After starting 2022 on the losing side of things, the Minnesota Wild return to action Thursday night looking to snap a five-game losing streak against a foe from the Atlantic division in the Boston Bruins.
It’s been a hot minute since these two squads faced off, with their most recent matchup taking place on Feb. 1, 2020. Remember? The good ole’ days before COVID-19 took a proverbial piss on the entire world?
That matchup was something most Wild fans want to forget, as the Bruins’ offense pounced early and took home a 6-1 win. Torey Krug played hero as he netted two goals and two assists against the Wild defense, while Mats Zuccarello posted the only score for Minnesota late in the second period.
Needless to say, it was an ugly display that left a sour taste in the mouths of the Wild players and fans.
At a Glance
Boston enters this primetime matchup winners of their last three games. The interesting part about these wins? The Bruins have scored four or more goals in all three of them, and they’ve found the net five times in two of those three. One thing to keep an eye on is center Trent Frederic, who netted a goal in each of the Bruins’ past two games, so he’s on a bit of a hot streak offensively.
The Wild, as mentioned earlier, comes in on a five-game losing skid, with their most recent loss coming at the hands of the St. Louis Blues in the annual Winter Classic.
While the loss stings, there were some bright spots in the game. Ryan Hartman added to his stellar season after netting his 15th goal in the third period, while Kirill Kaprizov netted a first period goal and two assists to go with it.
If it weren’t for a defensive collapse in the second period, the Wild could’ve – and in the eyes of some fans should’ve – won, but nonetheless the Blues prevailed.
As a way to generate an offensive spark, the Wild called up two former first round picks – Marco Rossi and Matt Boldy — on Tuesday, and both are set to make their NHL debuts tonight in Boston.
Boldy has ties to Massachusetts. He grew up in Millis, Mass. and played hockey at Boston College, and he said in an interview on NHL.com that it’s a great way to break into the league.
“It’s going to be a cool night for sure, and to do it in Boston is even cooler,” the 21-year-old said.
Rossi, on the other hand, said that his call to the NHL came as a surprise.
“I wasn’t waiting for it because if I was always waiting and looking at my phone, then it would take a long time. So I wasn’t really thinking about Minnesota, I was just thinking about Iowa. And that’s the best thing to do because you’re not thinking much about it,” Rossi said.
Head coach Dean Evason says both Boldy and Rossi are going to be major catalysts to the Wild’s Power Play unit.
“They’re power-play guys, so they should be put in that position to have success ... clearly, for them but most and more importantly for us. We’re not putting them there just to see if they can play. We’re putting them there to score goals,” he said Tuesday.
Kaprizov - Hartman - Zuccarello
Foligno - Rossi - Fiala
Boldy - Gaudreau - Duhaime
Dewar - Sturm - Pitlick/Rask
Brodin - Dumba
Merrill - Goligoski
Benn - Kulikov
Kaapo Kahkonen is the projected starter tonight.
Are Boldy and Rossi the answer to the Wild’s Power Play woes?
We already know where the top Power Play unit stands for the Wild, consisting of guys like Kaprizov and Hartman. You know, the guys that can put the puck in the net. The issue they’ve had is setting up those scoring opportunities.
If the plan is to use Rossi with those guys, things can really click, as he’s known to create opportunities and linemates, he could be that missing X-factor they needed.
Boldy’s ability can be seen just from his time in the AHL. Despite missing significant time due to injury, he’s shown great promise that he can be the cog in the secondary unit.
If you’re nervous about them playing in their first NHL game, that’s reasonable, but know their ceiling is very, VERY high.
Should fans be worried about a potential snowball effect?
Dating back to December 14 – the day the Wild/Hurricanes game was postponed due to COVID issues – the Wild have encountered five different postponements with all coming at different times. Inconsistent playing time affects players no matter what level they’re playing on, so of course it will have a negative impact on the team’s performance.
We’ve seen what the Wild can do when they catch a spark, so it’s not an ability issue. This is just a bad moment in the season that caused a cold streak for an otherwise good team.
Don’t take this losing streak as a sign of a negative turn of events. Once they play a consistent amount of games, things will be back to normal in Minnesota.
Despite their hot streak, are the Bruins really a threat?
Coming into Thursday’s game, the Wild have averaged 3.7 goals in their last 10 games with 6.7 assists. Whereas the Bruins have averaged 2.8 goals and 4.5 assists in their past 10 games. Wonderful, if you’re a Wild fan.
The penalty total, though, is completely flipped. The Bruins averaged just 3.8 penalties and 8.2 penalty minutes over the recent ten-game stretch, while Minnesota averages 4.2 penalties and nine penalty minutes.
Mix that in with a poor goaltending string and it seems like the Wild are at a disadvantage.
If Kaapo Kahkonen gets the nod for the Wild in place of Talbot, it could be a better look as he’s allowing just 2.67 goals per game.
Overall, the Wild should be in line for a strong performance tonight if they keep their noses clean.