A Wild week to begin the new season!!!
Well, were do I start? It has been a great week for the Wild hockey clubs. The Minnesota Wild have started the season with a 5-1 record, with a couple of spectacular, come-from-behind OT victories. The Iowa Wild have been almost as impressive, with a 3-1 record to begin the 2021-22 campaign. Both teams have sure been fun to watch, thus far. No doubt about that!! Let’s take a closer look into the Minnesota Wild’s start. *Spoiler alert – the AHL Iowa Wild will my feature in my next blog later this week. Keep an eye out for that!!!
After a thrilling victory in the season opener, in which Marcus Foligno scored the final tally with 7.2 seconds left against Anaheim Ducks, the NHL Wild finished their two-game road-trip to start the season with a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings. The game against L.A. was a bit of a snoozer, so we’ll leave it at that.
Coming back to Minny for their home opener, the Wild faced the hated Winnipeg Jets for the first time in 653 days due to COVID restrictions. Finally getting the chance to watch some live hockey, the fans, once again, sold out the X on Kellogg Blvd. in downtown St. Paul. By the end of the first period, the Jets had two goals on the board, both by Kyle Connor. The Wild matched them with goals by Mats Zuccarello and Joel Eriksson Ek (more to follow on those guys later in our programming). Foligno mixed things up as he dropped the gloves against Brenden Dillon late in the first with the game tied 2-2. Superman!! You could just tell Foligno was fired up after the fight and got the crowd into the game as well, not that they needed encouragement.
The Wild fans (18,156 strong) were treated to an instant-classic of a game as each team added another goal in the second period, one by the Jets’ Josh Morrissey on the power play and another goal by Zuccarello, his second of the game. The Jets came out strong to begin the third with two goals, one by Pierre Luc-Dubois and another by Andrew Copp. At that point, the Wild were down 5-3 and looked, perhaps, to be facing their first loss of the season.
My sources tell me that at this point of the game, Wild coach Dean Evason told the home team “come on, boys, let’s score some goals” or something like that. A few minutes later, Marcus Foligno got on the scoreboard with a power play goal, making the score 5-4. With only a few minutes left, Coach Evason pulled Cam Talbot out of the game to give the Wild a man-advantage. It looked for a minute that an empty-net goal by the Jets had iced the game and the Wild would, indeed, get their first loss of the season. But wait a minute, let the referees check out the play, and Winnipeg was offsides and the goal was disallowed. Ouch!!
That was the second-chance that the Wild were looking for and with just 59 seconds left in the game, Joel Eriksson Ek poked his second goal into the back of the Jets’ net to tie the game. Into overtime, both teams traded shots on net before Kevin Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov set up Eriksson Ek for the game winner on a tic-tac-toe passing play that left Eriksson Ek on the backdoor behind Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, with no chance to recover. It was Eriksson Ek’s third goal of the game and pandemonium ensued.
Their second game of the season against the Ducks had just as a spectacular finish as the first game. It was another overtime game for the Wild and with just 12.1 seconds left in the overtime period, Ryan Hartman jumped off the bench and buried a wrister past Josh Gibson. A second-consecutive overtime victory for the Wild.
Lastly, the Wild faced the Nashville Predators. For the fifth-straight game, the Wild allowed the first goal of the game, as Nashville got on the board first.
Now, I’m all for a good come-from-behind win, every now and then, but Evason needs to light a fire under their asses a little sooner. I mean, two victories within the last 12 seconds of two games – against the same team, no less, is kind of funny to be honest. However, we have to figure out how to score first and lead from start to finish every once in a while.
Nevertheless, the Wild are off to a great start and are tied for first place in the Central Division with the St. Louis Blues. You can’t complain about that too much at this point. The Blues have looked pretty good so far, with a +11 goal differential, compared to the +1 of the Wild. We could be better, we could be worse (i.e. Chicago). Clark W. Griswold must be pretty upset somewhere!! But hey, the season is young and we have 77 more games to play, so if that’s not a reason to celebrate, I don’t know what is. The Wild take on the Vancouver Canucks tomorrow night beginning at 9:00pm CST. Go Wild!!!!