Surging Wild scoring big behind new top line

It’s getting real for the Minnesota Wild. Once buried in the Western Conference standings, they’ve battled their way back into the hunt for a postseason spot. They’re also on a roll, 7-1-1 since returning from the all-star break.

And the team’s confidence is growing.

“Oh, yeah,” winger Kirill Kaprizov said after scoring a pair of goals in a 5-2 victory Saturday night at Seattle. “For sure.”

The Wild have gotten here on the strength of their offense. Over the past nine games, they’re averaging 4.11 goals a game, second in the NHL only to Toronto (5.11) in that span.

Leading that charge has been Minnesota’s top line of Kirill Kaprizov, Joel Eriksson Ek and Matt Boldy, who first joined forces at the tail end of 2-1 victory at Chicago on Feb. 7. Since then, they have combined for 21 goals — seven apiece — and 47 points in eight games.

“Pretty nice. Real nice,” defenseman Jake Middleton said after a 4-2 victory over the Oilers last Friday in Edmonton. “I like being on the ice with them, especially when they’re rolling like that, just hanging out on the offensive zone blue line. It’s quite a bit of fun.

“They’ve been kind of our horse of a line the past couple weeks here, and they deserve all the credit they’re getting. They’re amazing.”

This was before Saturday, when the line combined for three goals and five points against the Kraken in a blowout win at Climate Pledge Arena. They each had at least one point, and Kaprizov had two goals and an assist to finish his week with six goals and 12 points in four games.

On Monday, Kaprizov was named the NHL’s first star of the week for the third time in three months, the first time a Wild player has won that honor three times in one season. He now has 80 career multi-point games, moving him past Zach Parise (558 games) for sole possession of third-most in franchise history — in 304 fewer games.

Asked Saturday about his line’s success this month, Kaprizov said, “I feel like we try to help each other on the ice. Win battles.

“Everyone (is) pretty hard in the battles, and we all try (to) win these 50-50 pucks and help each other,” he said, “and just I think this is why.”

Kaprizov and Eriksson Ek have been consistent points getters this season. Eriksson Ek leads the team with 28 goals and ranks second in points (54), second only to Kaprizov (63). The player who seems to be benefiting most from this new alignment is Boldy, who has flourished under Hynes.

Before Hynes took over for Dean Evason on Nov. 28, Boldly had one goal in 12 games (he missed seven with an upper body injury) to start his second full NHL season. Since then, he has 22 goals and 39 points in 38 games.

“It’s nice to see Bolds be able to see, coming back off the all-star break, that to be able to drive ourselves back into the mix into the playoff contention — which we’ve done — there was going to be a certain style of game you have to play,” Hynes said.

For a player like Boldy, the 12th overall pick in the 2019 draft out of Boston College, that style is what Hynes calls “hard skill” — playing tough and tenacious to create opportunities, then using your skill to capitalize on them.

It’s a good description of how Kaprizov and Eriksson Ek always have played, and the way Boldy has been, generally, since late November. In their eight full games as linemates, this month, the Wild are averaging 4.38 goals a game.

“I give Matt a lot of credit. … His competitiveness is a factor and his puck management has been mature,” Hynes said. “All three of the guys set themselves up for offense, and when you play that way, your skill is allowed to take over — and that’s what he, and I’d say that line, has done.”

Making the postseason for the fourth consecutive season won’t be easy. Minnesota may be hot, but so are most of the five teams they’re fighting for one of the conference’s two wild card spots.
With 24 regular-season games remaining, starting Tuesday against Carolina at Xcel Energy Center, Minnesota is within six points, either way, of Seattle, Calgary, St. Louis, Nashville, Los Angeles and Edmonton. Those six are a combined 33-22-5 in their past 10 games.

Being able to count on your best players, your top line, to score is a genuine advantage. Starting with a 10-7 win over first-place Vancouver last Monday, the Wild have averaged 6.25 goals in their past four games (3-1-0).

“It’s fun when they go in,” second-line wing Marcus Johansson said after scoring the tying goal on Saturday against the Kraken. “I think that’s part of that confidence, too, the feeling that you can score.”

“And if we score five or six every game,” he added with a laugh. “We should win more than we lose. It’s fun.”


Matt Boldy, Joel Eriksson Ek and Kirill Kaprizov have composed the Wild’s top line since late in a 2-1 win at Chicago on Feb. 7. This is what they’ve done in their nine recent games as the top unit:

Player           Gm    G     Pts.
Boldy             8        7     14
Eriksson Ek   8        7     15
Kaprizov        8        7     18

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