After what felt like forever the Minnesota Wild were back in action against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday night (Feb. 6). Following eight days off thanks to the All-Star Break, the Wild went on to the road for their first visit to the brand-new Mullett Arena home to both the Arizona State University Sun Devils as well as the Coyotes. Mullett Arena is significantly smaller than what the Wild are used to and it was obvious at the beginning of the game that the different atmosphere caught them off guard as they weren’t used to the Coyotes’ speed.
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There was a lot of back-and-forth action in the opening frame that saw a lot of shots for the Coyotes but hardly any for the Wild. The Coyotes’ quickness nearly caught the Wild in a number of situations but luckily they were able to recover in time. Despite a number of chances for both sides, the first period ended tied 0-0.
The second period held a lot more action as the Wild got on the board first and things seemed to be headed in the right direction. However, the Coyotes answered right back on the power play and evened things up at one and that’s how the second ended. The third started the same way with a quick goal by the Wild to take the lead, but the Coyotes found a way to respond with a goal of their own to tie it once again. This time the Coyotes answered again to take their first lead of the game and even though the Wild had a number of chances, they couldn’t tie it up and the Coyotes took the 3-2 win.
Wild March to Penalty Box
The Wild were quick to dig themselves a hole when it came to penalties as they gave the Coyotes six opportunities on the man advantage throughout the game. They were lucky the Coyotes only scored once out of those six chances and if it hadn’t been for the Wild’s goaltender Marc-André Fleury there would’ve been many more. That many penalties are simply unacceptable and can’t happen again or the Wild will continue to lose games no matter how many leads they get.
While there are a number of different types of penalties, the Wild’s main problem was not being in control of their sticks and that resulted in tripping, slashing, hooking, and high-sticking penalties being called. They’ll have to focus on that going forward or they’ll keep marching to the penalty box and abandoning their goaltender. However, this should be a relatively easy problem to fix, as they’ve already proven this season that they are capable of staying out of the box.
Wild’s Fleury Deserves Better
Prior to the All-Star Break, Fleury had three straight starts and had a record of 2-1 with a big win over the Buffalo Sabres to head into the break on a high note. In those three games, he had a combined save percentage (SV%) of .929 and a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.28, and a total of seven goals against. In their game against the Coyotes, he continued to play strongly and did everything he could to give his team the chance to win.
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Fleury faced 36 shots and saved 33 with a .917 SV% and a 3.00 GAA but it could’ve been better if his teammates had stayed out of the penalty box. The goalposts also came to Fleury’s rescue a number of times throughout the game and in his typical fashion he made sure to thank them whenever they made a save. The loss was not his fault but it’s hard to say if he’ll get the next start or if they’ll let Filip Gustavsson take the reins since he hasn’t played for over a week.
Wild’s Kaprizov & Brodin Stand Out
The Wild had a lot of penalty problems but their All-Star Kirill Kaprizov tried to carry his team the best he could. He recorded the first goal of the game on a magnificent passing play with Mats Zuccarello and Calen Addison and gave his team the jumpstart it needed. However, it didn’t last as the Coyotes tied it up but then the Wild’s highly underrated defenseman Jonas Brodin jumped into action and secured their second lead of the game.
Brodin also recorded seven blocked shots that led both his team and the Coyotes. While he defended his goaltender, Kaprizov tried to be as offensive as possible with four shots on goal that were only outdone by his linemate Zuccarello’s eight and Matt Boldy’s five. However, Kaprizov tried a little too hard and gave up the puck a number of times which resulted in him having three of the Wild’s seven giveaways. He’ll have to try and clean those up before their next game.
Wild’s Next Opponent
The Wild will remain on the road for one more game this week when they take on the Dallas Stars this Wednesday, Feb. 8. Their season series is currently tied at one game apiece; the Wild won the first meeting at the beginning of December but then the Stars retaliated by taking the second meeting at the end of December.
The Wild’s defense will be very busy trying to keep the Stars’ scoring power of Jason Robertson, Joe Pavelski, Roope Hintz, Jamie Benn, and Miro Heiskanen off the scoreboard. The Wild’s offense will also be busy trying to find a way past Jake Oettinger who’s been a very strong goaltender this season. If they want to get past the Stars they’ll have to stay out of the penalty box and find a way to keep a lead, then they’ll have a chance to get the win.