This weekend, the Minnesota Wild finished another back-to-back on the road taking on the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. It didn’t go well against the Panthers, another late comeback that fell short 5-4. Against the Lightning, things seemed to get better, but it didn’t last, and they fell in the shootout, 5-4.
They mounted a comeback in both games but couldn’t close them out. Many things stood out in these games, some for the better and some worse, but all season, the Wild have fought back and have never given up. They can keep their heads up after a tough weekend.
Wild Getting Unexpected Production
One positive from their trip to Florida was that the Wild got goals from all over their lineup. Kirill Kaprizov and Joel Eriksson Ek scored as expected, but Minnesota also received some unexpected offense, from players like Marcus Foligno, Rem Pitlick, Ryan Hartman, and Brandon Duhaime, who all produced.
Kevin Fiala is also expected to score, but he’s had real trouble finding the back of the net this season. However, he found success against the Lightning, scoring a goal and assisting on the tying goal.
The Wild’s defensemen got in on the action too, with Matt Dumba, Alex Goligoski, Dmitry Kulikov, and Jordie Benn helping to set up some goals.
Wild’s Defense Shaken Up
Minnesota’s blue line took a hit in Florida. Their captain and the core of their defense Jared Spurgeon was hurt against the Panthers. He left during the first period and has been ruled out with a lower-body injury. Unfortunately, that leaves a big hole in their lineup because Spurgeon steps up in every situation. If this proves to be a long-term injury, the Wild will need to find someone who can fill that spot immediately, but they have options.
Benn played against the Lightning and he impressed the coaching staff. He may be the player they choose to rely on but they have one more option.
Spurgeon is getting pictures tomorrow on his lower-body injury. Sure feels like the #mnwild are worried they’re going to be without their captain for awhile.— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) November 22, 2021
When Goligoski was out earlier this season, Calen Addison stepped up and made it very difficult for management to send him back to the American Hockey League (AHL). In two games, he scored a goal, tallied two hits, and blocked a shot. He was called back up from the AHL when word spread that Spurgeon was injured, but he watched the game against the Lightning from the press box. No announcement has been made whether he will play the next game or remain on standby.
Wild’s Turnover Issues
Against the Panthers, the Wild continued to struggle with turnovers. They’ve managed to get them under control for a game or two, but not consistently. Nearly every Wild player has turned the puck over this season, but against the Panthers, they were awful with 16 giveaways.
Many players were at fault, including Frederick Gaudreau, Mats Zuccarello, Jonas Brodin, and Kaprizov. Brodin was the only defenseman with more than one giveaway, but it’s still concerning.
The Wild need to fix this going forward and they had a good start against the Lightning with zero turnovers against the defending Stanley Cup champions. They’ll need to keep that up if they want to stay atop the Central Division.
Wild Must Use Their Speed
Over the weekend, Minnesota had trouble containing the Panthers and Lightning’s speed. It wasn’t that they couldn’t keep up, it was that they weren’t using their own speed. Kaprizov, Fiala, Zuccarello, and Eriksson Ek are built for speed but they didn’t bring enough of it in Florida.
They aren’t the only Wild players who needed to be better. Victor Rask, Gaudreau, and Dumba weren’t as fast as they’ve shown all season. All of their speedy players had issues unleashing their swiftness over the weekend. Whether they were shut down or not taking advantage of their chances, the Wild couldn’t make it work.
Wild Almost Home
The Wild have one more game to salvage their three-game road trip before they head home for a lengthy homestand. They have a couple of days off to go over what went wrong, what went right, and how to fix it before their next game on Wednesday against the New Jersey Devils. We should also find out how long the team will be without their captain.
The Devils have had a pretty decent start to the season with wins against the New York Islanders, Lightning, Panthers, and San Jose Sharks. Minnesota will have their hands full on Wednesday and need to be at the top of their game.
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.