After a rough start for game one of the season, the Minnesota Wild we're looking to shake it off and resume the level of play we know they have in them, the type of play that handed them the best season in franchise history last year. There was a little extra on the line tonight, too, as the Wild would be facing off against Kevin Fiala, squeezed out in the off-season, and traded to the Los Angeles Kings after an 85-point season.
But a good start wasn't in the cards tonight, as it only took four and a half minutes for Marc-André Fleury to concede his first goal of the night, followed up by another two in the first 11 minutes of the gathey me. Not all of them can be put on Fleury, as the defence was a catastrophe all night, but you can certainly expect more than this from him;
fleury let’s a true stinker past him and the kings are back up by 2 pic.twitter.com/ILo6GkkoXx— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 16, 2022
Small sample sizes are a problem, but so is allowing 11 goals in the first four periods of your season.
At least this is still the Minnesota Wild we are talking about, so there was a little bit of fight in them and managed to tally two, quick and dirty, to keep the game competitive after 20 minutes of play.
LETS GO. JACOB MIDDLETON. JUST AS EXPECTED.— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 16, 2022
After tallying an assist in the season opener, Marcus Foligno continued his scoring ways and brought the Wild to within two. Many thought last year's scoring outburst of 23 goals and 42 points — both career highs — was an outlier or a fluke for the Moose, but he's shown that he's still got the touch around the net and looks poised to continue that trend this season. He's undoubtedly the Wild's on-ice leader, and he shows it.
Marcus Foligno was scoring at all costs pic.twitter.com/Mwyr0btBJr— ESPN+ (@ESPNPlus) October 16, 2022
For the start of the second, Fleury was rightfully stapled to the bench, and we got to see our first glimpses of Filip Gustavsson in the regular season, and he was mostly alright. The past has plagued them withd the night, stopping 14 of 16 shots, but he was behind the porous Wild defense, making the most of it. He certainly didn't lose them the game. Neither did a usually stagnant Wild powerplay.
The Wild powerplay, ranked 18th in the league last year, managed to tally not one but three powerplays goals on the night. What has plagued them in the past has been a lack of movement and an over-reliance on the team's two primary playmakers, Mats Zuccarello and Kirill Kaprizov, to make the plays come together on the ice. If those two aren't available, the powerplay has historically been stuck in neutral. Not tonight, though, as lots of movement — from both skaters and the puck alike — kept seams open and coverage lackadaisical from Kings penalty killers.
JEEK on the back doorstep pic.twitter.com/MgKz9lxyDB— CJ Fogler AKA Perc70 #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) October 16, 2022
zuccarello threads the needle and kaprizov makes no mistake to make it 5-4! pic.twitter.com/XSI3uJtNyN— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 16, 2022
stop us if you’ve heard this before, A WILD POWERPLAY GOAL! 6-5! pic.twitter.com/BIXMoL7ElR— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 16, 2022
While the attempt to rebound from the 7-3 loss to the New York Rangers in the season opener was the main story heading into tonight, probably more intriguing was facing off against Kevin Fiala, and seeing how he would perform in his first game against his former club. And perform he did.
With a goal and two assists, Fiala showed off the type of powerful offensive weapon he can be when he's on, although it would have been nice if he didn't as a way to thank them for the touching tribute they gave him in-game.
There were a lot of goals tonight, and they were a result of the continued 1-2 combination of sub-par goaltending and sub-par defence from the Wild. The shot chart, shown here from EvolvingHockey.com, really illustrates the opportunities that the Wild just handed over to the Kings.
There were some puzzling decisions made by head coach Dean Evason and the rest of the Wild staff. Not pulling the goalie when the score was 7-6 and the Wild had a powerplay in the dying minutes of the game was one of them. This is a team that is notorious for pulling their goalie early.
But most puzzling of all was the 4:33 of ice time, given to Marco Rossi, one of the Wild's most prized prospects. He had four shifts total during the second and third period. In a game that was entirely off the handle as this one was, it's the exact situation you should be handing over some extra shifts to Rossi.
Move on, take the good parts from tonight and head to the next one. Tighten up that defense though.
Was Thursday a fluke, or has Fleury lost the ability to be an NHL starting goaltender?
marc-andré fleury through the first 4 periods of the 2022-23 season:— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 16, 2022
49 SA 11 GA .775 Sv% pic.twitter.com/34l0oa0DA3
Can Jost buck up?
Tyson Jost was one of the more visible players for the Wild tonight and in a good way. He did register a single hit — one more the Joel Eriksson Ek hilariously — but the line's identity is so tied up into having three guys that forecheck relentlessly, something that Jost doesn't have in his bag. Perhaps they should explore moving Jost into a different line and maybe bring Ryan Hartman, who was by far the Wild's worst forward tonight, onto the wing with Eriksson Ek and Foligno.
Will Kirill light it up?
Everyone was lighting it up, so yes.
A two-point night, buoyed by some beautiful play on the powerplay, Kirill's production is nothing to worry about.