What’s Charging The Minnesota Wild?


Solid goaltending will be a big reason for this year’s Stanley Cup champion’s success – whomever that may be. That’s a given. The Minnesota Wild got that this season, and should expect more of it from Devan Dubnyk during the rest of the playoffs (he recorded the first shutout of the postseason Monday night). But outside of the crease, what’s giving the team that calls the Xcel Energy Center its charge?

It’s a three-pronged answer.

First off, the health of the team has been remarkable recently. Sure it’s the playoffs, and guys may be playing through something that’d knock them out for a game or two during the regular season. But the whole lineup has generally been available every game (with the exception of the fourth line needing a little changing because of the flu).

In 2013, the Wild were missing Jason Pominville for three of five games due to concussion. Starting goaltender (at the time) Niklas Backstrom got hurt in warm ups before game one, and Josh Harding was just returning after only playing five games all season due to Multiple Sclerosis. Even Harding wound up leaving game four after a collision with Jonathan Toews, which meant Darcy Kuemper manned the crease for a bit.

Moving to 2014, Jason Zucker was out all of the playoffs, and Kuemper missed time due to injury again. Harding was also out again, after posting outstanding numbers while he was healthy during the first half of the season.

All of a sudden, the Wild almost have too many bodies to know what to do with. Not a problem many coaches would meet with apprehension.

Second, the scoring depth of this year’s team is unprecedented in the organization’s history. The team has three legitimate scoring lines, and a fourth line that has been dangerous, regardless of which wingers have flanked center Kyle Brodziak.

Each defensive pairing can move the puck efficiently out of the defensive zone, can skate, and can contribute offensively. Minnesota’s transition game is so strong thanks to its defensive units being able to quickly retrieve pucks and make an accurate breakout pass. This quickly translates defense to offense, which is apparently a good thing.

And the third prong is the different looks the Wild can give their opponent. The line of Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, and Pominville has tons of speed and playmaking ability. It is a trio that has played well together for awhile now. They are better in some match-ups than others, as they aren’t the biggest line (though Parise is as tenacious as it gets). It’s a line that can be more of a threat at home against a more physical team like the St. Louis Blues (they accounted for both non-empty net goals in the lone home game this playoffs).

The line of Mikko Koivu with Chris Stewart and Zucker is more of a physical line, because of Koivu and Stewart, but have that speed element with Zucker. They can be more of a line to play against the more physical, yet offensive players in the league (such as a David Backes or Bryan Bickell).

Then they have the Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, and Thomas Vanek line, which is a mix of speed (moreso with Coyle and Niederreiter), size, and shooting.

They have guys like Erik Haula they can put in the lineup if they want more speed, or they could toss a Nate Prosser in there if they wanted more grit on the back end. Minnesota has so maooks they can throw at you, if it’s a crash and bang game, maybe the Koivu, Stewart, Zucker line steps up. Or if it’s a speed game, you’ll probably see more of the Granlund line. This multifaceted attack is crucial for the Wild to get past a team like the Blues, who also can skate, hit, and shoot with the best of them.