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Wild 3, Kings 1: Wild steamroll Kings

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Winning streak now sits at five games

Los Angeles Kings v Minnesota Wild Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images

A 3-1 game might not register as a ‘steamrolling’ for most, but this was as close as it gets.

With both teams coming into tonight on a roll (the Los Angeles Kings were on a league-best six-game streak, the Wild on a four-game streak of their own), the thought was that this might be a tight matchup. It was anything but.

It was a slow start, but at around the five-minute mark, the tone was set. Kirill Kaprizov set it, and he never looked back.

Wow, what a highlight-reel goal that would have been, that felt like a real missed opport—

The Hockey Wilderness staff would like to apologize for what you just saw; it was unfair and just downright nasty. Kirill Kaprizov owes Drew Doughty an apology for making him look so foolish.

All joking aside, what transpired in the following minutes was beautiful.

First, “Big Dick” Nick Bjugstad pounced on a weird bounce of the end boards with a backhand shot that went top shelf on Jonathan Quick.

Mere seconds later, elite first-line center Joel Eriksson Ek made the most out of a net-front scramble and put the Wild up 3-0.

That wasn’t the end of the first-period offense either, and Quick made some high-quality stops that kept the score close-ish. While the first frame ended 3-0 in the Wild’s favor, it easily could have been 6-0, as the Wild held the Kings to a measly two high-danger chances, while getting 10(!) for themselves.

I’m not saying that coach Dean Evason had the Wild go into a defensive shell after the early lead, but it sure felt like it. While the first period felt like a high-flying affair, the second was a bit dourer for both teams, with few chances between them and no goals on the board.

The third period was but a parade of penalties, with five penalties between the teams and absolutely no powerplay goals to show for it. When the Minnesota Wild are involved in a special-teams battle, no one wins.

The game ended at a slower pace than it started, and Jeff Carter stole Cam Talbot’s shutout bid in the dying moments of the game, but the Wild controlled this game from the start, and it never felt in doubt after the first period.

Five in a row, let’s do six.

Burning Answers

Can Talbot come back without showing signs of rust?

Yes, and we were *this* close to having him do it in style. If it weren’t for Jeff Carter and those meddling kids.

You can’t ask for much more from a goalie who hasn’t seen the ice since February 2nd, stopping 27 of 28 shots and looking calm and confident in the process. His xGA (expected goals against) was 1.72 via Natural Stat Trick, so while he wasn’t tested too much, he did see some quality chances and passed the test. In the future, the Wild can hardly make the wrong choice in net, whether it be Talbot or Kähkönen between the pipes.

Will Nico Sturm build on his two-goal performance?

I posed this question in the preview, knowing full well that a repeat performance was unlikely. But while Sturm didn’t show up on the scoresheet tonight, he did do what I hoped and continued to turn play in the right direction while on the ice. In ~10 minutes of ice time, he registered no shots on goal, but his line with the two Nicks held a 10-5 shot attempt advantage and a whopping 83.5 xGF%, best on the team.

It’s hard to find a fault in his game right now, and his line is better because of it.

Can the powerplay do the thing?

I’m literally never posing this question again. 0/3 on the powerplay, 0/23 on the season against the Kings.

If the Wild can look this good with a completely dysfunctional powerplay, imagine how good they might look if there is some regression and it begins to look competent?