Jim Souhan
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Kirill Kaprizov is learning English. During his next lesson, he'll have to work on the word "Help!''

The Wild opened their season Thursday night at the Xcel Energy Center by opening a clear path to their goal.

They wanted to remind everyone that they were a playoff team last year. They reminded everyone that they were a terrible playoff team last year.

One that dumped its second-leading scorer. One that is banking on the mystical factors known as "chemistry'' and "continuity'' and "sheer luck'' to be anywhere near as good this season as they were last year.

The final score: New York Rangers 7, Wild 3.

Call them the Minnesota "Wil.'' They left out the "D." So should we.

"Our D game was awful,'' Wild coach Dean Evason said.

The Rangers are a quality team. The Wild made them look like Gretzky's Oilers.

On the Rangers' sixth goal, Kaapo Kakko skated behind the net, then did everything but a figure eight with a triple axel before casually gliding to the crease and tucking in the puck. Super-slow-motion replay revealed that he paused to check Twitter before scoring.

Apparently, hockey now is a noncontact sport.

Matt Boldy called the night "Getting blown out of the rink.''

Evason searched for the right words harder than his defensemen fought for the puck.

"Checking,'' he said, listing his team's deficiencies. "Missing checks. Everything.''

Asked if goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was "fighting'' the puck, he said, "They were Grade AAA opportunities. He wasn't fighting it. Our entire team was fighting it …

"It's not a fix. It's teaching. It's not even teaching. It's making them aware that we don't do this. We don't play the game like that. We are a structured, defensively sound group and, to a man, we weren't that tonight. Consequently, it ends up being seven goals.

"Are we surprised? Yes.''

What's comforting for the Wild, as an organization, is that their fans aren't very discerning. They'll show up even if this team is going to earn 20 fewer points and allow 100 more goals than last year.

Here are the questions facing this edition of the Wild:

  • Can they be as good in this regular season as they were last season?
  • Can they be better in this postseason than they were last postseason?
  • Does the former have anything to do with the latter?

In the first period, Kaprizov made a couple of beautiful passes that were squandered. He drew a penalty. He protected the puck with his body the way large dogs protect their dinner bowls. He's fascinating to watch even when his team can't score.

As for his teammates, well, on Thursday, they should have been charged for admission like everyone else.

The Rangers took a 3-0 lead in the first period, surviving a futile Wild power play. How typical. They scored twice on backdoor tuck-ins that Fleury had no chance to stop, then on a pretty top-shelf shot that Fleury … had no chance to stop.

The Wild's defensive sloth was compounded by stupid penalties.

The Wild didn't protect their goalie, clear the crease, take the body or play with pride.

Apparently, the NHL should go back and give Kevin Fiala last season's Hart Trophy.

Their first goal came in the second period when Kaprizov tossed a backhand touch pass that led to an upper-corner snipe by Mats Zuccarello, making it 3-1.

Then the Wild went on the power play, then on a 5-on-3. They not only did not score, they played as if they couldn't operate a 5-on-1.

After a season in which they excelled at outscoring opponents, on Thursday the Wild's defense made their scoring irrelevant.

The Wild followed their best regular season in history with the worst possible opener. They can console themselves with the knowledge that there is no way the Rangers will be returning to the X until the fall of 2023, at the earliest.