The Minnesota Wild’s last game before the All-Star break was a tough one against an energetic Chicago Blackhawks team. After a scoreless first period, the Wild found their offensive touch and didn’t let up. They chased Marc-Andre Fleury from the game after five unanswered goals and just under eight minutes to play. The Wild won 5-0 and secured their 28th win of the season and sixth in a row.
Jon Merrill and Nico Sturm returned from COVID Protocol, but they were without Marcus Foligno and Matt Dumba. It’s been an unfortunate pattern this season; as soon as the Wild get someone back, they lose someone else. Thankfully, the absence of Foligno and Dumba didn’t hurt them, and hopefully, the pair will be back after the break, and the team can ice a full lineup. Against the Blackhawks, the Wild had continued production from Kevin Fiala, their top line, and their goaltending, which came up strong again.
Wild’s Fiala Continues Streak
Fiala has been outstanding in the last month, and he deserves all the recognition. He extended his point streak to 16 points (9 goals, 7 assists)in 12 games and tied former Wild forward Mikael Granlund for the longest point streak in franchise history. Granlund scored 17 points in a 12-game streak in 2016-17.
Fiala struggled at the beginning of the season, but since their win over the Dallas Stars on Dec. 20, he’s been on fire. However, he owes some of those points to Wild rookie Matt Boldy, who’s also been on fire. In 10 games, he has 10 points and has become a presence in the lineup. He seems to be the answer to Fiala’s trouble finding a winger.
Wild’s Top Line Shows Skill
For most of this season, the Wild’s top line has showcased their skills. The game against the Blackhawks was no different, as Mats Zuccarello scored the second goal of the game, playing alongside Jordan Greenway and Brandon Duhaime. However, the next goal was scored by his line, and Zuccarello helped set it up. He made a great pass to Kirill Kaprizov, who scored the third goal of the game to give the Wild a 3-0 lead.
The line accounts for three of the top-four scorers on the roster. Kaprizov sits alone at the top with 19 goals and 34 assists. He ranks eighth in NHL scoring and was 11 points behind the leader as of Feb. 2. Meanwhile, Zuccarello is on pace to have the best season of his career. He has 42 points in 35 games played which puts him on pace for at least 84 points or more. His career-high prior to this season was in 2015-16′ when he recorded 61 points.
Finally, Ryan Hartman, who despite being held to one point, is also having his best season. He currently has a career-high 33 points with 18 goals. He’s just one goal away from tying his career-high of 19 goals in a single season.
Wild’s Talbot Back
Once again, the Wild were helped by their goaltender. Cam Talbot stood his ground to earn his (and the team’s) first shutout of the season, stopping 35 shots. He also had some help from Duhaime, who knocked the puck out of the crease while Talbot was down after making a save.
Since the Winter Classic Talbot has struggled with a lower-body injury that took him out of the lineup not once but twice over the last month. Thankfully, he seems to have healed fully now and will be headed to the All-Star Game to show off his skills along with Kaprizov; both are making their first appearance.
Wild’s Last Break
This five-day break will be the last one for the Wild this season. Play will resume with a condensed schedule as the NHL makes up for all the rescheduled games. The Wild had seven games postponed, which means they will be playing every other day until the end of the season. Thankfully, this All-Star break will give both Foligno and Dumba time to heal from their recent injuries and possibly rejoin the team.
The Wild will head to Winnipeg to face the Jets when they return from the break, but it’ll be a quick trip as they’ll head right back home to face one of the top teams in the league, the Carolina Hurricanes. Minnesota has had plenty of long breaks this season, so they’re used to days off, so the All-Star hiatus shouldn’t be a problem. The problem will be playing every other day after they got used to playing one game every five days. Luckily, they played a lot with few breaks at the very beginning of the season, so they should be able to transition into these games quickly and skillfully to keep their winning streak alive and move up the standings.
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.