The Minnesota Wild’s last week of hockey prior to their four-day holiday break consisted of only two games, a back-to-back on the road in California. Their first game against the Anaheim Ducks started out rough but ended with a win and extended their winning streak to six games. That ended the very next game, however, when they dug themselves a big hole against the San Jose Sharks and couldn’t dig themselves out.
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While the Wild had plenty of success from their players against the Ducks, their game against the Sharks was a different story. They did have strong performances from a couple of players but the rest of the team struggled. As if the loss to the Sharks wasn’t disappointing enough, the Wild also lost two players for this upcoming week, one to injury and the other to suspension.
Wild’s Boldy Back on Top
Matt Boldy has been one of the Wild’s strongest players since he joined them as a rookie last season where he put up 39 points (15G, 24A) in 47 games played. So far this season he’s played in 33 games and has 26 points (12G, 14A) which looks like it’ll be another great season. This past week he was one of the few bright spots the Wild had with his four points (1G, 3A) over the past two games.
Boldy was one of two Wild who stood out as leading the way with the other being Joel Eriksson Ek. He has been one of their best players the last few weeks and has taken a big step forward in his offensive game. He’s played in 33 games and recorded 27 points (12G, 15A) and is on pace for his first 50-point season. This past week he was right behind Boldy with three games played and two points (two goals). He was also one of the only Wild players to have any success against the Sharks and gave his team hope when he tied the game up early before they started to struggle and eventually lose.
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While Boldy and Eriksson Ek are on track to be some of the Wild’s top scorers, there was one final player who deserves a mention on the list of successful players and that is Ryan Hartman. He missed 21 games after being injured at the end of October and returned recently on Dec. 18. He didn’t record any points his first game back but a few days later he scored an empty net goal for just his second of the season and sealed the win for his team against the Ducks. That goal while not the game-winner, gave him a boost of confidence he needed after being out so long.
Wild’s Greenway & Defense Struggle
Jordan Greenway’s season has been filled with injuries and now that he’s been back in the lineup he’s struggled to accumulate any points. Despite being on a line with Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno, he has just three points (1G, 2A) on the season. He has shown drastic improvement over the last week or two in terms of playing the gritty and physical style that he played before getting injured. However, this past week despite his attempts, he was unable to tally any points and continued his four-game point drought.
Greenway may have struggled offensively but these past two games have exposed some serious holes in the Wild’s team defense. Against the Sharks in particular they left some players wide open near their goaltender and it cost them greatly. It’s an issue that haunted them on and off last season and is starting to make an appearance this season as well.
While the Wild need Greenway to find a way to record some points, they also need their defense to step up and cover the opposing players in front of their goaltender. They already lost one game because of this issue, and they can’t allow it to continue. They’ll also be at a disadvantage with losing Mason Shaw to a two-game suspension following a knee-on-knee penalty against the Sharks and in the game prior against the Ducks they lost Foligno to an upper-body injury with an unknown return date.
Wild’s Week Ahead
After a four-day break, the Wild should be well-rested and ready to play three more games this upcoming week. They’ll head on the road first to take on the Winnipeg Jets followed by a quick one-game trip home to play the Dallas Stars and then back on the road again to face the St. Louis Blues. The latter will be their yearly New Years’ Eve matinee that’s had a different opponent each season, but the games stopped during the 2020 and 2021 campaigns due to COVID-19 issues.
The Wild’s defense needs to resolve their issues if they hope to keep scorers like Josh Morrissey, Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski, Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas, and Vladimir Tarasenko off the scoreboard. However, that’s only half the problem as they’ll also have to get past Jets goaltenders Connor Hellebuyck or David Rittich, Stars Jake Oettinger or Scott Wedgewood, and finally the Blues’ Jordan Binnington or Thomas Greiss.
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If the Wild hope to come out of this week with some wins under their belt they’ll need Boldy, Eriksson Ek, and Hartman to keep up their offense but also their defense has to improve their overall coverage. If those things happen they will be able to add some wins and get back on the right track as the season moves into 2023.