The Minnesota Wild had one of their most dominating performances of the season last night as they defeated the Arizona Coyotes 5-2. The win moves the Wild to 9-3-0 on the season.
There are lots of great things to talk about after this victory, so let’s look at some of the biggest takeaways from last night’s game for the Wild.
Wild’s Star Players Produce
The big three forwards for the Wild are Kirill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala, and Joel Eriksson Ek. On Wednesday night, all three of them scored impressive goals on the Coyotes. Eriksson Ek scored on a beautiful snapshot that beat Karel Vejmelka high, while Kaprizov finished off a sneaky passing play behind the net that allowed him to tuck the puck into the completely empty corner.
Then there was Fiala, who batted a puck out of mid-air that went bar-down and into the net. It’s one of those goals that you must see a couple of times to really start to understand how spectacular the goal is.
Like with most teams in the NHL, their success is heavily based on how their stars are performing. Hopefully, this game could be the kick-start players like Fiala and Kaprizov need to start going on a tear.
Kulikov and Merrill
Dmitry Kulikov and John Merrill were both signed by the Wild to help round out their defence and play quality minutes outside the top-four. Early on this season, both players have been able to do exactly that, while also contributing offensively at times.
Merrill had two assists last night to bring his season totals up to one goal and four assists. Meanwhile, Kulikov scored his first of the season last night to also give himself one goal and four assists in the Wild’s first 12 games.
Even the advanced stats back up just how terrific of a start both players are having on their new team.
This game was a prime example of these two players understanding their role, while also not being afraid to jump up in the rush when the situation dictates it. Wild general manager Bill Guerin and the entire management team must be thrilled with the value they have gotten from them through the first dozen games.
Wild Were Moving Their Legs
One thing that was extremely evident in this game was that the Wild can play with speed effectively. It’s something that has vastly changed with this organization over the past number of seasons.
This team isn’t playing dump and chase hockey nearly as much as they have in the past. Versus the Coyotes, the Wild create several chances with speed through the neutral zone thanks to some short, crisp passes. Same with once they are in the neutral zone; all five players seemed to have their feet always moving. This created havoc for the Coyotes defenders and showcased just how crucial speed is in today’s NHL.
The Wild have players that can make quick decisions with the puck and playing with the speed they showcased in this game more often will lead to impressive results moving forward.
Kähkönen Gaining Confidence
Kaapo Kähkönen made 24 saves in what was his second consecutive victory in net. After how he ended off last season and his first performance against Nashville (five goals on 29 shots), performances like these allow Wild fans to sleep a little easier.
Even with Arizona being one of the worst offensive teams in the league, Kähkönen getting some wins under his belt will take the stress off him and allow him to just be himself.
He raised expectations so high on himself after the way he played early on last season that now fans will worry after a small dip in performance. These past two games, regardless of the opponent, will hopefully allow Kähkönen to be relied on a little more moving forward.
The Wild defeated the Coyotes in seven of eight matchups last season. They were able to string together a strong performance last night to carry over their dominance in this matchup into the 2021-22 season. Smiles all around for the Wild after this one; which was easily one of their most complete performances of the season.
Sports writer covering the Minnesota Wild. Graduated with a degree in sport media, also working with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.