Bruce Boudreau since taking over the Minnesota Wild has experimented with different player combinations trying to find the best chemistry for the team’s success. On Tuesday he went back to a line combination last year that yielded a very strong result against the Kings.
Since taking the reins of the Minnesota Wild Bruce Boudreau has had one goal in mind, making the Wild into a successful hockey team that can play for a Stanley Cup. He’s made it clear that no one’s job is safe and that ice time is something that is earned rather than just given. Add that to the fact that he’s starting from virtual scratch with this team, this season has seen new combinations of players to form new lines that differ from last season.
It’s been a new look up and down the lineup largely, but on Tuesday night we saw a former line that was created under John Torchetti reunited with great success.
The best line for the Wild at the end of last season and in the playoffs was the combination of Erik Haula, Nino Niederreiter, and Jason Pominville. So good was the lines play that Haula’s second half production eclipsed his first half as he scored 23 of his 34 points from February 9th to the end of the season. Niederreiter also benefited the line chemistry as well, and Nino would notch 8 goals and 5 assists from March 1st to the end of the Wild’s playoff run on April 24th.
Pominville since the February 17th turned things around as he tallied 5 goals 10 assists in the final 18 games of the season. In the playoffs, Pominville continued his great end of the season play by notching four goals and three assists. So good was his performance that he led the team in points in their six games against Dallas.
Oct 18, 2016; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Jason Pominville (29) celebrates his goal with teammates during the first period against the Los Angeles Kings at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
It just seemed like based on their performance from last season that this line would start the season together. Boudreau didn’t initially see it that way. The three players seemed to be struggling the first two games playing with different players, and initially it looked like Haula might have regressed a bit.
Enter last night’s game and the decision to put the line back together paid off in spades. Boudreau himself put it best when he said “They were our best line, for sure.” Haula’s goal at 1:36 was key to answering the quick goal by Tanner Pearson. The energy of the line took a situation that would normally suck the wind out the sails of the team and energized the team.
Then as if that wasn’t a big enough boost, Pominville scored a heck of a goal off a shot that beat Zatkoff high to the far side in the closing seconds of the first period putting the Wild in the lead. It was a lead that the Wild would keep for the rest of the game, and it can be said that having the lead like that going into the first intermission helped setup the unanswered three goal outburst that sealed the game.
It’s a great thing to see this group together again and even better to see them produce. Boudreau will most likely have them play together again, and we can expect more strong performances. This line going back into last season has shown they can impact the game and their chemistry seems to be unmatched.
Pominville when asked about his first goal of the season gave an answer that really explains why this line will continue to roll. “It’s nice to be able to get one early and hopefully get going in the right direction. I don’t have to worry about it now, and [I can] just go out and play.” That’s what this line does they just go out and play. Hopefully Boudreau will keep them together enough to let them just go out and play, which as we’ve seen almost always means great things for the Wild.