Where Is The Minnesota Wild’s Second Line?



Yesterday’s 6-1 dismantling by the St. Louis Blues was probably the most difficult game to watch in the Minnesota Wild’s recent history. They had a chance to step on the Blues throat and instead came out in front of a ravenous Xcel Energy Center crowd and got trounced.

Compounding the Wild’s problems is the fact that the second line of Jason ZuckerChris Stewart and Mikko Koivu has yet to produce a consistent effort in any of the four games played in the series. So far, they’ve produced 3 total points between them and none in the last three games.

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While the first line has been outstanding at producing offense and sustaining puck possession, the second line has been basically the opposite. There have been few instances in which the second line has been able to control the flow of play in the offensive zone and it’s become the Minnesota Wild’s most pressing issue to find another combination of players that can go toe to toe with the Blues top-six forwards.

Mikko Koivu has all but disappeared thus far in the series. He has only been able to muster up one assist in game one of the series, and that was on Jason Pominville’s empty netter late in game one. In addition, he’s been minus-2 and has a mere 5 shots. If Captain Koivu remains a shadow for the duration of the series, that will likely be a huge storyline moving forward in the playoffs or the offseason depending on the series outcome.

Mikko Koivu has struggled to produce anything noteworthy so far in the first round series against the St. Louis Blues. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove – USA TODAY Sports

Chris Stewart has been the only Minnesota Wild player able to match the Blues from a physical standpoint. In that aspect, he has brought an edge that the Wild would otherwise be severely lacking without him. Stewart’s problem has been his inability to skate as well as any of the Wild’s top-six forwards. He hasn’t been able to get enough pressure on the forecheck which has allowed St. Louis to exit their defensive zone far too easily against the Wild’s second line.

As for Jason Zucker, his speed has probably been the lone bright spot between the three players. It’s no longer a secret that Zucker is the fastest player on the ice every night, but the Blues may have figured out how to contain him after giving up the early goal in game one. Since that moment, the Blues defensemen have had an eye on Zucker and contained his speed by putting bodies on him every chance they get.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, last night’s game was over after the first goal. St. Louis had far more pep in their step than any other game and the Wild simply didn’t come to play. Shots that Devan Dubnyk would normally bail the team out on weren’t stopped and pretty much every chance the Blues had was converted into a goal.

Fortunately, it’s best of seven for a reason. Over the course of a series, the better team will prevail the heavy majority of the time. If the Wild truly are the better team, they’ll take two of the next three and move on. If not, we’ll have a very interesting summer on our hands.