For the Minnesota Wild, their wins throughout the season have been a little worrisome. Of course, you can just scoff that as silly nonsense, being worried about a team that is on the top of the Central Division; but whether it was their almost weekly multi-goal comeback win, or somehow getting outshot and letting Cam Talbot collect all the scraps that the opposing team throws at him. Nothing felt consistent or sustainable.
So when the Wild hosted the Winnipeg Jets on Friday afternoon and dealt them an incredible ass-kicking from start to finish, I feel relieved. A warm sense of hope has washed over me and I feel like I can just wholly enjoy this hockey club winning a game, without being normally pessimistic about good things happening to things I care about. There is really nothing to complain about or debate over; the Wild played a complete game as soon as the puck was dropped. Minnesota won the shot-on-goal battle 38-31, they unfortunately controlled only 48.84 percent of the shot attempt share, but still controlled the game massively with a 58.71 percent of the expected goal share (both at 5-on-5).
There was no player that was targeted by the Jets to try and get their offense going, and there was no player on the Wild that scuffed on some scoring chances. Just complete hockey.
It all started, a little something like this:
WELL THAT WAS FAST. Goligoski sends a little wrister to the net that takes some bounces and it goes past Hellebuyck. 1-0 MIN. pic.twitter.com/HXj7UGA19K— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) November 26, 2021
You’re all just here to see the highlights anyway, right? Well Alex Goligoski opened the scoring just 52 seconds into the game by sending a little floating puck that skipped across the ice and hit some sticks like a skimmed rock on a non-frozen pond.
And it wasn’t that much later that Mats Zuccarello sent an errant puck to the net from the point, as Dmytri Kulikov skated around the Jets offensive zone like it was an Olympic ice dancing performance.
GOAL! Kulikov does some incredible grabbing his own rebound after taking a tour of the zone. Zuccarello gets the credit after his point shot takes some bounces, including on Hellebuyck's back. 2-0 MIN. pic.twitter.com/wrcx5VRyWa— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) November 26, 2021
That was enough for the first period—a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes had me feeling plenty full and completely calm, just about the way they went about their business. Winnipeg got some control back in the last little bit of that frame, shifting the tides their way, but the Wild came out strong to start the second as Ryan Hartman scored another damn goal just over two minutes in.
what awareness from Hartman to get his 11th goal of the season pic.twitter.com/L83lbwLiIv— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) November 26, 2021
The sensible backhand over Connor Hellebuyck’s shoulder; a beautiful sight.
And not even a whole minute later, the same exact combination of Kirill Kaprizov, Zuccarello and Hartman, combine for a wonderful goal with Mats cleaning up the trash and giving his team the 4-0 lead with not even 23 minutes of hockey played.
THIS LINE AGAIN! Zuccarello gets his second of the game after a juicy rebound is left in front. pic.twitter.com/U7pBI3k1qu— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) November 26, 2021
Just to make the Jets feel very bad for themselves, Jon Merrill scored his second goal of the season with a beautiful shot.
WHAT A SNIPE FROM JON "LETTUCE" MERRILL. 5-0 MIN. pic.twitter.com/mSSk57mWmf— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) November 26, 2021
Merrill has only ever scored two or more goals in a season five other times in his nine-year NHL career. His season-high is three whole goals, and even if it wouldn’t shock me if he didn’t score anymore in the dozens and dozens of games remaining for the Wild, it would be incredible if he doubled it and got six at some point this year.
Anyways, the Wild got more blueliners involved in the scoring as Matt Dumba unleashed a beautiful goal that was a total team-built play.
DUMBA GOAL! Matt makes the play from the back, lets Pitlick and Foligno set him up for a nice goal. 6-0 MIN. pic.twitter.com/nQdz9lvWRa— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) November 26, 2021
And to cap it all off—I do not care for the one goal scored by the Jets; please don’t bother me with trying to see what Pierre-Luc Dubois did to earn a goal in a blowout, I do not care, please move along—Kaprizov scored a goal!
KIRILL!! Hartman check, Fiala pass, Kaprizov one-timer. It's 7-1 lmao. pic.twitter.com/Vy3SQXU9rY— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) November 26, 2021
This feels like as much as a statement win as any other from Minnesota this season. The Wild just completed an unfortunate road trip that left a sour taste in some people’s mouths. Nothing felt solidified or like anything that was going to carry them into their first playoff round win in however long it has been. Now they were hosting a team that is projected to go far, and that some analysts predicted as the team to lift the Stanley Cup—and they completely ragdolled them. This wasn’t just any ordinary beatdown. It was vengeance. It was a victory that declared that this team wasn’t going anywhere and will not stop even when they can trust their goaltender and defense to not allow even two more goals to even it up. This win might just be a blip on the season schedule—a little “W” on the website calendar—but if we want this team to really put their own mark on this division and be in contention to win the whole damn thing, then these wins should be internalized and memorized as moments to lean back upon.
Kaprizov got four points, Zuccarello got two goals, Fiala got two assists, every defensemen but Jordie Benn registered a point; it was an offensive overhaul from the top guys and it really put a good solid stamp on this early season that the Wild doesn’t have to solely depend on their role players to get those greasy goals. They can come from anywhere and at any point.
Next up, as we ride high to face four more teams at The X, is another afternoon showdown and this time it’s against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Can they score the first goal?
Well, they scored the first. And then many more.
The initial worry was that they would either let the opposition score first and stage yet another late-game comeback that has that unsustainable feeling. Or they would coast with just a couple goals ahead of the other team and then find themselves in a dangerous situation as the opposition piled on more attempts. Well neither happened and everything is fine!
Will we see another superman punch from Foligno?
There wasn’t any superman punch, but things did get a little heated between these natural rivals.
there's a little heat this afternoon. pic.twitter.com/kSYfMovgeg— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) November 26, 2021
Who doesn’t love some hockey teams hating each other so much where every little post-whistle bump turns into a giant scrum that leaves spare equipment sprawled across the ice like flower pedals on a honeymoon? It provides a little extra spark of entertainment.
The Wild are certainly a team that no one wants to get nasty attention from, and I would like it to stay that way.