The Minnesota Wild had one hell of a year. It might not have led to the amount of glory that some hoped — and we are still waiting for that first-round playoff series victory in this new Kirill Kaprizov-led era — but it was still 12 months full of records breaking and some players further cementing their stardom.
This team has found its place in the NHL and is on the right track to improve in the future, so maybe 2022 was technically a year of transition. They did manage to finish the 2021-22 season with franchise records shattered in overall points in the standings, but it still felt like there was more to give and nothing really reliable except for a few players to just keep on putting out elite results.
Nevertheless, it was an incredibly fun year full of memorable moments, so we decided to put out our own subjective list of the five games that we think kind of describe exactly what the Wild were able to accomplish in 2022.
Dec. 1, 2022 — Wild at Oilers, 5-3 win
We’ll get the recency bias out of the way. Personally, I could talk about the win from the beginning of this month all day long to any stranger on the street. The importance comes in the expectation, since big bad Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were hosting the pesky Wild that were down some key players in Ryan Hartman and Jonas Brodin, we were anticipating a game full of nerves.
But, we didn’t even get one little semblance of anxiety. Led by Joel Eriksson Ek, the Wild suffocated most of the Edmonton Oilers’ offense in front of their own fans. The Oilers managed get only 21 shots on goal and the Wild had complete control of the game, getting the advantage in virtually every underlying metric at 5-on-5. To drive the point even further, the Oilers were limited to just shots from long-range, but handed the Wild the center of their zone and gave no pushback to Minnesota skaters just sitting right on top of their netminder. All five of the Wild’s goals game from just a few feet from the crease, incredibly.
Oh, and Kaprizov led the way with a goal and two assists, to just prove a point at who the better No. 97 was in that game.
This 5-3 win came at a time where we were not entirely sure if the Wild could even come close to their record 2021-22 season. A losing streak here and some lineup uncertainty there, the Wild were in a weird position but this forceful win over a better team “on-paper” instill so much damn confidence that the Wild went on to win nine of their next 12 games. Just a feel good win that will probably not get mentioned enough.
April 16, 2022 — Wild at Blues, 6-5 (OT) loss
The only loss we will mention as one of the five most memorable games of the calendar year came against the St. Louis Blues in Missouri. It was late enough in the regular season that we knew these two teams were going to clash in the first round of the playoffs, with no one good enough to challenge for the second and third spots and the Colorado Avalanche running away with the Central.
It was the last regular season matchup between the Wild and the Blues and all season long, it was the Blues that held the advantage over this team. Dangling their season record over the Wild’s head as a taunt, St. Louis probably had all the confidence in the world heading into the playoffs since they were able to win the two previous battles.
The April 16 game provided something a little different. After 40 minutes, the Blues held a 4-1 lead and were controlling play, both with the puck and with the body. But, what this game did provide was one of the best moments of the year.
In the dying seconds of the second period, Nic Deslauriers had to be separated from punching a Blues player’s lights out, but as he departed with an official holding him back, he yelled about how he has four games to kill him. If that didn’t spell out what a hell of a physical series we were going to have between these clubs, then I don’t know what could.
After the tussle, the Wild were apparently pretty damn pumped. In the third period they went on to score four goals as the Blues scored one and overtime was forced. Those 20 minutes with almost every key forward getting some points in, made us feel that the Wild could really make some noise in the postseason. Down against a tough opponent? They can push their way to scoring in bunches and giving them an extra opportunity to win.
Unfortunately the Blues scored in overtime but we’ll just forget about that.
May 6, 2022 — Wild at Blues, 5-1 win
Overall, the six games the Wild played in the first round of the playoffs is meant to be forgotten. After breaking franchise records with almost every single skate stride they made, they ended up getting outplayed and had to bow out of the playoffs — that Wild season was different, but the postseason was not.
But there was one game where we got to feel so damn excited for what was to come. With the heightened focus on the playoffs and the series tied 1-1 after the Blues won Game 1 and the Wild got Game 2 in St. Paul, the teams travelled to St. Louis to extend the series.
At Game 3, the pressure was on both teams to give earn a series advantage and the Wild rose to the challenge. After the 6-2 win in Game 2, the Wild dominated on the score sheet once again and earned a 5-1 win led by Eriksson Ek, Hartman, Foligno, and Kaprizov all getting two points.
A hell of a team performance the playoffs that gave almost everyone here a jolt of excitement and we just kept on thinking that they could really do The Thing. It’s always nice to think about games like this in big moments, but it’s also just a little disappointing to think what could have been if the team just kept on playing like this. Unfortunately, the Blues changed their plans with enough dynamism to earn the series victory — but this is not a blog to be sad.
Feb. 14, 2022 — Wild vs. Red Wings, 7-4 win
If this Valentine’s Day matchup between the Wild at the Detroit Red Wings does not ring any bells, that’s fine. The only reason to highlight this high-scoring win is because of one dude who just started his NHL career.
In his 13th career game — the player did not even play 15 damn games yet — Matt Boldy scored a hat trick in a four-point effort that cemented his top-six role on this team and for the next decade.
And the goals were gorgeous.
God, Matt Boldy is so damn good.
The result might not have meant a whole lot and was just another dominant performance by this team over a non-playoff team, but it really rose Boldy’s stock to a new platform and gave us a little glimpse at what he can be in his prime. A clean, puck-handling, powerful winger that can score a hell of a lot of goals. He is still just 21 years old.
April 2, 2022 — Wild at Hurricanes, 3-1 win
Another late-season win and another record broken. As mentioned before, it appeared like with every goal or shot the Wild made, another franchise record was shattered and the 2021-22 season became more and more significant in the history of this club.
On April 2, during the 67th game of the Wild’s season, Kirill Kaprizov shattered another one and a Big One as he earned an assist on his best friend Mats Zuccarello’s game-opening goal and earned his 84th point on the season, putting him above Marian Gaborik for having the most productive season of a Wild player in franchise history.
Again, the result did not matter — I’m pretty sure the Wild’s spot in the playoffs was already (or almost) clinched — but it was a monumental performance and Kaprizov capped off the breaking of a record with a goal in the third period.
His 108-point campaign shattering the record by over 20 points is just so reflective of what Kaprizov means to the Wild. He is the most talented player to put on this jersey and there is really no denying it whatsoever. This April game against the Carolina Hurricanes just put a period on that statement.
HM: January 1, 2022 — Wild vs. Blues, 6-4 loss
We just had to include the Winter Classic. While it was a miserable game on the ice, as the Wild failed to make a comeback and the Blues held a 6-2 lead after 40 minutes, the entire atmosphere and event of it all leading up to the outdoor game deserves a mention but not in the actual top five.
This year has been an incredibly special one in Minnesota and let’s look forward to a very significant and exciting 2023.