Wild’s Offense Struggles in Loss to Stars

The Minnesota Wild were back at home for the first time following their holiday break when they took on the Dallas Stars on Dec. 29. It was a battle of the big scorers with Kirill Kaprizov for the Wild and Jason Robertson for the Stars. They finished first and second respectively in the race for the Calder Trophy back in 2020-21 and they’ve continued that success in the seasons that have followed.

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The Wild had plenty of energy to start the game but unfortunately so did the Stars. There was a lot of back-and-forth action until the Stars found a way past Marc-André Fleury to give them a 1-0 lead early in the period. However, the Wild pushed back and had a number of chances including one that rang off the pipe for Matt Boldy but Kaprizov was the one who tied it up with a sharp-angle shot that bounced off the Stars’ goaltender and into the net.

Kirill Kaprizov Minnesota Wild
Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The game ramped up for both teams in the second period and despite a number of chances, neither could score to take the lead. While the second was quiet when it came to scoring, the third was not as the Stars took their second lead of the game early in the period.

Thankfully the Wild didn’t sit on their heels and started pressuring right away with several good looks in the first few minutes following the goal. It wouldn’t last however as the Stars stopped all of the Wild’s third-period attempts and put in three more of their own to steal the game 4-1.

Wild’s Walker & Beckman Make Waves

The Wild have been hit on and off with the injury bug this season and it’s never just one player at a time. This past week hit them hard as they lost Marcus Foligno to an upper-body injury, Jake Middleton to illness, and Mason Shaw to suspension plus they were still without Brandon Duhaime who’s now missed 16 consecutive games. This made room in the lineup for some youngsters to be called up and prove what they can do.

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They didn’t have to call up a defenseman to replace Middleton because he missed just one game and they already had Alex Goligoski ready to go, so he stepped in temporarily. On the other hand, they did have to call up Samuel Walker and Adam Beckman to fill in for Foligno and Shaw. Beckman hasn’t tallied any points for the Wild yet this season but he has shown his speed and puck-handling skills as well as eight shots on goal in five games played.

Walker has also shown a lot of speed and puck-handling skills but also a level of composure that has impressed everyone. Ever since his first game on Dec. 10, he’s played in five games but hasn’t shown the typical nervousness that is present in rookies. He carries the puck and keeps his head up without panicking plus he’s aware of everyone else on the ice. If he can keep that composure, he’s going to be very fun to watch as his career continues.

Wild’s Fleury Not at Fault

The beginning of 2022-23 was a struggle for Fleury and although he still has things to fix, he has made a lot of progress since then. He allowed at least three goals a game in his first four games of the season, but he seemed to get things on track after that with a few slips here and there. Recently in the three games prior to playing the Stars, he only allowed one goal per game and all three of those were wins.

Marc-Andre Fleury Minnesota Wild Robert Thomas St. Louis Blues
Marc-Andre Fleury of the Minnesota Wild makes a save on Robert Thomas of the St. Louis Blues (Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

Against the Stars, the three goals that were scored against him were not directly his fault. All three were tipped and while Fleury was ready to make the save he wasn’t able to adjust correctly to stop the re-direction. While it’s normal for goals to be re-directed, it’s unusual for one team to have multiple deflected goals in the same game. The only goal that wasn’t tipped in for the Stars was the empty netter at the very end of the game to secure the win.

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Fleury wasn’t able to get the victory for his team but he did make some big saves that should be a big boost to his confidence going forward. He also made some very acrobatic, leg-sprawling stops that showed even though he’s 38 years old, he’s still in top physical shape and capable of making those types of saves. Hopefully, Fleury can keep these good habits up, put this loss behind him, and move forward.

Wild’s Power Play & Shooting Struggles

The Wild did a good job of staying out of the penalty box for the most part, but they did still take three penalties and the Stars took advantage. The Wild’s penalty kill struggled without Shaw and Foligno, as they let in two power-play goals that clearly played a part in their loss. They did have two power play opportunities of their own but they were unable to convert on either.

The Wild’s special teams weren’t the only issues that led to the loss, they also really lacked in the shot department. They were outshot 43-24 by the Stars and had the Wild kept throwing shots on goal as they did in the first period, this game could’ve ended very differently. They didn’t register a lot of shots, but they threw them at all different angles and it was clear that Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger struggled with them, as Kaprizov’s goal was shot from a sharp angle and bounced off him into the net.

The Wild need to get their shots on goal back up or they will continue to struggle. They have to find ways to score goals and it looked like they’d found a way with the oddly angled shots but they couldn’t keep it up. They’ll have to fix that if they want to get back in the winning circle.

Wild Face Blues

The Wild will head back on the road to face their division rival St. Louis Blues, another team that plays them extremely hard. This will be the first of four meetings this season and it’ll be interesting to see how it unfolds. The Wild will have to be on the lookout for the Blues’ top scorers Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas, Vladimir Tarasenko, Pavel Buchnevich, and Brayden Schenn.

If they can put a stop to those scorers, they also have to figure out a way to score on either Jordan Binnington or Thomas Greiss. The Wild will have their work cut out for them but hopefully, they can get their offense back on the right path and return to the win column.