Marcus Foligno was a dark horse to be named Minnesota Wild captain this past offseason. And for good reason.
He does a little bit of everything, serving as a big brother on the ice, a vocal presence in the locker room, and someone his teammates can rely on to provide depth scoring.
And if general manager Bill Guerin would have tabbed Foligno as the man to wear the “C” on his sweater, instead of Jared Spurgeon, few would have argued with the decision.
Even without the “C”, Foligno, a 29-year-old winger, has found a way to lead this season. He continues to bring a physical presence and has proven to be quite the sniper as of late. He has seven goals this season with five of them coming in the past six games.
Asked about Foligno’s performance, coach Dean Evason made it clear that a player doesn’t have to wear a letter to be a leader.
“He’s played so good,” Evason said. “The production is there, and even when the production is not there, he’s doing all the right things. He’s such a physical presence for us. And his leadership has been great.”
It’s been a rewarding stretch for Foligno, in his fourth season with the Wild, considering he rarely has been viewed as a goal-scorer throughout his career. His finish in Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights was a perfect example of the goals Foligno has been scoring.
“It was a good play by (Nick Bonino) off the draw,” Foligno said. “That’s what we wanted to do. We wanted a quick one-timer by (Ian Cole) and he got it through and I was able to beat my guy to the net. It’s nothing pretty. Usually they aren’t with me.”
That’s OK. They count the same, and each goal gives Foligno more confidence.
“I feel confident about my game,” Foligno said. “I know what I expect from myself every night, and my teammates know what to expect from me, too. I’m comfortable right now in the good sense. Not complacent. Just want to continue the growth of this season so far.”
While there’s a good chance Foligno cools off at some point, maybe this is the season he finally reaches the elusive 15-goal plateau.
“It’s nice to get rewarded,” he said. “It’s something that I want to continue for this team. If we have me scoring on a nightly basis, we’re going to be doing alright.”
No team in the NHL has been worse than the Wild on the power play this season. They failed to convert once again in Wednesday’s loss and are now a hard-to-believe 5 for 66 with the man advantage.
Asked about the continued struggles, Evason preached the same message.
“We just have to believe that what we are doing is right and if we keep doing it and keep doing it we will get rewarded,” Evason said. “The looks that we had were great again. We have talked a lot about it, obviously, and it needs to produce.”
The turning point in Wednesday’s game came when Wild forward Kevin Fiala was assessed a roughing minor after getting repeatedly punched in the back of the head by Vegas defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.
While it certainly looked like a one-sided scrap, Fiala got the same punishment for giving Pietrangelo a retaliatory whack after the whistle.
“It’s frustrating,” Fiala said. “I was in the corner battling and I felt like three or four punches in my head from the back. I gave it back to him, and it is what it is. I went to the penalty box.”
Soon after that, Mark Stone scored the backbreaker goal for the Golden Knights.