The Minnesota Wild were back in action against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night following a five-day break for the All-Star game. They struggled from the start when the Jets scored first, and they couldn’t recover as they lost 2-0. They were handed their first loss in nearly three weeks, and their win streak ended at six games. This was the first time all season they were held off the scoreboard. With the shutout loss, both Kevin Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov had their scoring streaks come to an abrupt end.
They remained without Matt Dumba but had Marcus Foligno back after he missed their previous two games with an injury. The game was rough from the start, and the Wild’s most physical players, Jordan Greenway and Foligno, were in the thick of it from the beginning. The physicality became so much that it took away from their style of play, and they didn’t appear to be the same successful team from a week ago.
Wild Need More Focus
The Wild struggled to play their own game resulting in the Jets dictating most of the play. They had decent chances but couldn’t get anything past Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. Every opportunity they had with the puck, they threw it away or couldn’t connect on their passes. They struggled all night and focused more on hits than their scoring.
Their 24 hits in the game weren’t high or low but average for their typical night. It’s been harder to notice this season with all the scoring they’ve done, but the hits get noticed when they don’t score. Foligno had the hardest time, and the Wild may be without him in their next game, depending on what the league decides to do. He had an altercation with Jets forward Adam Lowry, whom he’d been bothered by all game, and following the incident, he kneed Lowry in the face, something the league will look at closely.
Wild’s Special Teams Hit Road Block
The Wild’s special teams had been a highlight of their play for the last few weeks. They’d strung together five straight games with points on the power-play until they met the Jets. They had one power-play opportunity but couldn’t convert. Unfortunately, their power play wasn’t the only thing that struggled, their penalty kill also had trouble.
The Wild let in a goal while shorthanded, but they killed off the Jets’ three other chances. There was some good in regards to their penalty kill, despite their struggle, they were still able to kill off a majority of the chances overall. There was one other bit of good news in the loss, and that was their goaltending that continued to do well.
Wild’s Kahkonen Deserved Better
While it was the Wild’s 11th loss, it was Kaapo Kahkonen’s third of the season. The blame for the loss can’t fall on his shoulders, nearly the entire team struggled while he showed up ready to play. He made 27 saves out of 28 shots for a .964 save percentage and 1.05 goals-against average, which were very respectable stats even with the loss.
He made several big saves that kept the Wild in the game, including a well-timed poke check that caught a Jets forward by surprise and showed excellent awareness by Kahkonen. He’s developed into a very stable goaltender over the last month he’s been in net, and the Wild will need his steady presence as they face some tough opponents in the coming months.
Wild’s Dewar Earns Shoutout
Connor Dewar has improved quietly over the last 15 games and has tallied four points. He’s a heads-up player that sees the play unfold and knows where to be. While he didn’t record any points against the Jets, he led the team in blocked shots with five and showed he’s valuable on the defensive side of things as well. The Wild have an up-and-coming young forward in Dewar, and he’ll prove to be a great asset as things move along.
Wild Versus Hurricanes
After their loss to the Jets, the Wild fly home to face another tough opponent in the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, Feb. 12. They’ll have to practice hard the three days they have off to be ready for the Hurricanes who’ll be coming off a game against the Boston Bruins. As of Feb. 8, the Hurricanes were in fourth place in the league, four points out of first place. They have a record of 31-10-3 for 65 points.
The Wild are a good team, but they’ll need to learn from their loss and figure out why they weren’t playing up to their normal standards to get past the Hurricanes. Their superstar Sebastian Aho leads with 46 points and joined the Wild’s Kaprizov and Cam Talbot in Las Vegas for the All-Star Weekend. The Wild will get to see a former teammate and fan-favorite Nino Niederreiter when they come to town. He was sent to Carolina in the trade for Victor Rask.
The Wild have to play better than they did against the Jets to make it through this hectic schedule. It’ll be harder starting the week with a loss, but they’ve proven they can make comebacks. The most important thing is they fix their mistakes and don’t dwell on the loss. If they can get back to the play they had before the All-Star Break, Saturday will prove to be an enjoyable and fast game to watch with the skills both teams possess.
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.