Wild Can Win Without Eriksson Ek or Spurgeon & Brodin

The Minnesota Wild have had a bumpy road the last couple of weeks between other teams’ COVID problems, their own injuries, and now losing a couple of players to COVID as well. Despite the fact that many of their most important players were absent, they played well. They held Alexander Ovechkin, his Washington Capitals teammates at bay, and then they made it past Kaapo Kahkonen, Wild goaltender.

Kaapo Kähkönen, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers

After a slow start, they found their magic in the third quarter. The Wild became the “comeback kids” when they not only came back to tie the game but forced overtime and stole the win in the shootout. They had help from every part of the lineup, even the Capitals.

Wild’s Zuccarello, Fiala & Gaudreau Heroes

Marcus Foligno was awarded the 100Th goal of his career and the first of the game for the Wild but it wasn’t a typical goal. He was the last Wild player who touched the puck before a delay penalty was called against him.

The Capitals pulled their goalie for the extra attacker and had control when they threw it to the blue line, but the defenseman wasn’t prepared and it rolled all the way into the empty net. The momentum changed in the Wild’s favor and they were back in it.

Mats Zuccarello scored his next goal. He extended his point streak by four games and tied the game. It was then sent to overtime. The extra time didn’t produce a winner so it went to a shootout.

He wasn’t the only player to continue a point streak, Kevin Fiala tallied an assist on Zuccarello’s goal to further his streak to four games. He also scored the shootout goal that ended his season-long drought without scoring.

Frederick Gaudreau won the game-winner. This was his first goal since Nov. 18, ending a nearly two-month-long streak of goalless games. Fiala’s shootout goal won’t count towards his regular statistics, so the pointless streak will continue.

He’s gone without any points since Nov. 28, which for him is only six games because he had missed several due to COVID protocols. Gaudreau was missing many teammates and felt it was the right time to contribute again.

Wild win when shorthanded

The Wild’s list of injured players, plus the COVID protocols list, has seemed to grow with every game they’ve played. It all began just before Christmas when Joel Eriksson Ek and Jared Spurgeon were both injured.

Jared Spurgeon Minnesota Wild-Wild Find Way to Win Without Kaprizov, Eriksson Ek, Spurgeon & Brodin
Jared Spurgeon (Minnesota Wild)Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers

Jonas Brodin has been absent and in for sporadic with an injury, followed by COVID or another injury. Cam Talbot, Nick Bjugstad and Kirill were most recently in the hospital. Kaprizov were also added The injured list was added while Brandon Duhaime, Jordan Greenway, and Alex Goligoski were placed on the COVID List.

Fiala may have scored the game-deciding goal during the shootout but he was on the bench at the beginning. Even though everyone was out, Matt Boldy got more ice, until the third period when Wild began to show promise. The Wild then put Boldy back in. He was penalized, but later, he showed sincerity and he wanted to play.

Despite all that was against them in this game they managed to win. With the circumstances they found themselves in, many teams would have given up and folded. They were behind early. The Capitals missed a chance and the Wild scored. They were back in it. Fiala proved his worth with his goal in the shootout, and Gaudreau did the same to win their second consecutive victory.

Wild’s Kahkonen Stands Tall

The Wild couldn’t have done any of this without the stellar goaltending from Kahkonen. He was outstanding against the Boston Bruins two days ago, and he did it again last evening. He had to face shots from the top league players and he stopped most of them. He had a save percentage.935 and made 29 saves on 31 shots.

Kaapo Kähkönen Minnesota Wild-Wild Find Way to Win Without Kaprizov, Eriksson Ek, Spurgeon & Brodin
Kaapo Kähkönen, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers

Kahkonen has had a relatively good season so far with a record of 6-2-1 but he seems to do best when he’s under pressure. If it’s a dire situation he steps into, such as Talbot being injured, he rises to the occasion almost immediately. His game improves and he’s very precise in his moves.

Related: Wild defeats Bruins, but loses Kaprizov to injury

He did it again against the Capitals. He was great in the game, and he was flawless in the shootout. He’ll have to keep up this kind of play as it sounds like there is no timetable for Talbot’s return and Kahkonen is the reliable goaltender as of now.

Wild’s Upcoming Schedule

Thankfully for the Wild, Eriksson Ek may be close to returning sometime next week but it’s not a sure thing. As for the others, it’s hard to say when any of them will be back. The Wild will find this postponement of the COVID protocol a welcome relief, despite how difficult it has been. They may want to play to maintain their winning streak but as far as injuries and COVID, it’ll be a time for the players to heal and rest up.

Joel Eriksson-Ek Minnesota Wild-Wild Find Way to Win Without Kaprizov, Eriksson Ek, Spurgeon & Brodin
Joel Eriksson Ek (Minnesota Wild)Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers

They had been scheduled to fly to Canada to face the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets, but there are still restrictions on capacity so those games have been postponed. When the week is up, hopefully, they won’t have lost their momentum but instead gained some of their players back. They’ll be facing the Anaheim Ducks at home before a quick road trip and being back home once again.

Apart from Eriksson Ek, it’s rumored that Kaprizov may be back as well. For the Wild’s sake, it’d be great if he was, but with the recent production from Zuccarello, Fiala, and Gaudreau, plus Boldy and Marco Rossi both in the lineup, and Kahkonen backstopping the net, they’re in good hands.