If star rookie Kirill Kaprizov has proved anything this season, it’s that he can take over a game for the Wild. Teammate Kevin Fiala showed last season he can, too.
And yet, the Wild have waited patiently for their two young stars to take over the same game. It finally happened in Wednesday night’s impressive 8-3 blowout win over the Colorado Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center.
For a good 20-minute stretch, Kaprizov and Fiala seemed to feed off each other, giving the Wild a glimpse of what looks to be a bright future.
It started with a blast from Kaprizov on the power play to open the floodgates, then ended with Fiala recording a hat trick for the first time in his career. In the end, Kaprizov finished the night with two goals and an assist, and Fiala was even better with three goals and one assist.
“They are special players,” captain Jared Spurgeon said. “When they get the confidence and opportunities to play offense, they are going to create stuff.”
Though Wild coach Dean Evason hasn’t gotten around to playing Kaprizov and Fiala on the same line for a prolonged stretch, it might be time to seriously consider putting them together.
There seems to be an unspoken chemistry between Kaprizov and Fiala whenever they get to share the ice. They play together on the No. 1 power play right now, and they teamed up for a beautiful goal on Wednesday night.
While the incredible shot from Kaprizov on bended knee got the attention on social media — and for good reason — the slick pass from Fiala can’t be overstated.
Yes, there’s an argument to be made for keeping Kaprizov and Fiala apart. It makes it much harder for opposing teams to shut both players down if they are playing on different lines. It also deepens the lineup as a whole.
With the way the Wild have performed to this point, though, they should be thinking about their ceiling, not their floor. Take the Avalanche, for example, and their top line of Nathan MacKinnon centering Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, which terrifies opposing teams.
That’s something the Wild should be trying to emulate, and they already have the personnel to at least try.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter who the Wild play between Kaprizov and Fiala. You could throw Joel Eriksson Ek in the middle and he likely would flourish with a couple of dynamic wingers by his side. Heck, even Victor Rask has proven to have some upside in an elevated role.
This is the perfect time for the Wild to experiment with their lines. With about a month left in the regular season, they want to be firing on all cylinders once the playoffs roll around.
You also couldn’t justify taking Kaprizov away from a playmaker like Mats Zuccarello earlier this season. Not when they were finding the scoresheet most nights. That’s no longer the case as Kaprizov and Zuccarello haven’t been nearly as dynamic over the past few weeks.
Why not try Kaprizov with Fiala right now? It could benefit both players in the long run.
It’s also worth noting that while Kaprizov has been solid for most of this season, Fiala has really started to come into his own as of late. He looks more engaged over the past couple of weeks, and it’s worth taking advantage of that hot streak.
“I’ve just tried to simplify my game a little bit,” Fiala said. “Just shoot more pucks from everywhere, and right now it’s going in. The bounces are with us, and we have to keep going. It can go the other way, too, and we don’t want that.”
Not surprisingly, Evason stayed on brand and downplayed both players when asked about Kaprizov and Fiala earlier this week.
“They aren’t doing it alone,” the coach said. “You need help out there. You need a team to help in that area. Though it’s nice that they are being rewarded, we also have other guys that are scoring and playing just as well.”
And if that’s truly the case, then Evason should have no qualms about putting Kaprizov and Fiala together.