Wild Check-In: Zuccarello, Kaprizov, Boldy & Duhaime

This week’s Check-In features two Minnesota Wild games, one win and one loss, a 7-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks, and a 4-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. As always, the Wild had several players that stepped up in those games and a couple who stepped down. In good news, they got some of their players back from both injury and COVID protocol.

Unfortunately, Joel Eriksson Ek was still out due to COVID, and Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, and Cam Talbot were injured. Thankfully for the Wild, being without Talbot hasn’t hindered their play. They were able to get a three-game win streak going only to be thwarted by the Avalanche. They also had Kirill Kaprizov back against the Ducks after his injury, he’s been on fire ever since and deserved to be the first player mentioned.

Wild’s Kaprizov, Zuccarello & Boldy Lead the Way

After being injured by a dangerous hit in their win over the Boston Bruins on Jan. 6, it was unknown if and when Kaprizov would be back. However, he stormed back just over a week later and had two assists in his return against the Ducks. He proved he was over the injury when he scored two goals against the Avalanche. His first goal tied the game at two and his next one tied it at three to force overtime and a shootout. His two assists and two goals accounted for his four points in two games. Even with all those points, one player had more, and that was his linemate, Mats Zuccarello.

Mats Zuccarello Minnesota Wild
Mats Zuccarello, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Zuccarello has been a quiet but steady presence on the first line. He consistently contributes points but doesn’t get the attention like his linemates. It was the same these last two games, he was the points leader but did not get the credit he deserved. Against the Ducks, he tallied two goals and an assist for three points and recorded two more assists for a total of five points throughout the games. Not to be outdone on defense, he also blocked two shots against the Ducks.

Related: 3 Takeaways from the Wild’s Shootout Loss to Avalanche – 1/17/22

The third and final player who made this list was the newbie to the roster, Matt Boldy. He’s played four games for the Wild, but he’s recorded points in three out of the four. In the last two games, he’s been on a points streak. He had carbon copy assists in both games. He assisted on the Wild’s first goal of each game that were both scored by Fiala. Along with the assists, Boldy scored against the Ducks to extend the lead to 4-1. He’s proven his worth to the lineup with four points over four games. While Boldy succeeded there were others that struggled.

Wild’s Greenway & Duhaime Stumble

Jordan Greenway and Brandon Duhaime recently returned to the lineup after being in COVID protocol, and they have struggled since. Greenway tallied seven penalty minutes against the Avalanche after he collided with the goaltender Darcy Kuemper. He received two minutes for goaltender interference and then five minutes for fighting. Penalty minutes and points were the only areas he had difficulty in, otherwise, he had numerous hits, blocked shots, and takeaways. Hopefully, the Wild will get Eriksson Ek back off of protocol, and they can get the line of Greenway, Eriksson Ek, and Marcus Foligno back together. That line was very successful before the holidays, and it would be great for it to start again.

Jordan Greenway Minnesota Wild
Jordan Greenway, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

That leaves Duhaime, who has also struggled since his return to the roster. He had penalty troubles similar to Greenway, and he also did well with blocked shots, hits, and shots on goal but couldn’t get past the goaltenders in either game. He hasn’t tallied a point since Dec. 12 against the Vegas Golden Knights. He started the season very promising but hasn’t been able to keep it up. Thankfully if the only issue the Wild has to deal with is lack of points from certain players, they’ll be fine because of other players like Boldy and Kaprizov, who have stepped up since.

Wild’s Honorable Mention

The goaltending was mentioned subtlety, but Kaapo Kahkonen deserves credit. Since the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, when Talbot was injured, Kahkonen stepped up. It was too late for him to save the Classic but the next three games he was a difference-maker. In the Wild’s last win against the Ducks, he made 39 saves on 42 shots. Prior to Talbot’s injury, Kahkonen played in six games with a record of 4-2-1, he had a save percentage (SV%) of .905 and a 2.75 goals-against average (GAA).

In the games that followed Talbot’s injury, his stats improved. He’s played in four games so far, not including the Classic, and he has a record of 3-0-1. He improved to a .935 SV% and 2.30 GAA. He’s done an impressive job stepping into Talbot’s place after not playing for nearly two weeks. It’s unclear if Talbot will be back by this coming weekend or not, if he’s not, the Wild will continue to be in good hands with Kahkonen.

Wild Look Ahead

The Wild will be back to their familiar schedule of back-to-backs after another set of days off. At the beginning of the season, the Wild had back-to-back games nearly every weekend, it seemed, and now the schedule has flipped to continuous days off in between games. Unfortunately for them, their schedule will only get more difficult as the NHL starts to reschedule postponed games. The Wild currently has seven games that will need to be worked into the schedule.

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

Their upcoming back-to-back will be against Marc-Andre Fleury and the Chicago Blackhawks, who the Wild have yet to see in the regular season. It’s hard to base anything off the preseason games, but they saw each other twice and split the games. The Blackhawks have had a rough season, but the Wild can’t take anything for granted. Hopefully, the Wild will have Eriksson Ek back from COVID protocols, continue to put their lineup back together, and add some wins along the way.


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