Wild Earn Split in California Thanks to Kaprizov & Gustavsson
The Minnesota Wild had an eventful two days in California on their second back-to-back of the season. Their first game against the Los Angeles Kings did not go as planned, with a 1-0 shutout loss and they were without their star Kirill Kaprizov for most of the game due to a match penalty for a high stick on Drew Doughty. Luckily for the Wild, he did not get suspended and was able to rejoin them for their game the following night against the Anaheim Ducks.
The Wild’s game against the Kings was a lot of back-and-forth action with a lot of physicality and almost no goals. As stated before, they were also at a disadvantage of not having Kaprizov, which really dampened their scoring efforts. They were already without Marcus Foligno, Ryan Hartman, and Brandon Duhaime but they did have Jordan Greenway back which gave a slight spark to the lineup.
While Greenway was back for more than just a period against the Kings, the Wild were being cautious with his injury recovery and pulled him for their game against the Ducks to make sure he didn’t overdo it. It may have been a good thing since the Wild couldn’t get away from the physicality when they took on the Ducks as several scrums ensued throughout the game, and with Greenway out, they probably protected him from further injury. Despite all that, the Wild did pull out a 4-1 win over the Ducks and left California with a split.
Wild’s Blocked Shots & Goaltending
Despite the Wild losing to the Kings, there was some good that came out of it, as they finally figured out how to block a lot of shots. That was one of the reasons they were able to stay in the game besides Marc-André Fleury’s strong goaltending. They blocked 22 shots for their second-highest total of the season with the highest being 24.
The shot-blocking didn’t continue as strongly when they took on the Ducks, but thankfully they were able to rely on Filip Gustavsson, who let in just one goal out of the 32 shots he faced. On the defensive side of things, he was the hero and kept them in the game even when things started to look bleak. His big saves gave his team the momentum they needed to keep things going, including a save he made with his stick upside down.
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Both goaltenders showed significant improvement, especially Gustavsson who snatched his first win in a Wild jersey. It’s going to be a hard choice for who should be in the net against the Seattle Kraken in their next game, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they went with Gustavsson since Fleury was in the last time they faced them, and it might be good for him to get an extended break.
Wild’s Kaprizov Bounces Back
It’s safe to say Kaprizov had a rough game against the Kings – or a partial game since he didn’t play the whole time. While it would’ve been easy to understand if he continued to be frustrated and let that affect his play against the Ducks, he’s not that type of player. Instead of letting the anger take over his game, he used it to his advantage and worked that much harder. He nearly got himself into trouble again but controlled himself enough to stay out of the penalty box, other than serving a penalty for Jake Middleton.
Kaprizov went from zero points against the Kings to two against the Ducks, both points were power-play goals and he nearly had a hat trick multiple times throughout the third period. His first goal was the first of the game for the Wild to tie things up at one and that really gave them the kickstart they needed. Then his second goal gave his team a two-goal lead that helped them keep their stride and go on to win.
Wild’s New Faces Succeed
With the many injuries that hit the Wild in the last week or so, they had to bring up a number of new players to fill those gaps in the lineup. Of course, there’s Mason Shaw who, by now, has almost made a permanent spot for himself on the roster. He was quiet against the Kings but was rewarded with time on the penalty kill and his hard work continued against the Ducks. He picked up an assist and added more time on the penalty kill that went 100 percent against both the Kings and Ducks.
After Shaw, there was Joseph Cramarossa who scored his first goal for the Wild in their win over the Ducks and he, like Shaw, spent time on the penalty kill as well. Finally, there was Adam Beckman who’s made a strong case for a roster spot since last season. He struggled a bit this preseason but he got his shot against the Ducks. He didn’t have any points but he did have two shots on goal and a takeaway. Luckily for the Wild, despite all the injuries they’ve faced they have a lot of depth they can rely on when things get difficult.
Wild’s Penalty Problem
The Wild got themselves into penalty trouble early against the Kings when Mats Zuccarello got back-to-back penalties and nearly put his team down a goal. Luckily their penalty kill was able to kill off both and they continued to do so all night. Frédérick Gaudreau was the only member of the top line to stay out of the penalty box the last two games, and his linemates could learn a thing or two from him.
The Wild had been taking fewer penalties overall but the minutes were stacking up because of all the major penalties they have received lately. In the last two games, they had a combined 64 penalty minutes with one major, one match, and three misconducts. They really need to work on taking fewer penalties and specifically ones that are five minutes or more. If the Wild can focus on that, they may be able to score more goals and win more games by staying away from the “sin bin”.
Wild Face Kraken
The Wild will have to face a familiar foe on Friday, Nov. 11, in the Kraken who handed them their first shutout loss of the season at home in Minnesota. Now they’ll be on the road and they’ll have to dig even deeper to find a way past the Kraken who have been on fire as of late. They recently beat the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Calgary Flames and have proven they are a tough team to beat this season.
The Wild will have to stay out of the penalty box against the Kraken because they have a power play that is nearly as strong as the Wild’s and is top 10 in the league. They’ll have to figure out a way to stop André Burakovsky who’s been on a tear lately that included an assist against the Wild last week. Then there’s Jaden Schwartz, Jordan Eberle, Matty Beniers, and the always-entertaining Brandon Tanev.
While the Wild’s defense is busy with them, their offense will have to figure out how to get past Martin Jones who has temporarily filled the starter spot while Philipp Grubauer has been injured. It’ll be the second time the Wild face Jones and hopefully, they can figure him out and get their winning record back on track.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW. She’s been covering the Wild at THW since October of 2020 and specializes in game takeaways and weekly check-ins. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team to help fans connect on a more personal level and to keep an eye on the latest follow her on Twitter @MariahEStark.