SUBSCRIBE NOW Just 99¢ for your first month

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Feldman: Wild need fewer passengers, more help for Kaprizov in Game 6

The Minnesota Wild have been a franchise for more than two decades. And no matter who the face of the franchise has been, he historically hasn't had a lot of help in the postseason.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild
Minnesota Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov (97) scored twice on Tuesday in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series against the St. Louis Blues, but the Wild blew a third-period lead and lost 5-2.
Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL — In the beginning there was Marian Gaborik. He couldn’t do it alone.

Then there was Mikko Koivu. He couldn’t do it by himself, either.

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were then given contracts worthy of players expected to carry their team to championships. There were two of them and they couldn’t do it by themselves.

Now, here we are, in Year 22 of the Minnesota Wild and a new savior — one who set franchise scoring records this season and carries the promise of becoming the best player ever to wear a Wild sweater — can’t do it alone, either.

No. 97 is dynamic, electric, everything he’s been touted to be for years. But Kirill Kaprizov can’t carry this whole team on his back, as much as he’s trying to right now. He scored both of the Wild’s goals Tuesday in a 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues at the Xcel Energy Center, a loss that puts Minnesota on the brink of elimination, down 3-2 in the best-of-7 series.

ADVERTISEMENT

MORE MINNESOTA WILD COVERAGE:
NHL
After finishing the regular season with 33 goals and 52 assists, Fiala did not score a goal in the playoffs.
NHL
It sounds like Fleury would be open to coming back to Minnesota and Talbot is already under contract for next season.
NHL
It’s pretty clear Dumba wasn’t at 100% for the opening-round series against the St. Louis Blues.
Pro
After falling behind 3-2 in the series against the St. Louis Blues, the Wild turned to Talbot on the brink of elimination.
Pro
Now the 2021-22 Minnesota Wild will be remembered similarly to many of their predecessors: a regular-season team that flamed out far too early in the postseason.
NHL
Matt Dumba scored for the Wild and goaltender Cam Talbot, making his first start in place of Marc-Andre Fleury, made 22 saves.
Pro
Like so many teams before them, the Wild once again bowed out in the first round
NHL
With his team facing elimination, Wild coach Dean Evason expects to see a better team-wide effort in Game 6.
NHL
Vladimir Tarasenko's third-period hat trick quiets Xcel Energy Center crowd.
NHL
The first-round playoff series between Minnesota and St. Louis may come to an end on Thursday, as the Blues most recent win pushed the Wild to the edge of elimination. And after five contests that have had a bit of everything, anything less than seeing all seven games would be unfortunate.

Kaprizov leads the NHL in postseason goals scored. There’s an audible buzz in the Xcel Energy Center every time he touches the puck, or is anywhere near it. But as much as he tried to will this team to a victory in Tuesday’s Game 5, there were too many guys in green sweaters standing around waiting for the rest of the guys in green sweaters to make something happen.

They didn’t.

“He’s unbelievable, right?” Wild coach Dean Evason said of Kaprizov, the 25-year-old Russian who has 161 points in 137 career games, including the postseason. “He’s unbelievable, he’s physical … it’d be nice to have 20 of him.

“He doesn’t surprise any of us. We’re just waiting for him to do it. Goals aside, he wants to win. He wills the team; he just didn’t have enough guys willing alongside him tonight. If we had 20 of him we’d be competing our butts off a little better.”

Twenty of him? The Wild could use just one or two who want to match Kaprizov’s effort right now. There are no other Kirill Kaprizovs on this roster — there aren’t many like him in the world — but Minnesota could use Kevin Fiala and Mats Zuccarello to resemble the players they were for the past seven months. They could use the heavy GREEF line of Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno to play the way they played for most of this season and the first three games of this series.

Instead, the best regular season in the history of the franchise has given way to a postseason that looks all too familiar to Minnesota sports fans.

The Wild have given up 11 goals in their three games at Xcel Energy Center in the series.

Marc Andre Fleury — the goalie they traded for at the deadline because of his extensive successful playoff history — has been average at best. His three Stanley Cups and 90-plus postseason wins will someday land him in the Hall of Fame, but that all means nothing at the moment, as the Wild stare down elimination in Thursday’s Game 6, which happens to be on the Blues’ home ice. Evason said his goalie wasn’t to blame for the four goals St. Louis scored on him in Game 5, though Blues sniper Vlad Tarasenko’s second of three goals beat Fleury cleanly just 88 seconds after Tarasenko’s first of the game gave the Blues the lead for good.

ADVERTISEMENT

Minnesota also continues to allow St. Louis assistant captain Brayden Schenn to turn a hockey game into a wrestling match — takedown after uncalled takedown — without any kind of push-back or retaliation.

There are so many reasons why the playoff Wild do not resemble the regular season Wild.

“It’s one of those things where we got ourselves into this position and no one will quit on each other,” Foligno said. “We have nothing to lose. We seem to like that position.”

Unfortunately, that’s a position that Wild fans — and Vikings fans, and Twins fans, and Wolves fans and… — have come to know well.

Yet, we’ll continue to do what we do: lament a loss in a game that was wholly winnable and somehow find the optimistic willingness to allow ourselves to get hurt again on Thursday night.

That is something none of us will have to do alone.

Jason Feldman is the Post Bulletin sports editor. He can be reached at jfeldman@postbulletin.com.

Related Topics: HOCKEYMINNESOTA WILD
Jason Feldman is the sports editor of the Post Bulletin. In addition to managing the four-person sports staff at the PB, Jason covers high school football, golf and high school and junior hockey. Readers can reach Jason at 507-281-7430 or jfeldman@postbulletin.com.
What to read next
NHL
Special teams were a large factor of the outcome of the game as the United States gave up three power play goals in the first two periods.
NHL
After an early 2-0 deficit, Team USA clawed their way back into the game and tie things up late in the third period and later on would win it in overtime off a Luke Hughes breakaway goal.
NHL
In their first game of the 2022 IIHF Men's World Championships, Team USA skates past Team Latvia
NHL
While Nick Leddy, Robert Bertuzzo and Marco Scandella all missed games, Faulk averaged 27:43 of ice time in four playoff games