The Minnesota Wild’s first game of the season, a 7-3 loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday night, was a game they’d like to forget. It’s important to remember this was just the first game of the season and it was expected mistakes would be made. Thankfully, those mistakes were easy to see and they know what they have to do to fix them.
The Wild were shut down early when the Rangers scored a power-play goal in the first period that sparked two more goals late to give them a daunting 3-0 lead. They showed some life in the second period when it was their turn to score a goal while on the power play. Unfortunately, that just enticed the Rangers, who answered back under 10 minutes later to reclaim their three-goal lead.
The third period was a goal-scoring showdown that the Wild ultimately lost – but not without a fight. The Rangers got things going, but the Wild answered back and they went back and forth a couple of times until the clock ran out. In the end, the Rangers walked out with their second straight win of the season and the Wild were handed their first loss.
Wild Lost Focus, Too Many Penalties
The main problem for the Wild all night was one they could’ve controlled but didn’t, and that was taking too many penalties. They took five penalties, but it seemed like a never-ending cycle at times and was the reason the Rangers got on the board first. The main reason they were getting into so much trouble was carelessness with their sticks. Even Kirill Kaprizov and Ryan Hartman ended up getting called for stick infractions, and they rarely take penalties.
While the Wild had great stats in terms of offense last season, they were also the third most penalized team and it got them into trouble at times. If they can’t focus on staying out of the box, they’ll follow that same pattern and their penalty kill will struggle. The more penalties the Wild took against the Rangers it was clear they were getting more frustrated, as they went from getting called for hooking and tripping to getting called for roughing and fighting.
The one way the Wild can stay out of the sin bin is by staying focused and not allowing the opposing team to get under their skin. If they can keep their sticks to themselves and avoid taking penalties, it’ll be a lot easier to score goals and finish games on the right side of the scoreboard.
Wild Can’t Fool Shesterkin
After the penalty problem, the next issue on the list for the Wild was not being able to get past Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin. He won the Vezina Trophy as the best goaltender in the league last season at just 25 years old. After his performance against the Wild, it was quite clear why he won that award and he’s only going to get better as he gets older.
Obviously, the Rangers have a lot of firepower to put up seven goals against the Wild who are one of the most offensively gifted teams in the league, but without Shesterkin, the win would’ve been impossible. The Wild threw 36 shots at him and he stopped all but three for a .917 save percentage. The next time they see the Rangers will be Jan. 10 and hopefully, by then they’ll have found a way past the star goaltender.
Wild’s Silver Lining
Despite the Wild’s loss, they did have some bright spots throughout the game and their names were Joel Eriksson Ek and Matt Boldy. Eriksson Ek didn’t find his way onto the scoreboard but it wasn’t for lack of effort, as he led the team with eight shots and took quite a beating throughout the game. First, he was hit from behind in a pretty scary hit and thankfully escaped unharmed, only to take a stick to the face a short time later in a scrum behind the net.
While Eriksson Ek was sacrificing his body multiple times, his teammate Boldy was trying to claw the Wild back into the game with back-to-back goals in the third period. His two goals gave the Wild the spark they were looking for and it seemed there could be a comeback in sight, but the Rangers dashed that hope very quickly.
Boldy on his 2 goals: “I’d give them back in a heartbeat (when) you get blown out of the rink.”— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) October 14, 2022
While the Wild’s stars of Kaprizov and Marco Rossi had some trouble finding ways past Shesterkin, Boldy stepped up and tried to do it all himself. They need Kaprizov, Rossi, and their main scorers to get on the board, but it’s good to know that other players like Boldy will take it upon themselves to get things going if needed.
Wild vs Kings
The Wild’s next opponent has a familiar face on their roster and that player is Kevin Fiala. Just six months ago he was still wearing a Wild jersey and having the best season of his career with 85 points. During the middle of the offseason, he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Brock Faber and a draft pick that was later used to pick up prospect Liam Öhgren.
When they face the Kings this weekend, the Wild will have to get on the board early and keep an eye on Fiala. After being a part of the roster last season, he’ll know how to get past Marc-André Fleury. Hopefully on Saturday Kaprizov and Rossi will be scoring goals and helping secure their first win of the season.