After being shutout three times in four straight games, the Minnesota Wild have scored 11 goals in the past three, improving their overall record to 24-16-3 and four points above the playoff bubble. While Minnesota has won two straight games since the return of second line center Matt Cullen, the secret to Minnesota’s success may lie in the newly formed third line.
The third line isn’t made up of gritty role players like it has been in the past. Instead, third line center Kyle Brodziak is surrounded by brilliant playmaker Pierre-Marc Bouchard and former Buffalo Sabres captain Jason Pominville, a top-6 guy with a nose for the net. In the two games since being put together, this line has potted five goals and three assists. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo wasn’t kidding when he said he thought this line had tremendous potential to score some goals.
Third lines are a different breed compared to first, second and even fourth lines. Yes, they’re bottom-6—mostly designed for grinding role players. However, a great third line also has the potential to explode offensively with guys that aren’t quite top-6 players, but no slouches when it comes to chipping in goals. That’s exactly what Yeo has built with this line.
This third line is relatively gritty, plays both sides of the puck and has incredible offensive potential. Bouchard is the kind of player that can cut through defenses like butter and set up Pominville or Brodziak with beautiful passes. Speaking of Brodziak, he is the work horse on the line with great two-way play and can chip in goals when needed. Pominville is the finisher, the forward with the all-around game, making him an incredible asset in all three zones. Minnesota needs seven points out of a possible 10 in the remaining five games of the season to guarantee a playoff spot—this line could go a long way in helping the team accomplish that.
The fact of the matter is, Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise may be the heart and soul, Niklas Backstrom and Ryan Suter may be the backbone, Matt Cullen may be the air the team breathes and the youngsters may be the life blood, but this third line is the muscle and sinew that binds it all together. Wild fans wouldn’t have it any other way.