothing like the typical Wild team that has played all season. Then in Game 2 that team came storming back and won not only that game, but Game 3 on the road as well.
Then came Game 4, where they played decently but the Blues found a way to sneak a few goals past Marc-André Fleury and got the win to tie the series at two. The Wild’s first performance was one they’d rather forget, and they seemed to do just that, as only one player had a decent game and that was Fleury. Thankfully since then, the majority of the team has stepped up and things have gone somewhat smoother.
Wild’s Kaprizov Doing Kaprizov Things
Last postseason, the Wild faced the Vegas Golden Knights and were eliminated in seven games. It was Kirill Kaprizov’s first NHL playoff experience and he played in all seven games. He had three points – one goal and two assists. While it doesn’t seem like much, it was a decent number for his first experience. This postseason in just four games played, he’s already topped that number. He’s currently at six points with five goals and a single assist.
Kaprizov already set a franchise record as well with the Wild’s first hat trick in the postseason. He continues to have a career year and hopefully, he can continue it and help his team secure this series. He’s not the only player who’s been successful either. His linemate Ryan Hartman has five points in the past four games and all five of those points are assists.
While the top line was doing its thing, a member of the GREEF line was tied for second on the team with the most points in the postseason. That player was Joel Eriksson Ek, as he’s accumulated five points in the last four games that included a near hat trick that was disallowed due to an offside. He does have three goals, just not all in the same game, plus two assists.
Wild’s Second Line Needs to Do More
While the first line has produced and Eriksson Ek has put up points for the third line, the second line of Kevin Fiala, Matt Boldy and Frederick Gaudreau has not been as successful as everyone hoped it would be going into the playoffs. In the first three games of the series, they had nothing to show apart from one goal and a combined 17 shots.
Each member of the second line was on the board by Game 4 when Boldy scored his first-ever playoff goal with Fiala getting one of the assists. This whole line will need to step up as the team heads into Games 5 and 6. If they can get their three scoring lines going, they’ll be a force to stop. Fiala, in particular, who had a great end to the regular season has hit somewhat of a brick wall so far. Hopefully, now that he’s snatched a point, he’ll get the rest of his scoring going.
Besides hardly contributing any points, Fiala has also spent an unnecessary amount of time in the penalty box, 14 minutes worth to be precise. Even though many high sticking penalties can be considered accidental, he needs to remember where his stick is at all times after getting two double minors in the past four games. They can’t afford to take any more penalties and give the Blues more chances on the power play.
Wild’s Week Ahead
The Wild have at minimum two games this upcoming week, possibly three depending on how the other two unfold. The next game is at home while the sixth will be on the road again in St. Louis. After their Game 4 loss, they know what they need to work on and who needs to step up. Fleury has done nothing wrong, but it’s hard to say if he’ll be in net for Game 5. He’s been very strong but the coaching staff may want to switch things up a little and see if it helps. It’s highly unlikely they’ll switch to Cam Talbot at this point, but it’s possible, so Wild fans will be keeping a keen eye on that situation.
The Wild have been victimized by the Blues’ David Perron, Jordan Kyrou, and Ryan O’Reilly, players they have to put a stop to, especially in penalty kill situations where Perron has really taken it to them with three power-play points already. Apart from those scorers, they’ve been able to figure out ways past both goaltenders, Ville Husso and Jordan Binnington. Besides the Wild’s goaltending, it’ll be interesting to see if the Blues decide to switch back to Husso or stay with Binnington.
Since they won Game 4, they’ll probably leave Binnington in the net which means the Wild have to get more shots on him going forward. If they can do that, the puck will eventually find a way past him. They’ll also have to rely on the home crowd to get them through Game 5 and if they win, hopefully, the momentum from that game can carry them through Game 6 as well.
Mariah 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.