It’s hard to know how to feel when it comes to the Minnesota Wild. Amazing season opener, with a losing record under Dean Evason and a winning record under John Hynes; half of the team was injured, leading to another losing streak, and now winning two crucial games in a row. Can we trust the Wild now? Signs are pointing to yes (despite more injuries).
The Gus Bus is Back
Watching Filip Gustavsson come back after being injured was rough. Being pulled from the first game after injury was not a good look, and everyone knew that. But after Marc-Andre Fleury left the game against the Panthers with an injury, Gustavsson was thrown back into the fire. He let in three more goals, but something clicked, and he locked it down and saved the game.
Then, he was in the net against the Carolina Hurricanes, who came winning three of their last four games. They struggled at the beginning of the season but have found their stride, and the Wild knew they would be a challenging opponent. Judging by the shots on goal, the Hurricanes should’ve won the game twice over. The Wild scored five goals on 19 shots, while the Canes scored two goals on 42 shots. While the entire team was involved in blocking shots, Gustavsson is a significant reason why the Wild won the game.
Kirill is Thrilling
At one point during this season, there were fans on social media wondering if Kirill Kaprizov was a bust. While he did have a tough start to his season and then ended up being sidelined for two weeks with an injury, Kaprizov is making a statement.
But Kaprizov was always there; he just wasn’t scoring the big, flashy goals that he is known for. He was still making his way onto the scoresheet with assists and “quieter” goals. Kaprizov has 42 points in 39 games, keeping up his point-per-game pace. With last night’s hat-trick, Kaprizov is now tied in 4th place with Jason Zucker for most goals in franchise history. It took Kaprizov 242 games to reach 132 goals, while Zucker took 456 games. Here are the top four most goals scored for the Minnesota Wild franchise and how many games it took them to reach that mark:
Kaprizov might have points in time when the goals aren’t going in as much, but he’s on pace to become the Wild’s best player in franchise history. The most amazing thing might be that he does it all. Just before scoring his third goal for the hat trick, he blocked an important shot. Not many superstars do it all.
In fact, with his hat trick comeback this week, Kaprizov was named the first NHL Star of the Week for the second time this season. He co-led the league with five goals and 8 points during the week. In fact, in his ten games, Kaprizov had 17 points (10 goals and seven assists) to go along with a +8 rating.
Brock Faber is Amazing Even When He’s Not
At one point in time, Brock Faber was single-handedly carrying the Wild. He was playing 30 minutes a night. The problem is that it isn’t a sustainable way to play, and it’s only natural that his fatigue starts to show. Faber has been on ice for the 19 goals scored against the Wild in the past nine games.
However, he’s still breaking franchise records and putting up points. As a defenseman who wasn’t known for racking up points, he’s got 27 points so far this year. He only needs two more assists to tie Calen Addison for the most assists in a rookie season.
Joel Eriksson Ek is Consistently Good
Here’s the thing about Joel Eriksson Ek: the thing he’s most notable for is being face-washed while screening the goalie. But he quietly puts up the points. Most of his goals come from his office, which is inside the blue paint. And one of his best qualities is his consistency. In the past four games, he has put up 8 points. (four goals and four assists). So far, he’s got 36 points on the year.
He’s on pace with last year’s stats when he put up 61 points in 78 games before he was sidelined with a broken leg. But the hard part with consistency is that Ek can take it too far. Ek tried to come back into the playoffs with a broken leg. He lasted seven seconds before realizing that skating on a broken leg didn’t work.
But Can They Make the Playoffs?
Great question that doesn’t have a great answer. Lots of fans say no, but they also said that Kaprizov was a bust, so they may not know what they’re talking about. The Wild are currently 7 points out of a playoff spot. Is it doable to overcome that? It is possible. Will it happen? It would take a lot of hard work and buckling down to keep playing like they did against the Panthers and the Hurricanes.
The best part of hockey is how fast things can change. Individual hockey games can turn on a dime. It only takes a few seconds to score a goal to tie or take the lead and win. There are games where the “bad” team somehow wins against a team that is a true Stanley Cup contender. Some games are completely lopsided, with scores like 9-1. Some games devolve into all-out boxing matches.
This is just to say that the hockey season is only half over. Anything can happen in the next 40ish games. Keeping a positive attitude can go a long way.
For more on the Wild and positive vibes, listen to Her Wild Side Hockey Podcast.