Welcome to this week’s installment of Minnesota Wild Weekly, which will take a look at the past week of Wild hockey. It will include notes, the biggest takeaways, and, of course, the review of the week.
Week in Review
The Wild went undefeated this week with wins against the Sharks, Avalanche, and two against the Kings. Those four straight wins extended the Wild’s winning streak to six games, making them one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now. There’s not much to be upset about right now if you’re a Wild fan. After a scary encounter with COVID-19, the team is getting healthier and receiving contributions from all over the lineup.
The Wild looked dominant against the Sharks and the Avalanche. Another convincing win on Friday was followed up with the week’s only shaky performance as the Wild blew a 3-0 lead to the Kings. However, a clutch goal by Matt Dumba with less than a second left on the clock in overtime secured two points for the Wild and kept the winning streak alive.
Cam Talbot returned from injury and was minutes away from posting a shutout in his first game back on Friday night. With Talbot now back in action and Kähkönen proving he is a legit NHL netminder, the organization put Alex Stalock on waivers Sunday. The hope is that he can clear and get some game action with Iowa once he is fully healthy.
Takeaways, Notes, and Concerns
From Kaprizov showing off his skill to the Wild’s Goaltending, here are some takeaways, notes, and concerns from the past week.
We seem to talk about him every single week, but how can you not. The Wild knew they had forward depth, but what they were missing in past years was a game-breaker who can change a game in a split-second with their speed and skill. The Wild now have a player in Kaprizov who can do just that.
With eight points in his last five games, Kaprizov is everything Wild fans were hoping for and so much more. His edgework and puck control allow him to drive a line, and he has found some real nice chemistry with Rask and Zuccarello.
His name might not get mentioned a whole lot, but Nico Sturm had an excellent week. Playing on the fourth line, Sturm scored two goals against the Avalanche and netted another last night, his only three points of the season. His fourth line has been one that has spent a lot of time forechecking in the offensive zone and frustrating the opposing team. When a team can get that kind of offence from their fourth line, it takes some of the pressure off the team’s top line to carry the scoring.
The questions surrounding Kähkönen entering the season have all seemed to disappear, as the young goaltender has given his team a chance to keep winning while Stalock and Talbot were out of the lineup. (from ‘Kaapo Kahkonen staking a claim to being Wild’s regular goalie,’ Star Tribune, 02/26/2021) He is 8-4 with a 2.41 goals-against average (GAA) and a .915 save percentage.
Talbot, meanwhile, is 4-2 with a 2.19 GAA and a .926 save percentage. The combination of these two has given the Wild some of the best goaltending in the league this season. It’s impossible to look at this team’s success so far without pointing to in-between the pipes as a key factor.
Dumba had himself a game on Saturday night. Entering the game, Dumba sat at three goals and six points on the season. On Saturday, though, Dumba registered an assist and scored the game-winning goal on a beautiful move on the breakaway with less than a second remaining on the clock in overtime. He played 27:40 on the night, which was arguably his best game of the season.
Standing Tracker and Injury Updates
The Wild currently sit tied for second in the West Division with the Blues with 24 points each. However, based on point percentage, they sit alone in second place, playing three fewer games than the Blues. They sit one point behind the division-leading Golden Knights, who have a game in hand on them.
Cam Talbot returned to the lineup Friday night and played amazing against the Kings. Forward Marcus Johansson remains out with an upper-body injury he sustained on Jan. 18 against the Ducks. The timetable for his return is still unknown at this time.
It’s tough to find any negatives with the Wild right now. It was a little scary watching them blow a 3-0 lead to the Kings Saturday night, but they showed great resilience fighting back to win the game in overtime. The team looks to be gelling together very nicely, and the confidence right now is evident in the way they are playing every shift.
The Wild will be playing the Golden Knights for the first time this season on both Monday and Wednesday and then have a back-to-back against the Coyotes on Friday and Saturday. All four games will be on the road as the Wild look to extend their six-game winning streak.
Sports writer covering the Minnesota Wild. Graduated with a degree in sport media, also working with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.