Kirill Kaprizov has never gone four straight games without a point in his NHL career. So far.
To say the Wild struggled to get Kaprizov going in their first-round playoff series against the Dallas Stars would be an understatement. He scored on a redirect in Game 1 and has been held in check since, with no points in Game 2, Game 3, Game 4 or Game 5. Not the best timing for his worst stretch to date.
Quite simply, with the Wild on the brink of elimination heading into Game 6 Friday night at Xcel Energy Center, they need more from their recently turned 26-year-old star.
“Obviously it’s a little frustrating,” Kaprizov said. “I’m confident in the next game I should go through.”
He better. Otherwise, the Savage could go home.
After looking like a Hart Trophy contender in the regular season, recording 40 goals and 35 assists despite playing just 67 games, Kaprizov hasn’t looked like himself in this playoff series. Asked if he’s played hurt over the past week, perhaps still bothered by the lower-body injury that kept him out a month late into the regular season, Kaprizov made no excuses for his lack of production.
“No,” he said. “I feel great.”
It wouldn’t be a shock to learn at some point later that Kaprizov is indeed playing with some pain. In the meantime, though, if he’s on the ice, the Wild need him to be their best player.
“There’s definitely some responsibility on my part to play better,” Kaprizov said. “Of course I feel it.”
That said, Kaprizov also tries not to dwell on the fact that he’s not producing at his usual pace. He knows the added pressure won’t help them at all. Instead, he focused on continuing to do the little things, confident that the rest of his game would figure itself out at some point.
“There’s not much to say to Kirill,” coach Dean Evason said, making it clear he was pleased with how Kaprizov competed. “He doesn’t need a (meeting with the coaching staff) to tell him where to go or how to play. He plays hard. He will score when we need him to score.”
His teammates agree with that assessment of Kaprizov. They’ve been around him long enough to know his ability to step up in big moments.
“He’s probably the best player I’ve ever played with,” veteran defenseman Matt Dumba said. “You can see it. It’s going to come in. I know it.”
As much as his teammates believe in him, it’s Kaprizov’s belief in himself that gives the Wild their greatest hope that better days are ahead.
“I have to go out there and play my game,” Kaprizov said. “If they do that, I think it will come back and the goals will come.”