The Minnesota Wild’s offense exploded in Game 2 against the St. Louis Blues. The scoring didn’t start quite as early but when it did, it didn’t stop. The Wild started their scoring spree halfway through the first period and kept it going until the end, by that time they were up 3-0. Going into the second, they had to be careful with the Blues who were the best second-period team in the NHL during the regular season. The Wild added another goal early in the period to extend their lead to 4-0 and fought hard to keep it that way.
The Blues finally found the back of the net and took Marc-André Fleury‘s shutout away to make it 4-1. Despite some hard pressure from the Blues, the Wild kept the 4-1 lead through to the end of the second period. The third period was a little more nerve-wracking, as the Blues scored their second goal of the night to give the Wild the most dangerous lead in hockey, a two-goal lead. There was no worry in their game, however, as they went on to score two more goals for a 6-2 lead and eventually the victory to tie the series at one apiece.
Wild Improve Composure
The Wild weren’t perfect and still have some areas to fix, but they greatly improved their composure from Game 1 to Game 2. They stayed calm despite the Blues’ efforts to provoke retaliation, as the Wild learned their lesson from their last matchup on Monday. They also watched their physicality and tried to keep it smart instead of letting their anger get the best of them.
While their game was better, they still have to improve, especially as they head on the road for two games. They need to watch the number of penalties they take. Clearly it was better than Game 1, but five penalties against a team like the Blues is too many. Out of the five chances, the Blues scored on one, so the Wild did better on the penalty kill but still have some work to do on that front.
While mentioning the Wild’s special teams, their power play also did well. They stayed focused in that area and didn’t try to get overly cute like in games past. They took shots and set up plays without wasting time, because of this, they were able to score twice out of three power-play chances. They even were composed enough to force the Blues to start taking penalties themselves which included Kirill Kaprizov drawing two penalties by Justin Faulk due to his hard work with the puck.
Wild’s Whole Roster Improves Defense
During Game 1, the Wild struggled to keep the Blues away from their net. In Game 2, the Blues took plenty of shots but the Wild’s defense stepped up big. It wasn’t just their defensemen either, as their entire roster took it upon themselves to get involved on the defensive side of things. Jacob Middleton’s play the last couple of weeks had been very strong and it continued in Game 2, as he blocked a shot that surely would’ve been a goal had he not got in front of it.
Kaprizov, who’s known more for scoring goals than preventing them, did both in Game 2. He scored a hat trick and proved he can play defensively too, with several poke checks and defensive plays that made a difference in the game and helped out his teammates. The stats sheet only showed 20 blocked shots for the Wild but it looked like it should have been more, as there were players diving left and right blocking shots. It ended up making a huge difference in their defensive game.
Jon Merrill led the way with six blocked shots, and not far behind him were Jacob Middleton and Alex Goligoski with three each. Every defenseman on the roster registered at least one for a combined total of 16 with the other four going to forwards.
Wild’s Fleury Deserves Another Vezina
Was Fleury the best goaltender all year? By the numbers, no. By overall play, yes and during the first two games of the postseason, a resounding yes. As far as overall play, with respect to his former team, the Chicago Blackhawks, they were a team that struggled all year, and he was stuck in the middle of it. Then, he was traded to the Wild and got to show off his Hall of Fame-worthy talents.
Fleury’s grace and composure after everything he’s been through should be enough to earn him some kind of award, but the fact that his play has remained at a high level through it all, he’s worthy of being named the best goaltender in the NHL. When his teams have lost with him in net this season, it typically hasn’t been because of him. He makes all the saves he should, while his defense has struggled in front of him. However, when they are playing lights out, as the Wild did in Game 2, they make a very powerful team.
Fleury did his typical sprawling all over and made some unreal saves that kept his team in the lead during Game 2. Without his stellar play, there is no way they would’ve come out with the win. Wild fans got to see what Fleury is truly capable of, and what he’s good at is winning in the postseason. Hopefully, he can continue to do so moving forward.
Wild’s Kaprizov Sets Another Record
After the season Kaprizov’s had, surely it was expected he would somehow either break or set postseason records for the Wild and it only took him until Game 2 to do so. He recorded the first postseason hat trick in franchise history. However, he was nearly beaten to it earlier in the same period. Joel Eriksson Ek had recorded the hat trick just a little earlier, but it was taken away due to Marcus Foligno being offside.
It was the first time a player on a Minnesota-based NHL team had scored a hat trick since 1981 when Dino Ciccarelli did so for the Minnesota North Stars. After having a quiet Game 1, Kaprizov stormed onto the scene in Game 2 with a three-point night as well as five shots on goal and one takeaway. If he can continue this offensive surge as he did towards the end of the regular season, he will be key to the Wild continuing to have success in the postseason this year.
Wild Head to St. Louis
Now the Wild will head to St. Louis for two games, and they better believe it’ll be as loud there for the Blues as it was for themselves in Minnesota. They’ll have to focus on the way they played Game 2 and use that momentum to carry them in Game 3. They also have to continue playing their game. They can’t fall back into playing like the Blues, as that style just doesn’t work for them.
The Wild didn’t focus as much on their physicality and it helped them in Game 2. They’ll have to continue to keep an eye on players like David Perron and Jordan Kyrou, who have found ways to exploit their weaknesses in the last two games. Thankfully, they’ll have Fleury to depend on and their offense seems to have found a way past Ville Husso. The Wild will face a tough Blues team heading into Game 3, but after their victory in Game 2, they now know what they have to do to win.
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.