Wild’s balanced, prolific offense can take them a long way
They have a half dozen 20-goal scorers this season, a new franchise record that displays how good the offense has been.
ST. PAUL -- Though the Minnesota Wild are still licking their wounds after Tuesday’s humbling loss to the Predators in Nashville, that doesn’t take away from how impressive they have been offensively this season.
Long known as a group that lulls opposing teams to sleep with a style of play that dates back to the franchise’s original coach Jacques Lemaire, the Wild are among the top scoring teams in the NHL this season under coach Dean Evason. Their average of 3.61 goals per game trails only the Florida Panthers (4.16), Toronto Maple Leafs (3.83) and Colorado Avalanche (3.79) for the league lead.
Plus, the Wild (43-21-5, 91 points) have a half-dozen 20-goal scorers this season, a new franchise record that displays how prolific the offense has been throughout the lineup.
“We play a style of game that allows everybody to get involved in the offensive structure,” Evason said. “I think our organization has done a nice job of identifying that that’s something we needed, and we’re fortunate to have it for the most part this season.”
While young star Kirill Kaprizov and his team-high 40 goals have no doubt been the catalyst, the Wild look the part of a Stanley Cup contender because of how much depth scoring they have on the roster.
The Wild also have Ryan Hartman with 27 goals, Kevin Fiala with 23, Mats Zuccarello and Joel Eriksson Ek with 21 each, and Marcus Foligno with 20. If rookie Matt Boldy had gotten called up to the NHL sooner, he almost surely would reach the 20-goal mark, as well.
“It makes us more dangerous,” said Eriksson Ek, who has hit a career-high for goals this season. “For us to have more players come up and score some goals and make some plays, it’s important, and it makes the whole team harder to defend, for sure.”
The goals have been a nice reward for Eriksson Ek and Foligno, in particular, because they typically have been tasked with shutting down the opposing team’s best line. Asked about his scoring prowess this season, Foligno joked that he owes a lot of it to his teammates, adding, “There’s definitely some backdoor tap-ins.”
“It’s great to have that, and that’s what we need going forward,” said Foligno, who like Eriksson Ek, has reached a new career high for goals. “We’re a team that has four lines that can roll, and everyone can play offensive and defensive.”
That trust up and down the lineup has probably been the biggest reason for the depth scoring this season. Everyone is getting a chance to score, because at any given moment, the coaching staff feels comfortable sending anyone over the boards.
“We don’t ask anyone just to be goal-scorers,” Evason said. “I think we see some teams where they’re pulling people off because they don’t trust their offensive guys to play defense against the top line. We don’t do that. We’ve never done that from the start.
“Hopefully it empowers the group to either play offense, or play defense, whichever it is. I know as an ex-player, I wouldn’t want to be pulled off of a situation on the ice because the coaching staff feels I can’t get the job done. I want them to feel that they can get the job done. That’s what we try to do as a coaching staff.”