The Minnesota Wild ended their two-game losing streak against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night. It was a wild night that was action-packed and could be the berth of a new rivalry right in front of our eyes.
Let’s take a look at the biggest takeaways, notes, and concerns. This is a game recap with a twist and combination of analytics, the eye-test, some tweets, and more!
1. After two straight losses, the Minnesota Wild were forced to make some line changes for Thursday night’s game.
Most notably, Dean Evason decided to break up the Wild’s dominant third-line and provide Joel Eriksson Ek with an elevated role. Marcus Johansson surprisingly was given yet another shot in a top-six role despite his early-season struggles. Nick Bjugstad was once again the Wild’s top-line center and has flown under the radar so far this season when examining his underlying numbers.
2. It didn’t take long for Marcus Foligno to make an impact in this game. Just three seconds into the game, Foligno dropped the gloves with defenseman Kurtis MacDermid. We finally witnessed the first Minnesota Wild fight this season.
Unless I am mistaken, this fight was probably initiated by Foligno in order to get the crowd going. All jokes aside, this is definitely something that the Wild needed to get them going after two straight defeats. The Wild have been struggling significantly in the first period in every game this season, so there is no doubt that this fight right out of the gate brought energy to the Wild’s bench.
It was a pretty even fight in my eyes, albeit had Foligno not slipped it may have ended differently.
3. Matt Dumba came ready to play on Thursday night. He was physical from the beginning of the game and he looked like vintage Dumba out there throwing his body around. The 26-year-old right-shot defenseman finished the night with four hits but two penalty minutes.
4. It became increasingly evident that Marcus Johansson studied the Wild’s historical playbook when he came to the Wild after being traded for center Eric Staal who is arguably the Wild’s best free-agent signing in franchise history. After passing the puck on a 4-on-1 that inevitably led to nothing, Johansson scored his second goal of the season, both of which were against the Kings.
It was a nice shot from the top of the left circle by Johansson. It looks like Jonathan Quick was screened on the play as it got past him.
5. After going four games without scoring a goal, Kevin Fiala has found the back of the net three times in the past four games. He continued that Thursday night with a breakaway goal.
After blocking a shot that likely would have gone in because Kahkonen wasn’t able to get back into position after being pushed, Fiala scored on the breakaway. This is exactly what the Wild need to make a run. When the “game-breaker” is scoring, it appears the wins like to follow.
6. Marcus Johansson continued his impressive performance with a beautiful feed to Kaprizov who scored his second goal of the season.
The highly-touted Russian prospect has put on a clinic and has exceeded all expectations in his rookie season. While he has shown his vision and playmaking thus far, his shot and moves have been on full display.
7. The Los Angeles Kings scored two of their three goals on the man advantage. The first one was a shot from the point from Anze Kopitar that deflected off Justin Brown before finding its way past Kahkonen. That was Brown’s 3rd goal of the season, 2nd on the power-play.
8. Kevin Fiala was involved in a scary incident that left Matt Roy going face-first into the boards.
While Roy lost his edge, the push by Fiala got him a five minute major and a game misconduct. To be fair, Fiala should get a suspension here (likely gets him a game or two), but not much more since he isn’t a repeat offender.
It was evident that Fiala was concerned right after and there was absolutely no malicious intent whatsoever. For the safety of the game though, these plays should result in suspension regardless, to ensure safety as these hits from behind are dangerous.
9. The Kings’ 2nd goal of the game – another power-play marker – was by none other than Drew Doughty who has irked Wild fans as he took liberties with the Wild’s highly-touted Russian prospect, Kirill Kaprizov. He moved toward the middle of the ice where he found the puck and slapped one past Kahkonen to get the Kings within a single goal.
10. Speaking of Kaprizov, the 23-year-old winger has the ability to do literally anything. We’ve already seen his vision, playmaking ability, and skating, but we found out he had another tool in his arsenal.
It turns out that Kaprizov has a physical side to him, so don’t make him mad or he will take you out, as he did to Austin Wagner.
11. This was a weird game because there was a fight, several injuries, an ejection, and also a face-off violation. Regardless of the call, Nick Bjugstad was called for a face-off-violation that sent him to the penalty box, something you don’t see too often.
12. Lindstrom, Minnesota’s own, Blake Lizotte, who has had a great start to his NHL career – had a breakaway on Kaapo Kahkonen, but the Minnesota native wasn’t able to bury it as Kahkonen made a great save.
13. Kaprizov nearly double dipped in this game, but Jonathan Quick committed grand larceny.
No wonder his last name is Quick, he went from left to right quick and absolutely stole one from Kaprizov.
14. Nick Bjugstad has singlehandedly been one of the most impactful Wild forwards this season and has flown under the radar. He got rewarded tonight with a goal because of his net-front presence.
He scored the goal off of a Brodin shot that found its way past Quick. Quick happened to be too quick on this, as he actually put it in the net himself after it hit Bjugstad.
15. Sean Walker was the victim of Matt Dumba’s slapshot in the scary incident that left him bloody.
Thankfully, he is fine. It was clear it shook Dumba up and he felt extremely bad about it.
16. Eriksson Ek scored his team-leading 5th goal of the season. He has easily been the Wild’s best forward of the season.
After his initial shot that got past Quick, Eriksson Ek found it and tapped it in.
17. Alex Iafallo made it a 5-3 game with a beautiful one-timer from the top of the left circle. That was Iafallo’s 2nd goal of the season.
18. Kaapo Kahkonen got really excited with the Kings net empty when it appeared he attempted to hit one off the boards but it ended up going out of play which resulted in a delay of game penalty.
19. 11 different players ended up getting a point tonight. It speaks to the Wild’s extensive depth up and down the lineup.
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20. The Wild have been struggling in the face-off circle so far this season. The Kings ended up favorable in the circle winning 54 percent. Nick Bonino once again found himself saving the Wild in the circle and finished the game, winning 57.1 percent of his faceoffs.
21. The Wild’s penalty kill was busy tonight. The Kings had 7 power-plays and found the back of the net twice. The Wild’s penalty kills now ranks 8th in the NHL.
22. Per Evolving-Hockey, the Kings had the edge in expected goals. The Kings 2.32 expected goals was just higher than the Wild’s 2.18. Likewise, the Kings 57.14 Corsi for percentage was better than the Wild’s 42.86 per Natural Stat Trick. However, the Wild had the edge in high-danger Corsi for.
23. It was definitely not a goalie battle in this one. Jonathan Quick finished with -2.82 goals saved above expected and Kaapo Kahkonen finished with -0.67 goals saved above expected. Both allowing more goals than expected based on the quality of the shots they faced.
24. Looking at Dom L of the Athletic’s game-score, which is a combination of points and analytics, Marcus Johansson’s 3.51 was 1st on the Wild. It was his best game by far. Jonas Brodin’s 3.21 and Nick Bjugstad’s 2.80 came in 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Kirill Kaprizov, Zach Parise, and Joel Eriksson Ek came in 4th, 5th, and 6th respectively. Kaprizov was one of the Wild’s better forwards defensively as portrayed by his low expected goals against which is a good sign for the youngster. Kaprizov also led the Wild with a 70.59 Corsi for percentage and 85.88 expected goals for percentage. He had himself a night and has exceeded all expectations this season.
25. The Wild currently sit 3rd in the “Honda West” division. Their 10 points are tied with the Colorado Avalanche and one point behind the Vegas Golden Knights who currently sit in first place. The Wild play the Avalanche on Saturday and Sunday night which will definitely be the Wild’s first test of the season.