Hey Wild fans, we are officially one month into the NHL season already and things are looking good so far in the State of Hockey – for the most part. The Wild have begun the season with a heavy road schedule; nine of fourteen games have been played away from the Xcel Energy Center. Yet, they are a respectable 10-4 and with 20 points, are in first place in the Central Division.
There have been pleasant surprises from a few members of the team; Ryan Hartman, perhaps has been the team MVP so far – leading with seven goals and four assists. With 11 points, he leads the team in scoring and a plus-minus of 11, which also leads the team – by far. Marcus Foligno (5G, 5A) is showing why he has an “A” on his jersey, not to mention leading the team with 34 penalty minutes.
Kirill Kaprizov, while he is making some folks nervous about his lack of goal-scoring, is actually the team leader in assists and points. It’s not like he’s not around the puck, but I just think he’s feeling the weight of a big contract right out of the gate. It’s OK people, he will get his groove back. Of course, I cannot leave out the most recent star, Rem Pitlick. He not only scored his first career goal in the NHL in a game versus the Seattle Kraken, but he scored two more in the same game. Pitlick became just the 31st player in NHL history to record his first NHL goal and his first hat trick in the same game.
Now, for the not-so-good. The Wild are 18th in the NHL on the Power Play (18.2%), 23rd in the league on the Penalty Kill (77.6%) and 20th in the league for goals allowed (3.07 per game). Though he has a 8-3 record as a starter, goaltender Cam Talbot has a 2.80 GAA, which is not that great (26th in the league, in fact.) You know the old saying “it’s better to be lucky than good”. Well, Talbot hasn’t been that good – if you catch my drift. Who would think that a division-leading team would have their best goalie that is 26th in the league for GAA? 1-2-3, not it!! Hopefully, he has had pink eye or something and can improve his game in the coming months. Come on, dude!!! Have a breakout year – what do you say? There’s always hope.
Yes, the Wild have a good record and are first in the division, but they could easily be 4-10 as well. They have a lot of improvements to make if they are going to complete for a division title and go deep into the playoffs. The Wild are not in first place because of solid goaltending, obviously. They have a great balanced team, a never-say-die attitude and have caught a few breaks along the way. One thing for sure, they’ve been pretty fun to watch. It will be interesting to see how they fare throughout the rest of the year.
Something that could have a significant effect on the NHL season, is the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Sure, players, including the Wild, will get a rest, if they don’t represent their country. However, any momentum that players and/or teams have before the break, may not be there post-Olympics. We will have to see how that turns out. The Olympics are February 4 through February 20, if you’re wondering.
The fact that the Wild are first in the division even though they have a few major areas in which to improve, is a good sign. They will be taking on the San Jose Sharks (7-6-1) tonight at 7pm. You can catch all of the action on ESPN+.
Coming up in my next blog, I will be discussing the Minnesota Whitecaps, who are the Premier Hockey Federation women’s team who call the Tria Rink home in St. Paul. I will be in attendance for their game against the Boston Pride on Saturday night, so watch for my coverage.