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Zuccarello backs Kaprizov’s performance this season

The star winger hasn’t been as eye-popping as last season, but his teammate knows that he’s doing just as much.

Minnesota Wild v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

It’s always tough to deal with expectations and it’s a whole different level when you are treated as the second coming for the Minnesota Wild; to bring the mediocre organization stuck in proverbial standings mud for decades, into actual contention. Well, Kirill Kaprizov has dealt with the pressure well enough, but has still had his doubters when he didn’t blow the score sheet away and overloaded the goal tally.

With just a couple goals to his name through the first dozen or so games, Kaprizov was seen as someone that might be just off to a slow start. Well, against the Dallas Stars on Thursday, the 24-year-old exploded and scored one goal with three primary assists as well. With one game he really just made everyone rethink their opinions that they held of him just a couple weeks earlier.

One guy that has always held his high opinion of his player — mainly because he gets to play with the dude — is Mats Zuccarello, and he continued to describe just how damn good Kaprizov is after his four-point night.

“Someone told me he was ‘squeezing his stick,’ I mean, he still has a lot of assists and has played really good,” Zuccarello said after the 7-2 win over the Dallas Stars. “We play good teams every night. They know about him, they’re hard on him, so the fact that he’s passing more than shooting — I think he’s done a good job. It’s also new to him, to travel to different places, playing different teams.

“Everyone has seen him on TV and is talking about him, so there’s a little extra attention on him, so I think he’s done a hell of a job. If he gets assists, or scores goals; as long as he does the things for the team to help us win. So I think he’s been really good. He’s got many good years left, so talking about stuff like him squeezing his stick or struggling is just that. He’s a hard worker when he gets on the ice and I think sometimes you have to see beyond the goals and assists and see what he creates and how hard he works for our team.”

Kaprizov does work extremely hard to retrieve pucks back for his team, but has had some costly errors as well. But this isn’t a blog to talk about that, because that’s being too negative about a player that just made some Dallas players question if professional hockey is right for them.

Speaking of being negative, head coach Dean Evason recognizes that sometimes we’re just too damn mean about a player not scoring, even if they’re winning games.

“You guys make up a lot of it, about how some guys aren’t scoring” Evason told the media after the win. “We all know it. I’m not going to stand up here and talk about guys, but you guys talk about it all the time but it’s reality. But if you try even harder to score, ‘Okay, I’ll just extend my shift by 10 seconds, maybe I’ll get a break, maybe I’ll get a bounce.’ Instead of your mentality being ‘I’m going to get off, let my teammate come on, maybe he scores, but maybe I’m fresh again to get another one.’ That’s what they bought into tonight.”

Winning 7-2 against a rival certainly helps wash away any offensive concern, but they will be in tough through the next week or so. The Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Winnipeg Jets are facing the Wild within their next four games, so it’s going to be a doozy and a period of time that will spell out whether or not this Minnesota team should be considered true championship contenders or just another team that plays a handful of games in the first round and then leaves.