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  • How Much Longer Can Kaprizov Carry the Wild?

    Kayla Hynnek

    It took over a month, but the Minnesota Wild finally did it. They won a game in regulation! Two, even! For a team with playoff expectations, winning games in regulation should be easier than Minnesota makes it out to be.


    Their last regulation win prior to Sunday’s 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators came against the Washington Capitals. On January 17th. Since then, the Minnesota’s record was 4-7-1 until this week. Of those four wins, three came in a shootout and one was an overtime winner. Even when counting Sunday and Tuesday’s wins, that’s a lot of extra points they’re handing out.


    If the Wild make the playoffs, they’re not going to have the benefit of overtime and shootout games. There is no 3-on-3 time or shootouts in the playoffs. Being able to win in regulation and score at 5-on-5 is crucial, and the Wild haven’t been able to do that a whole lot lately.


    Before Sunday’s win over the Predators, the Wild spent over 400 minutes unable to score without Kirill Kaprizov on the ice. And Joel Eriksson Ek, Matt Boldy, Ryan Hartman, Mats Zuccarello, Brandon Duhaime and Kaprizov are still the only forwards who have scored for Minnesota in the last five weeks.


    Another sad stat? Sunday’s game was the first time since January 7th that the Wild scored three 5v5 goals from forwards in a game. Before Sunday’s game, the Wild had a whopping 13 5v5 goals scored since January 12. And since making Calen Addison a healthy scratch four games in a row, the power play has also looked iffy.


    So pretty much no one but Kaprizov is scoring. The winger has had to drag this team out of this month-long skid, and it’s got to be wearing on him.


    The depth that shined last year is nowhere to be found this season. The scoring is all but gone, aside from Kaprizov, of course. The excitement of last year’s season made an appearance Sunday against Nashville, though.


    Brandon Duhaime scored against the Preds at 5-on-5. It felt like the first time in forever that we saw a goal scored while Kaprizov was on the bench. The last time the Wild scored a goal without Kaprizov on the ice? Jonas Brodin against Arizona on January 7th, which means that the Wild spent 413 minutes unable to score with Kaprizov on the bench.


    However, Kaprizov scored two goals and was on the ice for Sunday’s game-winner. He was also on the ice for both goals in the win against the Kings. If it weren’t for Duhaime, the Wild still would have still been unable to score without Kaprizov on the ice.


    Kaprizov is a star, there’s no doubt about that. But he is clearly carrying this team on his back right now, and that’s got to be tough for him. After Sunday’s game, he spoke to reporters through a translator and stated that he is still frustrated with the way his teammates are playing. “Really happy we got the win,” he said, “but ultimately it was too close.”


    “We need to find a way to win clean, not make it a chaotic end like that,” he continued. “Scoring whether it be on the power play, continuing playing like we did in the first and the start of the second. Everyone needs to step up and continue to finish the games the way they started and find ways to get the goals in the net and finish strong.”


    This team should be renamed to ‘The Minnesota Kaprizovs.’ He’s been so crucial to the team that it’s hard to imagine where they would be without him. It’s the lack of secondary scoring and overall talent that’s killing the Wild right now.


    This Wild group relies too much on Kaprizov, and it’s clearly evident this season. Fans have come to expect that only Kaprizov’s line and the first power play unit are the only ones that can score. Whether or not the Wild make the playoffs, Kaprizov is under too much pressure to score and win games for his team.


    The Colorado Avalanche keeps winning, and so do the Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets. Therefore, the Wild are going to continue to be in the Wild Card race, which is always a tough spot to be in. Every point matters and it makes every game incredibly important.


    These last two games were a step in the right direction, but two of the goals were flukey against Nashville and Filip Gustavsson had to have an incredible game Tuesday. If not for those breaks, they could’ve been looking at a much different situation.



    Will the win over the Preds will be the spark that leads the Wild to a nice winning streak and a comfortable spot in the playoffs? Or was it just just luck and Minnesota will continue to be extremely average the rest of the way?


    It’s clear that the depth needs to make a return. The defense needs to provide more offense, and the Wild need to learn how to score without Kaprizov on the ice.


    This next stretch of games is going to determine the outcome of Minnesota’s season. Kirill Kaprizov can’t carry the team on his back. Everyone has to step up their game of they have any hope of getting to the playoffs and possibly do some damage.

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