Early Season Struggles and Injury Woes

As the Minnesota Wild struggled in the early part of the season, they left themselves with a deficit that might be too much to handle. The team has dealt with plenty of injuries to important players, including Jonas Brodin, Mats Zuccarello, Filip Gustavsson, Kirill Kaprizov, and others. 

Battling injuries in the NHL is never an easy task.

In fact, it makes sense why they played the way they did to start the season when you consider all that they’ve dealt with. Not many other teams would be able to find success with the injuries that they sustained

Recent Upswing: Signs of a Playoff Contender

What can we make of the recent stretch of great hockey for the Wild? Is this a team that can make the playoffs, or should we expect them to end up being the team that they were earlier in the season

For one, if they can’t find a way to stay healthy, this season is as good as over. The injuries they’ve dealt with can’t be changed, and while they’ve played better recently, more injuries to any of their key players will be detrimental. As of now, they’re still dealing with some injuries. However, it’s much less than they were a few weeks ago.

But what if they continue this stretch? The 7-3 record in their last 10 games and only being a -3 despite a 16-15-4 record indicates that they might be much better than the standings currently say.

Kaprizov is the name to watch out for when returning from injury, as he’s currently week to week with a lower-body injury. Marcus Foligno spoke about the injuries, saying the following, according to The Athletic:

“You kind of just throw it right into All-Star break now,” Foligno said. “We gotta get to that, call it the refresh button. It’s obviously tough timing. We got some key guys out, and you never like to see that. You think if you have Zuccy, Kirill and Brodes in there it’s a different game (Sunday against Winnipeg).

“But you know what? We’re playing well. We got the systems and the guys in here to squeak wins out, and that’s what we have to do. When you have guys out like that, you gotta play a lot simpler and create chances in their zone and just be hard to play against. Something we just gotta pay attention to detail and something that I think our team is capable of.”

At 7-3 in their last 10, the Wild are playing their best hockey of the season lately. While the last two losses against the Winnipeg Jets were disappointing, they have impressive wins over the Boston Bruins (twice) and the Vancouver Canucks, among others, in the past few weeks.

Both games were decided by one goal, and both were decided in overtime or the third period. While losses are always disappointing, the discourse around them has been misleading.

The issues for the Wild were on both sides of the puck. The team hasn’t done much in terms of scoring or allowing goals. Having conceded 113 goals while scoring 110, there’s a clear need for improvement on both ends of the ice if they aim to evolve into the team they aspire to be. 

The Road Ahead: Potential and Challenges

In December, they had multiple games giving up two goals or less, hence the improvement. That’s going to need to continue behind Marc-André Fleury

Fleury recently won his 1,000th game, a huge milestone for the veteran goalie, becoming only the fourth goalie to achieve this accomplishment.

“Obviously very flattered by the reception from the crowd, from my teammates. It means a lot,” Fleury said. “I feel very fortunate that I’ve played for so long, and I got to do what I love for many years. I’m lucky for that.”

With better play, fewer injuries, and Fleury winning his 1,000th game, things are finally looking up for the Wild. Perhaps this could be the stretch where they take off and make a playoff push.

Look for Kirill Kaprizov, who has the 39th most points in the NHL, to get healthy sometime in the near future and lead this team to wins. The Wild are too good of a team to struggle for this long, and they’ve proved they can get back to being one of the best teams in the NHL with their recent play.

Injuries have derailed their season, but the 7-3 stretch puts them right back into the mix of things. 

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