Kahkonen, Wild Earn Series Split against San Jose

Kahkonen, Wild Earn Series Split against San Jose

Wild

Kahkonen, Wild Earn Series Split against San Jose

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Whenever a new neighbor or a new employee arrives you’re not quite sure what to expect.  You observe from afar their mannerisms, etc but until you actually meet them 1-on-1 you are not sure whether they’re going to fit or not.  When the Minnesota Wild traded defenseman Greg Pateryn to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Ian Cole you weren’t entirely sure what to expect.  Cole had the reputation for being a solid defenseman with two-way ability but he had played for some pretty good clubs in his past being a member of the Avalanche, Penguins and Blues before he arrived in Minnesota.  Would he look as good here as he did with those other aforementioned teams?

Yes, indeed he has.  In fact, the Wild did not waste any time in inserting the former Notre Dame University standout into the lineup and he has been rock solid on the team’s 3rd pairing with Carson Soucy.  His positioning and gap control have been excellent and he’s shown he’s very adept at reading the play and if you didn’t know he was new to the team you’d swear he has been playing for the Wild for years.  I thought he was especially strong on Friday night against the San Jose Sharks where he showed great anticipation in using his stick to break up odd-man rushes and his first pass out of the zone is crisp and consistently accurate.

While I realize that Colorado made the move with saving some money as well as opening up a roster spot for young, talented rookie Bowen Byram, the Wild got a nice upgrade to their 3rd pairing with Cole.  Pateryn had been playing better but you didn’t always know what you were going to get from him game-to-game.  Cole so far has been very consistent and his mobility, vision and two-way game are already rather evident.  Combine that with the fact you know he’s battle tested from being on those successful teams in Colorado and Pittsburgh and you know he brings valuable playoff experience to the table as well.

Cole’s arrival also allows the team to spread out its minutes among all 3 of its defensive pairs in a more even fashion which in turn means more energy for its Top 4 in those crucial moments of the game.  That makes Cole a sort of a force multiplier.  Toss in the fact the Wild didn’t have to give up any additional assets (players, picks) to acquire Cole from Colorado and I think you have to feel it was a good deal for Minnesota.  Wild General Manager Bill Guerin was familiar with this player, felt the fit was right and pulled the trigger and so far it looks like it was a terrific move.

Jan 22, 2021; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Wild goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen (34) defends his net against the San Jose Sharks at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Kaapo Kahkonen’s net, for now

During Friday’s game, Wild goaltender Cam Talbot appeared to have been injured mid-way through the 1st period against the Sharks.  While some speculated he may have been hit by a puck in the thigh or some other sensitive area of his body, it looked like a groin issue to me.  Talbot initially tried to tough it out by playing out the rest of the 1st period yet when he skated out to start the 2nd he recognized he was in trouble and immediately left the ice which forced the team to go to Kaapo Kahkonen to man the crease.

The youngster looked poised and under control against the Sharks for the next two periods where he stopped all of the 17 shots he faced.  I think he had good support in front of him as the Wild had good backchecking from its forwards and the Sharks rarely were able to have 2nd chance scoring opportunities.

If Talbot is unable to even be a backup for Kahkonen, and with Alex Stalock still out with an ‘upper body injury’ that would mean the team would move up Andrew Hammond (aka the Hamburglar) to the backup spot.  One would think for the next few games Kahkonen will carry most of the goaltending’s duties until Talbot is healthy.  With a compressed schedule, it doesn’t give players almost any down time to nurse an injury.  In Kahkonen we trust.

Or should we?

Kahkonen had some ‘iffy’ goals given up against the Sharks where pucks trickled through the leg pads despite little or no traffic in front of him.  The goal he gave up to San Jose’s Noah Gregor kind of stands out as one of the soft goals he gave up.  However, the Wild don’t really have another option at this point unless they decide to give Andrew Hammond a start.  The team has had better overall goaltending to start this season than it did last year and that margin has been part of the reason they’ve had the positive start they’ve had thus far.  Since the Wild are not a high scoring team, the club is very sensitive even to the slightest declines from any of its goaltenders, backups and starters alike.

In the latter half of the game, Kahkonen kept Minnesota in the game with some clutch saves from in close including a fantastic denial of Marcus Sorensen.  You can’t blame him for not stopping Brent Burns on his pretty backhand goal late in the game.

Wild Big Guns heating up?

On Friday, both Zach Parise and Kevin Fiala managed to register their 1st goals of the season.  Then on Sunday, the #1 and #2 goal scorers from last season picked up where they left off by tallying a goal apiece.  The Wild always seem to be in search of goals and it is good to see both Parise and Fiala lighting the lamp this time in more classic fashion as the alternate captain buried a puck form in close and Fiala on a blast from the point.

Both players were looking more and more assertive in the offensive zone and that can only be a good thing for the Minnesota Wild moving forward.

What did you think of the Wild’s series against the Sharks?  Tell us on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist or in the comment section below!

Here is your prospect update for this weekend!

Wild Prospect Report:

D – Marshall Warren (Boston College, H-East) ~ The former National Development Team stalwart had an assist and 1 shot on goal in Boston College’s 3-3 tie against UConn on Friday night.  On Saturday, the defenseman had 4 shots on goal and was a +1 in BC’s 4-2 victory.  Warren has a goal, 4 points, PIM’s and is +7 in 12 games.

LW – Vladislav Firstov (UConn, H-East) ~ Minnesota’s 2nd round pick from 2019 had an assist and 1 shot on goal in the Huskies’ 3-3 tie against Boston College on Friday.  On Saturday, it wasn’t nearly as good as he had just one shot on goal and was a -3 in UConn’s 4-2 loss.  Firstov has 2 goals, 7 points, PIM’s and is -1 in 6 games.

C – Matt Boldy (Boston College, NCHC) ~ The skilled forward had an assist in Boston College’s 4-2 win last night.  Boldy has 4 goals, 12 points, 4 PIM’s and is +8 in 10 games.

C – Jack McBain (Boston College, NCHC) ~ The junior forward had an assist and 3 shots on goal in the Eagles 4-2 win over UConn on Saturday.  McBain has 2 goals, 9 points, 10 PIM’s and is +11 in 12 games.

LW – Nikita Nesterenko (Boston College, NCHC) ~ The Brooklyn, New York-native had an assist in Boston College’s 4-2 win that gave them a series sweep over the Huskies.  Nesterenko has 5 goals, 11 points, 6 PIM’s and is +8 in 12 games.

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