The Minnesota Wild are on a tear and want you to know how goddamn good they are.
With only a sprinkle of bad performances through their 2021 season, this team has found themselves secure in a West Division playoff spot and are currently jostling for home advantage this summer.
Especially after their 2-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights—where they finished virtually even in terms of expected goals against one of the league’s most balanced lineups, via our friends at MoneyPuck—the message has remained clear that this team is better than anyone expected. Depth is a hell of a drug and all they had to do was bank on some above-average goaltending and young players getting better to really keep this stride going.
Well luckily for them, one Joel Eriksson Ek is busy making the opposition look like floundering waterbugs on the ice with his top-tier two-way play. His defensive game has always been that high, but considering that he has already passed his previous career-high of 8 goals—he now has 12—in just 36 games, his offensive abilities are starting to catch up.
Newly acquired goaltender Cam Talbot was aware of Eriksson Ek, but never really knew what he was able to do on the ice.
“I definitely knew who he was, knew the name and stuff like that,” Talbot said via The Athletic. “Did I know he was as good as he is? No. He just does so many of the little things that it takes to be successful in this league. He just does them all right, and he does them with intensity and he does them the right way.”
But Eriksson Ek being the team-first defensively-minded forward that he is, scoffed at the praise and wanted to bring the focus to the other 19 contributors.
“I think it was a great team effort,” Eriksson Ek said. “We stuck with it and came out to play in the third. We had the energy. We really competed hard in that third period.”
Heading into that third period down 1-0, the Wild were able to turn it around with two quick goals coming from two of their top forwards in Kirill Kaprizov and Eriksson Ek.
Quick and effective all-out pressure that leads to an opposite advantage has been one of the key attributes of this Wild team. Starting the season with two multi-goal comeback wins in overtime against the Los Angeles Kings, and a few others throughout, Minnesota can pile on their opposition and win the game with a couple minutes of complete hockey.
If anything, that can spell out some postseason success; the time of year where every single minute counts and the ability to turn the knob all the way to the maximum effort at timely moments, is something that can win them games.
Hopefully Talbot can get to know Eriksson Ek more during the Western Conference Final.