Finishing the second game of a two game series could mean phoning it in. But the Minnesota Wild came out flying with new-look lines.
The often dominant Foligno - Eriksson Ek - Greenway line was split up in favor of giving Eriksson a shot with Marcus Johansson and Kirill Kaprizov. It was the 2nd line in name only, as they led the charge for the forwards corps.
But before any of this had time to transpire, Marcus Foligno decided to let out some anger from the previous game immediately following the opening faceoff. With the baseball-like series structure in this years schedule, I would expect this sort of thing to happen more frequently as the season progresses.
The Wild absolutely dominated from start to finish in the 1st. While the shot totals don’t attest to that — it was only 10-6 for the Wild — they finished the first 20 minutes with a 3-0 lead thanks to a breakaway goal from Kevin Fiala and Marcus Johansson showing off his intuition for playing with Kaprizov;
Unfortunately after the first period, the good vibes stopped coming. The Wild started to show their undisciplined side in the second frame, taking 11 minutes worth of penalties in the first 12 minutes of the period, including an egregious boarding call against Fiala. It’s likely that he will rightfully see some suspension time (although with the Parros Department of Player Safety, who the heck knows).
Lucky to finish all that PK time with only 2 goals against, the Wild managed to cap off a putrid period with a goal from Nick Bjugstad before heading to the dressing room;
The rise of Joel Eriksson Ek has been wonderful to watch this year. And it’s made the problem at center a little more palpable and a little more interesting. I say this because, as of this writing, he is tied for 4th in the NHL with 5 goals. His 5th being this herculean effort;
I don’t know if anyone could have predicted the impact that JEE has made this early in the season.
There was a forgettable goal from the Kings after an exhausted PK unit couldn’t get a change following a kill. But the lead and the win never felt threatened.
Not even after a questionable decision from Kähkönen that led to a delay of game penalty in the final minutes.
5-3 Wild win!
To the Burning Answers!
1. Will the scoring woes mean breaking up the third line?
Yes! But sooner than we expected, as head coach Dean Evason made the changes to lines during the morning skate. Here’s what the Wild rolled with (before Fiala exited the game on the game misconduct);
Fiala - Bjugstad - Parise
Johansson - Eriksson Ek - Kaprizov
Foligno - Sturm - Greenway
Rask - Bonino - Hartman
The results were interesting. Most importantly the “2nd” line was dynamic and all over the Kings. Johansson and Kaprizov worked wonderfully together and JEE continued his great play away from the workhorses of Foligno/Greenway. It is tough to draw many more conclusions beyond that, as the lines entered the blender after Fiala’s exit. But if Fiala is to miss a few games, there is something to build on.
2. Will Kaapo Kähkönen be able to handle the increase in workload?
Yes. And yes. Kähkönen was 32/35 on the night and stayed steady. It is still early, but in Talbot’s absence it looks like he has cemented himself as the starter going forward. Even when Talbot does return.
3. Can we get 60 minutes of domination?
We were close. 20 minutes. But it felt good. And it looks like the Wild do have those sort of performances in them. But 11 minutes of PK time in 12 minutes of game time can really take the wind out of your sails.
If Fiala misses significant time, they are going to struggle with missing what was supposed to be their 1st or 2nd best forward coming into the season.
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