The Minnesota Wild are rolling through the lesser teams on their way to cementing a playoff spot and they are becoming more and more impressive with every win they earn.
Against the Arizona Coyotes on a brunchy Sunday afternoon, the Wild controlled the game for the entire hour and did not let their foot off the gas for even a moment. Earning the 4-1 victory—including an awarded empty-net goal—is just another marker for one of the best Wild seasons we have had in a very long time.
No longer the dormant mediocre team that squeaks their way into the post-season, this team is simply something else.
All of the forechecking pressure and defensive awareness led Minnesota to win the shot battle 34-22 and keep their impressive possession with a 56.12 CF% at 5-on-5 and dominate in every sense of the word with a 71.71 xGF% at 5-on-5 as well. Just an unrelenting force against a team that wasn’t prepared for the waves of offense.
They even scored a powerplay goal.
A little give-and-go to kill all hope for the Coyotes. pic.twitter.com/t4ke2lD4iy— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 14, 2021
The major blemish on this season has been Minnesota’s performance on the man advantage and the tides are turning slightly. With Kevin Fiala’s ninth goal of the season the Wild have now scored a powerplay tally twice in the span of three games. It’s not a whole lot and still below league average in terms of converting those chances, but it’s baby steps towards eventually making something of each opportunity.
Speaking of creating opportunity, Fiala gifts Bonino his third goal of the season that eventually became the game-winner in the third period.
Fiala has eyes in the back of his head. pic.twitter.com/XyJ1FDltKv— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 14, 2021
A pass out of nowhere that sprung the veteran center right on top of Coyotes netminder Antti Raanta and put the puck behind him.
Prior to the winning goal, the Wild were all over the ice killing a Bonino penalty, denying every single opportunity that Arizona could throw at them. Matt Dumba not letting any pass in front of the net get free, or forward Nico Sturm killing all offense right at the blue line and sending the puck the other way.
Do NOT try to score a powerplay against the Wild. Elite PK. pic.twitter.com/OBrgv0o12d— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 14, 2021
A momentum killer that tilted the ice even more in Minnesota’s favor.
All of this started with the Coyotes unfortunately opening the scoring in this one, but it never felt truly earned. The Phil Kessel goal was caused by a weird defensive zone turnover from Matt Dumba and just some active sticks coming from the Arizona forecheckers. It was a weird one that caused a massive momentum gain for Minnesota. More offense to get that goal back and eventually they ran away with it.
To even the game up in the second period, the line of Kirill Kaprizov, Victor Rask and Mats Zuccarello worked their magic down low in the Coyotes’ zone. Connecting on crisp passes and heads-up plays that could only be explained by chemistry and familiarity with positioning.
this line cannot be stopped. 1-1 wild, baby. pic.twitter.com/rRz17vLLWa— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 14, 2021
In my opinion this was one of the prettiest goals scored by the Wild this season, even if it wasn’t extremely substantial or flashy, it’s just pure systematic pressure.
This entire game was one of the more impressive wins from Minnesota this season and instills more belief that they can make some significant noise in the postseason. All they need to do is address some of the powerplay and we can call them Very Good.
Will Kaprizov score another hat trick?
Kirill Kaprizov was unfortunately left without a goal in this win, but it’s not like he didn’t have his chances. He finished the game with EIGHT shot attempts and EIGHT shots on goal. A complete dominant display of shot accuracy and creating chances.
His chemistry with Zuccarello continued as well.
look at Kirill's shot placement on that one-timer. Goddamn. pic.twitter.com/39Ksb77wiQ— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 14, 2021
More goals will certainly come and he’s already scoring loads.
How will Hartman handle his line?
Ryan Hartman wasn’t extremely noticeable like he has in the past, but his linemates in Jordan Greenway and Fiala were all over the ice and making extraordinary plays. Surely the new center gets to take some of the credit for that and I wouldn’t be surprised if Evason kept them together while they deal with a couple injuries.
Can they keep the Coyotes down below three?
Hell yes they can. Arizona barely got any scoring opportunities and the only goal they were able to get was a fumble in front of the net that led to some chaotic movement from the Wild defense to open the scoring. It wasn’t even assisted; an unassisted Phil Kessel tally.
The Arizona Coyotes have to face the Wild again (haha) on Tuesday. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m.