If the playoff series between your Minnesota Wild and the Vegas Golden Knights demonstrated anything that isn’t between the posts, it’s that depth scoring truly matters when the games matter the most.
Especially for this new-look Wild, with actual dynamic offensive talents like Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala, getting some production from deeper in the lineup can make this mediocre team turn into true contenders.
Well, this season it was really all up to a handful of forwards and it was a mixed bag of results.
Certainly the most controversial forward, Victor Rask was handed the role as Kaprizov’s center for most of the season and it was simply not good enough. With an ounce of sympathy, you could say that it wasn’t up to him really, he’s more suited to a bottom-six role (which he was at times) and doesn’t have the offensive talents to be aware of where Mats Zuccarello or Kaprizov will be heading on the ice to properly make some plays.
Personal lineup decisions aside, Rask was just not good. He scored 10 goals and 23 points through 54 games and a lot of those points are directly attributed to space that his linemates created for him. His disappointing handling of the puck and scoffing at prime scoring chances has even led to Kaprizov — the most prized winger the Wild have basically ever had in their 20-year existence — really considering returning to Minnesota if GM Bill Guerin doesn’t hand him a top-tier center to play with.
Rask was able to score some nice goals, but in the end it was just crap.
Parise basically had the opposite of Rask’s season. He was immediately shoved into a fourth-line role and if he wasn’t good enough on key moments, he was healthy scratched and out of the lineup. And honestly, he might have deserved it at times but what else can he do with Nick Bonino on his line?
He was given no real opportunity at even-strength, and his time on the power play was correctly taken away from him. He just had an odd season filled with highs and lows. And when it mattered most during that first round against Vegas, I thought he looked excellent despite being out of the lineup for the first two games. His skating isn’t there anymore, but he can still create scoring chances for those less-talented and dynamic players on the ice with him. But still, he only had 18 points through 45 games and averaged only 30 seconds less of ice-time compared to Rask.
It was just a weird season that might end up being his last in Minnesota.
Hartman came into this season and we didn’t really know what his role was going to be. Starting out as a fourth-line winger, he eventually was moved up further into the lineup and had experiences in the top-six.
Creeping up, gaining some reputation as a hard-nosed forechecker that can also shoot a damn puck, Hartman was eventually transitioned into a centerman and was slotted basically on every line until the end of the season. His most common linemates were Marcus Johansson and Kevin Fiala, a very lopsided line in terms of all tools and abilities. Johansson proved to be nothing special — we’ll talk about it in another review blog — and Fiala was yet another Wild winger needing a more stable center that can give him the puck so he can use his top-tier shot and stickhandling ability with a cleaner path to the net.
His rise into the Wild lineup that eventually earned him a new three-year extension with the club and into the hearts of most Minnesota fans. He works damn hard and is someone you can certainly use no matter what role through the lineup.