Tonight’s game brought the Minnesota Wild to a 6-1 record over the preseason with a resounding 5-1 win over the Dallas Stars, which yes, we know the preseason only matters so much, but it certainly contained the sort of pent-up chaotic energy that only the last preseason game before the start of the regular season can contain. These boys are ready to play some real hockey. And that is exciting to watch!
Furthermore, we got to see assists and goals from all the players we want to see succeed. Watching Mats Zucarrello and Kirill Kaprizov play cat-and-mouse with unsuspecting innocent hockey players is what we’re all here for, and this little game absolutely delivered. We got fights, we got Kirill Kaprizov power play goals, I’m certainly not complaining.
They’ve been solid over the past few weeks, and tonight’s game continued that trend (including lots of chances to exercise special teams that struggled last season.) There’s certainly hope that when they play against regular NHLers for actual points the success will continue.
Let’s get into it:
Tyson Jost got himself another preseason point with a drive to a net that causes enough chaos for MY president Joel Eriksson Ek to score a pretty sick wrap-around goal.
A little wrap around from Ekker to put us on the board 1️⃣st.— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) October 8, 2022
1-0 #mnwild pic.twitter.com/D7FWxl1f5e
The Wild got several opportunities to show off whether their special teams really are new and improved throughout the first, Rossi took a penalty, and Jeek and Freddy Gaudreau drew a couple respectively. The latter of which led to this ridiculous goal:
ZUCCY ➡️ KIRILL ➡️— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) October 8, 2022
2-0 #mnwild pic.twitter.com/uL71FEuI7n
It began to feel like real, regular season hockey was around the corner with plays like this. With a behind the back redirection, after a pass from Boldy and Zuccarello Kirill makes just an absolutely ridiculous goal. Have I mentioned I love hockey and that there is little I love more than watching Kirill Kaprizov score goals?
Dallas began to return the pressure, and Fleury made a heck of a few saves in the waning minutes of the first period, and the score was 2-0. (Fleury had saved 32 shots on 32 shots during the preseason at this point, which again, it’s preseason, but I think perhaps a sign of some measure of chemistry and growing comfort with the blue line.)
The next goal scored came 3:18 into the second, Brandon Duhaime got one in as he slid past the goal from a pass from Marco Rossi. This goal brought Rossi up to 9 points throughout the preseason, *ahem* a league-leading 9 points.
Gonna sneak that one in thank you very much #mnwild pic.twitter.com/dzNvBEM0v4— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) October 8, 2022
Unfortunately Fleury’s preseason perfect record didn’t continue after Joe Paveleski scored Dallas’s sole point of the game.
Ryan Hartman was tripped a bit later and the Wild got another PP opportunity. (Powerplay units look like they contain Kirill Kaprizov-Joel Eriksson Ek-Mats Zuccarello-Matt Boldy-Calen Addison and Marcus Foligno-Marco Rossi-Ryan Hartman-Freddy Gaudreau-Jared Spurgeon. That’s right, full-time PP1 QB Calen Addison.)
Fleury proved he is not a low event goalie, even when he’s making solid saves. At one point in the second, he managed what looked like a full on somersault.
AND THEN, Zuccarello and Kaprizov did their whole buddy routine where they practically play alone, Zucc passed to Kap, who passed to Zucc who scored.
"What a play."— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) October 8, 2022
We concur. #mnwild 4-1 pic.twitter.com/miqLWht3Zg
Feels like a good time to drop this hear and ask you to spot the differences:
Hartzy just wants some coffee...— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) January 28, 2022
Not Weird. Wild. pic.twitter.com/ufurqVSRn5
I don’t think I can underscore enough what a joy it is to watch these two play with one another.
The game clipped along after that, Duhaime did his standard frothing at the mouth after being released from an interference penalty and got into fisticuffs with Colin Miller (this might be a stretch, Duhaime dropped gloves and when the I got a look again he was on the ground, I think it’d hold up in a court of law as Duhaime having two-thirds of a Gordie Howe hat trick completed).
The second ended 4-1, Wild.
Rossi drew a penalty about five minutes into the third, the power play didn’t yield results but Kaprizov got a chance (Scott Wedgewood in net for Dallas at this point, first save of the night being a Kaprizov stop.)
The third period was pretty quiet until one right after the other, Hartman and Paveleski both get sent to the penalty box. This began a 4-on-4 that was nearly immediately stopped for a roughing call against Jamie Benn against Kaprizov (which it’s preseason, my dudes, why are we having a go at him right now? Not fun!) But this did put Minnesota on a 4-on-3 power play, they ran with a unit of Kirill Kaprizov-Joel Eriksson Ek-Mats Zuccarello-Matt Boldy and they produced fruit my friends, I present to you a Kirill Kaprizov power play goal:
stop me if you've heard this one before...Zuccy to Kirill (this time with a nice little pass from Ekker).— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) October 9, 2022
5-1 #mnwild pic.twitter.com/oMRhNBoqen
Nevermind the Stars player who lost their stick, lol.
And the Wild won the game 5-1. We do absolutely love to see it.
The preseason ended with Fleury going 46 for 47 saves and with Rossi and Jost leading the pack points-wise with 9 and 7 points between them respectively. We’ll likely see another cut coming (Mason Shaw or Nic Petan) in the coming days. Otherwise, the next time these players are on the ice it will be the regular season against the New York Rangers. Who’s ready for some hockey?!
Will Rossi make the shrunk opportunity still worthwhile?
Rossi did tally another point over the course of the preseason with an assist on a Duhaime goal. So yes, he’s good at elevating his linemates – Duhaime has had an especially good camp specifically. He’s just always passing, on the Duhaime goal, it looked like he was nearly already past the goal line before Duhaime realized the puck was already on his stick from a fast Rossi pass. Mark my words, Rossi will be higher in the lineup at some point in this season, but for now he is gelling with the Dewey’s, and it’s not a bad thing to have a fourth line that will score, evidenced by tonight’s game.
Can Goligoski handle top-pairing minutes again?
I was surprised to see the lineup pairing of Goligoski-Spurgeon again, but listen, Goligoski is old but he’s not bad. He didn’t necessarily produce tonight, but Spurgeon and Goligoski together were absolutely serviceable and I didn’t mind that it meant we got to see Middleton-Addison either. I can’t imagine this will be his full-time spot.
Will the power play continue buzzing?
Live PPG tally: II
#mnwild kill at 93.8 percent this preseason with 3 shorthanded goals. They also have 7 power-play goals— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) October 9, 2022
This game gave us two power play goals, both of which from Kirill Kaprizov. If the improvements the coaching brass made for the power play was largely unit based and giving Kaprizov the support he needs to score nonstop, you won’t hear a single complaint from me. It was good to see the team continue the momentum of actually taking these opportunities. Again preseason isn’t necessarily indicative of lasting regular season success, but the stats provided by Russo above certainly give me hope that things might go the Wild’s way more often than not this season. We’ll see!