The Minnesota Wild visited the desert for a lay-up 5-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday. Here’s 4 Things on that fourth consecutive victory.
1 — Kevin Fiala breaks through with three points.
Certainly the star of the night, Fiala was able to shine his brightest on Wednesday, earning two assists and scoring a magnificent eye-boggling goal that ended up being the game-winner.
Not only did Fiala get his name in the spotlight because of his three-point night and really calming any nerves from the fan base that the team’s stars were getting overshadowed on the score sheet by the complimentary forwards like Ryan Hartman or Marcus Foligno; but he did it with a level of finesse and shine that made us all go “oh yeah, he can do that kind of stuff too.”
On the other side of the top-player coin for the Wild, Kirill Kaprizov finished with just one goal, but it was certainly a very impressive goal as he connected on a high-level with Mats Zuccarello. Like, it’s some real Sedin twins kind of stuff here.
It is still to be determined if the Wild can revert back to last season’s attitude of relying on some of those top players to get the majority of the offense going, but all I know for sure is that through two games, the new top-six lines of Kaprizov/Gaudreau/Zuccarello and Foligno/Eriksson Ek/Fiala, look really stupid good.
2 — Greenway’s return is slightly sour and disappointing.
Jordan Greenway returned from injury and with coach Dean Evason not wanting to shuffle the lines too much for him, he took his talents to the fourth line with Nick Bjugstad and Rem PItlick. The trio was alright, considering the opponent, with their on-ice contribution — 55 percent of the shot attempt share and 61.24 percent of the expected goal share in just under nine minutes — but there just lacked some real dynamism that we enjoyed when the current third-liners of Nico Sturm and Brandon Duhaime teamed up with Bjugstad. It has been only one game, but Greenway just sort of looks a little lost out there after returning from injury.
He wasn’t quick enough to receive a (albeit awkward) backpass from Matt Dumba, and it resulted in Andrew Ladd of all people getting a breakaway goal. The dude that is about 50 years old and probably has the sound of a cement mixer coming from his knees anytime he wants to move up the ice, was able to get a breakaway goal.
There is still plenty of time for Greenway to impress, but the way that the lines are currently, it’s tough to see him get any time up from a bottom-six role. If that’s just the kind of player that he is going forward, then that’s fine. He’s still so young, but against the Coyotes there was certainly a lack of spark that we once imagined.
3 — Kaapo Kahkonen instills some confidence as a backup.
The once-heralded Goaltender of the Future had a rocky start to his season but was able to stop 24 of 26 in Arizona. Through three games now, his save percentage is still sub-.900, so maybe it’s not the best look and easy conclusion that He’s Back after being in between the posts for a win against the Coyotes, but Kahkonen did make some stellar saves and timely stops to keep the Wild with a multi-goal lead through the hour of action.
He might not necessarily be here forever and suddenly take the reins over from Cam Talbot when his contract expires after next season, but there is at least signs of being confident if he needs to make a start against a good team. We’re edging towards being comfortable, but honestly it’s just not quite there yet.
4 — Production from the blue line speaks volumes about system.
Whenever I see a lot of points coming from the blue line, I automatically think it’s unsustainable and a sign of a very bad team. Since you can imagine most goals are coming from those low-danger areas at the point, or are deflections, or are weird ass plays with the blueliners getting some assists on it; it is just awkward. But for the Wild — who lead the league in goals from their defensemen and have 38 total points from their blue line — it’s more of a sign that Evason is utilizing all five skaters offensively and is doing so efficiently.
All six defensemen are not afraid of getting involved in the play and with enough awareness from all of them, they are able to stretch into the middle of the zone and shoot the puck without concern, since pretty much every forward is capable of covering defensively. We might as well be calling the Wild a positionless hockey team.
Kulikov — who has been labelled as the ultimate defensive defenseman the last few years — scores his first goal in 622 days(!) with some top-forward-esque patience with the puck. No sign of concern for leaving his post on the right side of the blue line, but just confidence streaking into the middle of the ice and firing a wonderful shot for the Wild’s final goal on Wednesday. Just no concern and it’s a wonderful sight to see.
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