Did the Wild really need a fight to get them motivated? A four-game series against the Avalanche should help us get a better read on the Wild and the one place the Vikings can’t afford to have Deshaun Watson land.
- Item: Wild winger Marcus Foligno and Kings defenseman Kurtis MacDermid dropped the gloves immediately after the opening faceoff on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center.
- Reaction: The feeling among some (or many) was that the fight set the tone for the Wild to score three first-period goals in a 5-3 victory. Let’s put aside the argument about staging a fight at puck drop and focus on the most important thing. You are telling me eight games into the season, playing a rebuilding Kings team on home ice, that a club looking to end a two-game losing streak needed a fight to get motivated? During a 56-game season in which motivation shouldn’t be an issue? If that’s the case, something is wrong. The reality is coach Dean Evason made some line changes that helped, got winger Marcus Johansson’s best effort to date and Kaapo Kahkonen played well in goal. Foligno is a hard-worker and a leader on the Wild, so this is no indictment of him, but if his teammates need him to fight to get them going against subpar teams Evason has problems that fisticuffs won’t solve.
- Item: The Wild will open a four-game series against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday. The teams also will play on Sunday in St. Paul and then Tuesday and Thursday in Colorado.
- Reaction: The Wild opened the season by playing the Kings, Ducks and Sharks, who all failed to make the qualifying round of the NHL’s postseason tournament last summer. That helped Minnesota win five of its first eight games, but now the Wild are getting set to face a team many consider to be a Stanley Cup favorite in the Avs. Colorado also has won five of its first eight games and is tied with the Wild with 10 points in the West Division. Both teams trail first-place Vegas by a point. These four games should give the Wild an idea of how they stack up against one of the top teams in the NHL. The Avalanche have top-end talent up front in center Nathan MacKinnon (2 goals, 8 assists) and wingers Mikko Rantanen (6 goals, 2 assists) and Gabriel Landeskog (3 goals, 3 assists) and also big-time skill on the blue line. The Wild will be without winger Kevin Fiala, who was suspended for three games on Friday by the NHL department of player safety, after he was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a boarding hit on Kings defenseman Matt Roy. Fiala and rookie winger Kirill Kaprizov are the Wild’s two most talented players and Fiala’s absence will be an issue. This will be Kaprizov’s first chance to face a highly skilled team so it will be interesting to see how much of an impact he is able to make.
- Item: The Chicago Bears are expected to be among the teams seriously interested in trading for Houston’s Deshaun Watson, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
- Reaction: Despite new Texans general manager Nick Caserio saying Friday that the franchise has no intentions of trading away Watson, it’s pretty clear the quarterback will be on the move and there will be no lack of bidders and substantial offers. Watson has demanded a trade and the front-runners appear to be the Jets and Dolphins. But the Vikings must take note of the Bears being mentioned. The Vikings’ issues finding a long-term starting quarterback look small compared to what the Bears have gone through for several decades. Watson, 25, would solve that problem instantly. The Vikings, who also should be on the phone to Houston to check on Watson’s availability (what the Texans say publicly doesn’t matter), already have enough trouble with the Bears without seeing them solve their quarterback problems for the next 10 years. Watson remaining in the AFC would be just fine with the Vikings. Landing in the NFC, but outside the North, wouldn’t be great, but having him in your division would be a worst-case scenario.