Kirill Kaprizov has exceeded our expectations in every way. In just two short seasons, the Minnesota Wild standout has pushed his way to be regarded as one of the world’s finest players and among the elite in the NHL.
Almost every minute he spends on the ice, he stands in sharp contrast to the team’s grueling performance. And while it might just be his skating style and the unique way he explodes past defenses with great control of his acceleration, it’s very evident how such maneuvers can result in goals for his team. On Tuesday night, he proved it against the St. Louis Blues in Game 5.
it all started with Kaprizov stripping the puck from Parayko to keep possession on the powerplay. and then, he scored. pic.twitter.com/EFMLdiXkJk
— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) May 11, 2022
We could go on and on about how dominating he has become right before our eyes. Even in this first-round series, he has broken team records, scoring seven goals, the most ever scored by a Wild player in a single round. Moreover, these seven goals account for 40% of Minnesota’s total performance of 17 goals in six games versus St. Louis. Kaprizov is only the fourth player since 2005 to have scored nine goals in a single playoff series. It’s amazing how much he’s been able to do and how little the other forwards have contributed.
When one guy does so much and appears to be one of the few players capable of putting the puck past the opposition goal line, you have to ask more questions.
And Kaprizov put the onus on the team to win games rather than making it all about the individual.
“The aim isn’t for a guy to perform well,” Kaprizov stated after Game 6. “We aimed to play well as a team, and we didn’t win.”
Kirill has been able to take up the slack from the rest of the squad throughout the series in a selfless manner. Of course, the offense goes through the Russian, but when no one seems to be able to accomplish anything in the offensive zone, everything falls on Kaprizov’s shoulders, and no playoff team should be that reliant on one man. Even Connor McDavid has a sidekick, and they are barely surviving.
Of course, the Wild have Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Fiala (for the time being), Matt Boldy, and a slew of other two-way forwards who attempt to offer offense first and foremost. It was enough to put up record numbers and score the fifth-most goals among all 32 teams in those 82 games throughout the regular season, but the offensive has dried up against a harder opponent than the average they had to play against. The Wild are lacking the next step of being able to produce offense against any defense, and it has been increasingly clear over the last six games that this club is still in transition.
The following step is the most challenging. It’s a delicate balance between accepting that this team will be in Cap Hell for the next four years due to the required buyouts of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise while being happy that they now have one of the greatest prospect pools in the NHL. That’s some reasonable skill they can tap into, and it may still mean an upward trajectory. Yes, the Wild will most likely trade Kevin Fiala this summer, but it might be for a cheaper substitute who can thrive under Dean Evason and give them enough of a fresh look for longer than Fiala would be here. The possibilities are unlimited, and several talks will be held, so that is a separate issue to discuss when we are really in the offseason.
The Wild have found gems in the rough of free agency in Ryan Hartman and Frederick Gaudreau, allowing them to play in the ideal circumstances with the perfect guys to have career years. But, in the end, you can only go so far when you’re dealing with underdogs and castaways. The next phase is to get genuinely good players who have established themselves as among the greatest rather than having a single season of excellence. They have at least one of those.
There are a lot of possibilities this summer, and GM Bill Guerin has a few more months to answer a lot of questions and figure out this squad even further. Another exciting player has been added to the team. There is a greater emphasis on acquiring known players rather than choosing the inexpensive and pesky forwards who may overperform under Evason’s style.
It will be a difficult few months, but the Wild can’t keep looking to Kaprizov and expecting him to accomplish everything.
Maybe this will be built on this summer, but with the team only one game away from elimination, there isn’t much chance unless the other players can supplement Kaprizov’s current output.