Tombstone is one of my favorite movies, and if this game started like a Western it was like Cam Talbot and the Minnesota Wild were in the middle of a shooting gallery. The Coyotes were all over the Wild zone, as Minnesota looked tired and both mentally and physically slow against the high-tempo Arizona squad. Talbot had to have his head on a swivel as he was being peppered with shots, many of them from in close and to his credit he was managing to stop most them. The Coyotes had 10 shots the first 7 minutes of the game while Minnesota had managed just one.
The Coyotes’ pressure would draw a tripping call on Carson Soucy giving Arizona a power play. Arizona continued to attack and their persistence would finally be rewarded as Christian Dvorak jammed a puck through the pads of Talbot to give the Coyotes a 1-0 lead. Minnesota looked like a groggy or hungover person trying to wake up as it slowly started to shake loose the mental cobwebs to get its feet moving. Bad passes also helped thwart potential scoring chances and breakouts from their own end of the ice. Eventually, a few of the lines started to make a few things happen in the Coyotes’ end as Marcus Johansson had a nice opportunity off the rush and then a couple of shifts later it was Kirill Kaprizov set up in the slot for a quick chance that Darcy Kuemper just managed to fight off. As bad as the Wild played, it still was a one-shot game and they’d trail by one going into the 1st intermission.
The period started out with both clubs trading rushes with one another, but Minnesota would even the score less than 3 minutes in. After a turnover in the neutral zone the Wild’s Nico Sturm went on the attack and he made a perfect cross-ice pass to Kevin Fiala who was able to bury it from in close to tie the game at 1-1. The Coyotes tried to answer back, and Minnesota kind of was playing rope-a-dope while Talbot kept them in the game with big saves. This was especially true on the power play as Talbot made a bunch of stops from in close before the Wild were finally able to clear the zone.
Minnesota was also getting a little banged up; as Alex Goligoski got an elbow into the face of Kirill Kaprizov that seemed to bother the youngster a great deal. The Wild were playing a bit more hesitant in their game and the Coyotes tried to take advantage and came close to taking back the lead late in the period as Dryden Hunt rang a shot of the crossbar and right post and out with about 30 seconds left in the period. Still 1-1 going into the 2nd intermission.
One Wild player who I felt was having a pretty rough night was Victor Rask who seemed to be a step too slow all too often and when he did have the puck he seemed to cough it up with little or no harassment by Arizona. If he keeps playing like this, he will find himself replaced in the lineup by Nick Bjugstad sooner rather than later.
In the 3rd period, the Wild would take the lead just under 5 minutes into the period as Joel Eriksson Ek won a battle for the puck and fed an outlet pass to Marcus Foligno who got a full head of steam as he raced into the Coyotes zone. The defender couldn’t hold off Foligno who charged towards the net but he’d beat Kuemper 5-hole before sliding into the boards in celebration. 2-1 Wild. The Coyotes would try to answer back with some chances of their own as Clayton Keller and Jakob Chychrun were stalking all over the Wild zone but time after time Talbot was there to make the save. Minnesota would weather the storm and as Arizona tried one final push the Wild’s “Lettuce Line” would provide the dagger.
Mats Zuccarello intercepted a puck in the neutral zone and he gave a quick pass to Kirill Kaprizov who raced in all alone which got Kuemper to sprawl to try to deny a shot on goal. But the savvy Russian stayed patient and held onto the puck and went around behind the goal before managing to tuck one inside the left post. It was an incredible individual effort that made it 3-1 Wild, and the goal breaks Marian Gaborik’s previous Wild rookie record of 18 goals as it was Kaprizov’s 19th of the season in just 45 games (compared to Gaborik’s 71 to get 18). With the Coyotes’ in a state of shock, the Wild nearly added another one as Foligno had another breakaway that was denied at the last moment by Kuemper. About a half minute later, with Kuemper pulled for an extra attacker, Nico Sturm would score an empty netter to seal a 4-1 Wild victory. Talbot was absolutely outstanding, making 39 saves in the win.
What did you think of the Wild’s series against the Arizona Coyotes? Tell us on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist!
Balanced Attack the Key to the Wild’s Success
Not all teams in the league are blessed to have a crazy 1-2 punch like the Oilers’ Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, or the Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews or the Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. By the way, with the lone exception of Chicago’s Patrick Kane sitting at 4th in the league in scoring those are the six of the top seven scorers in the league. Must be nice for those clubs eh?
Since the Wild don’t have that 1-2 superstar combination yet, they have to take a different approach and one that is somewhat familiar given the organization’s history. The Minnesota Wild have to get by on scoring by committee but perhaps that is misleading. Considering the fact, only defenseman Ian Cole is among the Wild regular skaters that has not registered at least 10 points this season its probably more appropriate to say scoring by commune instead. On Saturday, Nico Sturm’s wrap around goal against the Sharks was his 6th of the season and gave him 10 points giving the Wild 18 players with at least 10 or more points on the year.
No other NHL team has that many players with 10 points or more, but that is not to say that there no other clubs that are close to that number. Washington has 17 and Vegas has 16 players with 10 or more points. Yet the Wild have 16 players with at least 5 goals to their credit this season, the most in the NHL and they are only one of two teams that have two goaltenders with at least 13 wins apiece. I am not saying the Wild are better than either of those two teams, but for Minnesota their balance is why they current sit in 3rd place in the NHL’s West Division. It is how they have risen above the expectations of NHL experts and if we’re being transparent, probably a fair portion of its fanbase prior to the start of this season including yours truly.
“A different hero every night” makes things fun for the regular season, but will the scoring by commune approach be able to get this Minnesota Wild club beyond the 1st round of the playoffs? Considering the fact that the Wild have often been a scoring by committee club throughout most of its history, it does not exactly bolster one’s confidence when you consider how many times we’ve watched this team’s offense dry up and become the primary reason they can’t make it past that first playoff hurdle.
Or is it different this year? The team does have a budding star player in Kirill Kaprizov who has been driving Minnesota’s offense for most of the season and despite opponents attempts to take him away, the club’s other lines have stepped up to fill the void and provide the offensive punch that has stayed in the top 1/3rd of the league for most of the season. As Wild Head Coach Dean Evason likes to say, we don’t have a 1st, 2nd or 3rd lines, we just have (insert player here) line, and they are given more or less shifts by how well they are playing on a particular night. Time will only tell if Minnesota’s score by commune approach will yield a long playoff run but this team has already shown it can exceed expectations so why not this time too?!?!
Iowa Wild (11-10-4) 26pts 4th in AHL Central
14.3% Power Play (27th in the AHL)
79.6% Penalty Kill (20th in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #40 Gabriel Dumont ~ 9G 15A = 24pts
2. #18 Damien Giroux ~ 7G 11A = 18pts
3. #43 Connor Dewar ~ 10G 7A = 17pts
4. #2 Calen Addison ~ 6G 11A = 17pts
5. #21 Mitchell Chaffee ~ 1G 14A = 15pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #55 Cody McLeod ~ 66 PIM’s
2. #40 Gabriel Dumont ~ 33 PIM’s
3. #23 Mason Shaw ~ 32 PIM’s
1. #3? Dereck Baribeau (6-1-2) 2.41GAA .918%
2. #92 Hunter Jones (4-8-1) 4.28GAA .865% 1SO
Iowa 4, Grand Rapids 3 OT
Ever since the Minnesota Wild signed him to his entry level contract, fans have been clamoring over social media to point out just about anything Matt Boldy does right since he joined Iowa a little over a week ago. He’s scored goals, set up teammates and has been the shot in the arm to Iowa’s attack as it hopes a late season surge can give themselves a better spot in whatever the AHL post-season will look like.
Boldy currently has 3 goals, 6 points in 5 games with Iowa and while fans are pestering beat writers like Michael Russo as to when we can expect to see him with the big club the truth is he’s probably staying there for the rest of the regular NHL season. According to Capfriendly.com, the Wild have just $760,000 in available cap space which would give them very little wiggle room in case any injuries (knock on wood) were to take place and they need to call up a player.
Meanwhile, Iowa is making a slow climb up the AHL Central Division standings. I don’t really see any reason to rush Boldy just yet. The big club has good chemistry and the former Boston College standout is sure to get his shot next season if he continues to score at over a point-per-game pace in the American Hockey League. Just let the fruit continue to ripen so its ready to go for next season.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Andrei Svetlakov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ The 4th line center had a shot on goal and went 10-for-20 on his draws in CSKA Moscow’s 4-1 loss to Avangard Omsk on Sunday. CSKA Moscow trails in the Gagarin Cup, 1-0. Svetlakov has a goal , 4 points, 8 PIM’s and is a +1 in 18 playoff games.
D – Daemon Hunt (Moose Jaw, WHL) ~ The Warriors captain continues to have a strong season as he had an assists on 3 shots as Moose Jaw prevailed 5-2 over Prince Albert on Monday. Hunt 6 goals, 15 points, 11 PIM’s and is -10 in 19 games.