Minnesota Wild: Youth Will Play Key Role In Round Two Against Chicago Blackhawks


As the Minnesota Wild fixes its sights on the Chicago Blackhawks, younger players like Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter need to continue their round one success.

The St. Louis Blues are behind us and the Minnesota Wild managed to escape round one without losing any player to injury.With a full complement of skaters, the Wild can now focus on the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that has bounced the Wild from the playoffs 2 years in a row. This week, Gone Puck Wild will look at keys for the Wild to win the series with Chicago. One of the biggest keys is the Wild’s young, promising players.

Players like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter or Jason Pominville are signed for their experience, leadership abilities, and team first mentality. Additionally, They’re called upon to mold the young guys in the room for their turn in taking over the reigns of a franchise during their prime. When you’re comfortable with the veteran pieces put in place, you sign, draft and trade for youth players that fit in under the wings of these veteran leaders. Filling in the cracks sort to speak, is exactly what GM Fletcher did when he traded for Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle. Much like last year’s post-season, both players played a pivotal role this year in the Minnesota Wild’s round one playoff victory over the Blues.

Promising Duo

Fan favorite Nino Niederreiter had a great series against St. Louis scoring four points throughout, including three goals. Granted, two of his three were empty netters, a goal is a goal, especially in the playoffs. It’s good to see them hitting those empty nets unlike in previous years where the Wild had trouble doing so. The Swiss winger just gets better and better, stronger on the puck, and more comfortable in that top-six role. Plus, he has that #SillyHard shot. He started the series on the third line next to ChaH-lie, but due to some poor performances from the second line, Nino was swapped with speedy Jason Zucker. The results were almost instantaneous.

Great cycling of the puck by this group, it’s almost hypnotic, great hockey play.

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Third line center Charlie Coyle is developing in front of our very eyes with each and every game played in the post-season. Here’s a guy that I’m a bit maybe too hard on during regular season play, but in the playoffs, for the second year in a row has taken his game to another level. He may not put up a ton of points (only two thus far, 8 SOG), but he fills that gritty third line centre role perfectly with occasional scoring chances and solid body checking. One area of needed improvement going forward would be his face-off efficiency. Through round-one, Coyle’s FO% sits at just 41.667%. That being said, his hitting has come a long way. I used to see him as a young player with good potential, great size, but not enough killer instinct, almost too damn nice on the ice. Well, sometimes it just takes some young guys longer to develop than others. Beauty of a hit here on Vladimir Tarasenko. This is what we need from Charlie Coyle in Chicago.

There is no doubt that the playoff victory last year in round one vs. the Avalanche provided tremendous experience for our youth, especially these two players who were crucial in this year’s round one advancing. It was evident to me watching the post-series victory celebration in the locker room, that no one was over joyous, or over enthusiastic. Despite knocking off the division champion team for the second year in a row, this current Wild group showed discipline and maturity in their demeanor, knowing that their journey is hopefully just beginning.

Moving Forward

The Minnesota Wild are going to need everyone to step up when their series begins for the third straight year against the Chicago Blackhawks. When you look at the Hawks and what their entire roster did over the Predators, they had production from top to bottom. Most importantly, their veterans produced consistently and we should expect that to continue for round two.

For the Wild, Thomas Vanek needs to continue to shoot the puck as we started to see in games 5 and 6 of round one. He finished the series with 10 SOG and two assists. His reputation for not performing in the playoffs has churned in my mind watching each game. Say what you will, there’s no doubt the Wild will need his production moving forward in an even tougher second round series with the Hawks.

Could Mike Yeo slide Erik Haula into the line-up against a team he played so well against last year? Yeo’s juggled his fourth line nearly every night thus far in the playoffs and why not when you have the amount of bottom six depth guys that the Wild have? Stealing another game on the road to start round two would help Yeo maybe make that decision on whether Haula sees play. Despite a tough year, who wouldn’t want to see some more from “highlight Haula” in this one?

Haula was arguably the best Wild player in that series.

What needs to happen this time around?

This is by no means a series preview, but while we’re talking Chicago, let’s look at the Minnesota Wild’s key to victory.

In all four games that the Blackhawks won during their first round match-up with the Preds, they trailed in each game at one point or another. They exhibited their playoff dominance by clawing back and eventually winning. The Wild will need to play a full 60 minutes (or damn near it) for at least four games if they want to take this series. This is a topic discussed during their round one victory that was a glaring issue. You can’t take periods off against the Hawks and expect to win. The “prevent defense” mentality simply won’t cut it against guys like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Next: Minnesota Wild sign Forward Christoph Bertschy

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