The Minnesota Wild couldn’t have picked a better time to have a back-to-back in California while a raging snowstorm wreaked havoc back home in Minnesota. The only potential downside is if they can’t get back into Minnesota in time for Christmas as the storm is expected to cause problems until late into the night on Friday, Dec. 23.
The Wild’s opening period against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday, Dec. 21, didn’t have a lot of excitement as there were only a couple of strong opportunities for both sides that never went in. The Wild had one power play towards the end of the period but couldn’t convert and the score remained 0-0 to end the first.
The second period was one the Wild would like to forget as they really struggled to get anything going. The Ducks did their best to shut them down with an early goal on a turnover by Kirill Kaprizov to make it 1-0. That goal did quiet everything for most of the period until the Wild found their spark with a late goal to tie things up.
The Wild were able to carry that momentum into the third period and while it looked like they went on a scoring rampage with three straight goals, they had to fight for each one including their empty-netter by Ryan Hartman at the end to take the win. It may not have been the prettiest win for the Wild, especially with how they started the game, but a win is a win and it was their sixth straight.
Wild’s Dewar & Boldy Lift Team
Usually, the Wild get things going with their top scorers Kaprizov or Mats Zuccarello, but against the Ducks, it was a different story. Their fourth line of Connor Dewar, Mason Shaw, and Ryan Reaves has shown a lot of chemistry recently and it was rewarded when Dewar was able to snipe one past the Ducks’ third-string goaltender Lukáš Dostál. That gave the Wild some hope as the second period came to a close and then it was Matt Boldy’s turn.
Boldy was one of the Wild’s best players last season and this season he started out strong with 10 points in the first 10 games, but lately, his points have come sporadically, thankfully however they’ve been in higher amounts. Against the Ducks, he found his stride when he tallied the tying goal for the Wild and assisted on the two that followed for three points. He secured his 14th power play point with one of those assists and now sits comfortably in third place among Wild players for most power play points.
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While they didn’t register a point together, the GREEF line continues to get stronger with each game they play. It took a little for them to adjust once Jordan Greenway re-entered the lineup but they’ve started to rekindle that chemistry they had last season. Eriksson Ek did tally a point while on the power play but when he was on his normal line, they played with a lot of grit and energy that their team needed, and hopefully that will continue.
Wild Careful With Penalties
Over the last couple of weeks, the Wild have been in serious penalty trouble and the first time they faced the Ducks in November they had their highest penalty minutes of the season. However, this time around the Wild were very controlled, had a couple of minor slips but overall were careful. They had two penalties and killed them both off.
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The Wild finally figured out how to stay disciplined and it was one of the reasons they were able to climb back into the game and eventually go on to win. While they killed off their penalties they did convert on one of the six power play chances they had as well. It didn’t look good as they struggled early on to get any opportunities while a man up but eventually they found a way.
Wild’s Familiar Ties
The older an NHL team is, the more former players they’ll have around the NHL, and now that the Wild have existed for over 20 seasons, they are starting to have more show up around the league. The Ducks have two connections to the Wild but in different ways, one a former player and the other a relative. Most Wild fans will remember Dmitry Kulikov, as he played for the Wild last season and was traded to Anaheim over the summer for future considerations.
The other connection to the Wild was to their power play goal scorer, Joel Eriksson Ek. His younger brother Olle Eriksson Ek is the Duck’s fourth-string goaltender and while he didn’t play, he was the backup when the Wild came to town due to their top two goaltenders being injured. There was a quick photo op with the brothers and then everything went back to business.
Wild Immediately Back At It
The Wild will not have much time to bask in this win as they’ll have to make a quick trip north to San Jose to face the Sharks for their second game of the back-to-back. The Sharks won’t be on a back-to-back but they will be coming off a 7-3 loss to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, Dec. 20. The Wild have to be careful with the Sharks, they already lost to them once in a shootout so the Sharks know how to get under their skin.
The Wild will have to find a way to prevent Erik Karlsson, Timo Meier, Logan Couture, and Alexander Barabanov from scoring, but they won’t have to worry about Tomas Hertl as he was suspended two games due to a high sticking infraction. They will have to worry about figuring out a way to score on either former Wild goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen or James Reimer.
The Wild will have to play a better game than they did against the Ducks or they will have a hard time getting another win. Hopefully, they can get things started right away against the Sharks and not look back to get their seventh straight win before the holiday break.