The Minnesota Wild won their third straight game despite their depleted roster, when they took on the Anaheim Ducks, Friday night in their celebration of Black History Month. The celebration was held in January due to originally not having any home games scheduled in February.
They were still without Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Joel Eriksson Ek, Nick Bjugstad, Cam Talbot, and Alex Goligoski. Eriksson Ek and Goligoski remained in COVID protocols. They did get back Kirill Kaprizov, Jordan Greenway, and Brandon Duhaime from both the injured and COVID protocol list.
Many things happened in this game for the Wild that included players returning to the lineup, their goaltender stepping up big, and a number of players getting on the scoreboard in the 7-3 win. The Wild jumped out to an early lead in the first, things were calm in the second, and in the third, the Ducks looked poised to make a comeback but the Wild shut it down.
Wild’s Kahkonen Delivered Again
While Talbot continues to deal with an injury, Kaapo Kahkonen is the starter. He’s proven his worth in Talbot’s absence and stepped up big. The game against the Ducks was no different, despite the Wild getting an early lead, they relied on Kahkonen all game as the Ducks peppered him with shot after shot. He faced 42 shots and stopped 39 of them. He ended the night with a .929 save percentage.
His stats have gone up and down with every game he’s played but overall, he’s improved with each game. With top defensemen, Spurgeon and Brodin out, more has been expected of Kahkonen. He’s stepped up and made the big saves when the unfamiliar defensive pairings in front of him made mistakes.
While Talbot was the main starter before his injury, Kahkonen started seven games and although he had a winning record, his stats struggled. As soon as he was put into the pressured situation of filling in for the injured Talbot, he improved, and the Wild benefited.
Wild’s Top Line Dominated
The Wild’s top line was back together against the Ducks as Kaprizov made his re-entrance to the lineup. He missed one game in the eight days he was out, but the Wild missed him, even with the win they recorded. He didn’t waste any time getting settled in either, as he assisted on the second goal of the game scored by linemate Ryan Hartman.
Kaprizov tallied another assist later in the game on a goal by Mats Zuccarello. On that play, Kaprizov was tied up along the boards by two players when he realized Zuccarello was wide open in front of the net. He sent a backhanded pass without even a glance and timed it perfectly for Zuccarello to send it past Ducks goaltender Anthony Stolarz, giving the Wild a two-goal lead.
Three of the Wild’s seven goals were by the top line of Hartman, Kaprizov, and Zuccarello. Kaprizov had two assists, Zuccarello had two goals plus an assist, and Hartman had a goal plus an assist. Together, that line tallied seven points. The second line of Kevin Fiala, Matt Boldy, and Frederick Gaudreau wasn’t far behind with four points. The Wild received the production they expected from their top lines and hopefully, it’ll continue.
Boldy Here to Stay
The Wild made news last week when they called up Matthew Boldy and Marco Rossi. Rossi did well but Boldy thrived and has been on a roll. He scored his first NHL goal in his first game and it turned out to be the game-winner over the Boston Bruins. He came up empty-handed against the Capitals, but last night against the Ducks, he found his scoring touch. He scored the first goal of the third period that sent the Wild on a three-goal scoring streak that chased Stolarz from the net.
Boldy not only scored a goal but assisted on one when he stole the puck in the neutral zone. He turned and tore into the offensive zone, passed at the perfect time for linemate Fiala to go in one-on-one with the goaltender. He scored the Wild’s first of the game that gave them the lead. Fiala may finally have his perfect linemate in Boldy. The two got along well together and have a similar style of play that resulted in goals.
Wild Face Avalanche
The Wild head out on the road to face the Colorado Avalanche on Monday, Jan. 17 in their second meeting of the regular season. Spurgeon and Talbot will not play and it isn’t clear if Eriksson Ek will be able to return either. The Wild will continue to play with a depleted roster but it’s worked out well for them so far.
Boldy’s presence in the lineup for Monday is unknown at this time as well. It seems the Wild are taking it one game at a time with him and until they get more players back, he may be here to stay.
They’ll be put to the test when they face the Avalanche’s best in Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog, and their current points leader, Nazem Kadri. The Wild have to jump out early and bombard the Avalanche goaltender with shots while making sure to help Kahkonen in their own end. If they can do those things, they’ll hopefully extend the win streak to four straight.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW as well as a cohost on the THW Youtube show Chicks & Sticks which produces a new show every Friday. She’s been covering the Wild at THW for just over eight months and has been on Chicks & Sticks since it started in early May. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team.