For most of the offseason and preseason it looked that the Minnesota Wild might not be able to fulfill the wishes of their Head Coach to have four solid lines that can score. That all has changed since Tuesday’s waiver pickup of Teemu Pulkkinen, and the Wild now look to have top down scoring potential.
One of the things that Head Coach Bruce Boudreau wanted to do when he took the reins of the Minnesota Wild was to make sure the team kept up scoring pressure the entire 60 minutes of the game. A key to that strategy as he explained is rolling four lines all with scoring potential. He explained his desire at the Wild’s Town Hall last month that “I don’t want to go [into games] not being able to play the fourth line. I want to make sure [the roster hopefuls] are NHL-ready.”
For a while during camp it looked like he may not get his wish. The Wild were struggling with line combinations that involved young players who had never played a minute in the NHL, and largely were underwhelming Boudreau’s desire for four solid lines with scoring punch.
Then two days ago the Wild made a shrewd waiver wire pickup of hard shooting Finn Teemu Pulkkinen from the Detroit Red Wings and things just seemed to fall into view. The projected lines with Pulkkinen now in the mix look to be potently packed with scoring. The lineup that will take the ice tonight in St. Louis will certainly stacked top to bottom with scorers on each line.
Oct 8, 2016; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Winnipeg Jets Goalie Michael Hutchinson (34) makes a save as Minnesota Wild forward Eric Staal (12) looks for a loose puck during the second period at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
The top line of Parise, Staal, and Coyle proved to be extremely potent on the scoring front. In the final preseason game against the Jets this line was far and away the best with all members tallying a point in the scoresheet. Add to that this line had about the same performance a week earlier in the contest with the Hurricanes, and you’ve got a sample size that raises an eyebrow and hopes at the same time.
Going down the lineup the second line of Granlund, Koivu, and Pominville you see where the Finns who have played very well together can bust some heads with a resurgent Pommer. The third line of Niederreiter, Haula, and Stewart is a balance of power and scoring that should see more physical play yield some goals.
The fourth line that looked to be a huge question mark could actually be very effective in the goal scoring department now. The pickup of Pulkkinen was huge to the scoring punch of the of the line, and add to that the fact that his opposite wing will be Jason Zucker and you can see where that line might actually be more of a scoring threat than the third line. Sure Zac Dalpe as center gives this line a bit of inexperience, but the smart part is that he will have a very experienced Zucker to help him push the play and make adjustments.
So tonight be excited, because the Wild look to have balanced scoring power up and down the lineup for the first time in a long time…maybe ever. The idea that every line can push the play like Boudreau wants, and can put points on the board is great. If the Wild can press the play for 60 minutes up ice, the results could be very good against a tired Blues team that played last night in Chicago. Get ready for a great tilt tonight as Wild hockey is officially back!