Wild Check-In: Kaprizov Shines Amidst Team Struggles

The Minnesota Wild had another rough week, they played four games and lost three out of the four. They faced the Calgary Flames for the second time, then went on the road against the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres, and finally, the Dallas Stars back at home. They may have lost the majority of their games but they did show they’re capable of making comebacks.

The Wild’s scoring leaders were back on top again and there was a new name who made it into the top ranks this week. The addition of the new name to the successful list means someone had to drop down. There were a couple of players who struggled besides the goaltenders too.

Wild’s Kaprizov Tops the List

There were a lot of goals scored both for and against the Wild in the last four games. Points-leader Kirill Kaprizov had his name back at the top with seven points. He scored four goals and tallied three assists with at least one point in each game. He extended his point streak to five games and two of them were multi-point nights. As of Monday evening, he was seventh in the league with 70 points, nine points behind the leaders Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

Kirill Kaprizov Minnesota Wild
Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Kevin Fiala was next in line with five points in four games. He scored one goal and assisted on four others. In the second game against the Flames, he didn’t tally any points but the next three he went on a roll with two multi-point games and a single assist against the Stars.

Related: Wild’s Special Teams Continue Decline in Loss to Stars

That left the final three players tied with three points each, Jared Spurgeon, Mats Zuccarello, and Ryan Hartman. Both Spurgeon and Zuccarello had three assists each while Hartman found his scoring stride and had three goals. It was Hartman’s first goal since Valentine’s Day when he scored in their win over the Detroit Red Wings, and Spurgeon was a new addition to the list this week.

Wild’s Eriksson-Ek Dropped

While the Wild had a number of players who scored points in the last week, they had a number of players who dropped. The first player was Joel Eriksson-Ek who’s been struggling for quite some time. His last point was recorded in their win against the Edmonton Oilers way back on Feb. 20. Lately, he’s had some great chances but couldn’t get them past the opposing goaltender.

Nico Sturm has also been on this list quite a few times in the past couple of months. This last week he did slightly better but still struggled. He scored a goal in their loss to the Stars; it was the first one of the game that gave his team motivation. Prior to that goal, he hadn’t recorded a point since Feb. 2. He stayed on the list this week because out of four games, he tallied just one point. The Wild need him to step up his game and contribute more to the scoreboard.

Nico Sturm Minnesota Wild
Nico Sturm, Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The final player on this list is Connor Dewar. At the beginning of February, he had one of the highest shot blocking totals with six in one week. Now he’s at the bottom of the list with zero despite being one of the Wild’s most defensive-minded forwards. He always covers the point and races back to help on the backcheck but for some reason this week, he didn’t record a single blocked shot. With the number of goals the Wild have let in as of late, they could use his blocking skills.

On a side note, the Wild’s special teams have really been a problem as of late. They continuously let in goals on the penalty kill while not being able to convert on the power play. They had their top defensive core back together against the Stars but they still couldn’t successfully kill a penalty.

Wild’s Week Ahead

The Wild have got a full week of games ahead with them playing both at home and on the road with another back-to-back road trip. They’ll face the New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Nashville Predators. The Rangers and Predators will be tough matches for the Wild, as they have strong records and will play with high intensity. The Red Wings and Blue Jackets have slightly less impressive records but they shouldn’t be taken for granted either.

Gerard Gallant, New York Rangers
New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With how the Wild have struggled lately, all of these games will be a challenge and very important for them to win as many as possible. This week of games could be the make-or-break point for the rest of the season, if they lose any more points they could drop into the wildcard position or even worse, miss the playoffs if they aren’t able to turn it around.

Thankfully for the Wild, they have Matt Dumba and Mats Zuccarello back and they’ll also have Jordan Greenway back in the lineup for their game against the Rangers. Hopefully, once their roster is the most intact it has been in months, that will light a spark to get back on the winning track.

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