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Offense from role players sparked Wild victory over Jets

Christian Folin and Erik Haula had a big hand in the two goals that swung the game for the Wild.

Dustin Byfuglien was too slow to catch up with the Wild's penalty killers last night.
Dustin Byfuglien was too slow to catch up with the Wild's penalty killers last night.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Through 24 minutes, last night's Wild-Jets game was looking to be every bit of the grind-it-out defensive game we expected to see. En route to playing the Wild to a 1-1 stalemate in the first, the Jets did a very good job of bottling up the home team. Four minutes into the next period, it was looking like it would be more of the same, as Winnipeg wasn't allowing any sustained time in the offensive zone.

And that's when Christian Folin took over with this phenomenal pass.

Over the last week or so, there's been a healthy amount of debate as to what kind of player you should build the bottom of an NHL roster around. Is it better to build a third scoring line, or should you have a physical element that compliments a Top-6? Christian Folin showed that, despite the perception that the Wild are soft and need enforcers, players who can turn defense into offense should be at a premium in those roles.

And that's not to say that there can't be these physical presences on your bottom-six and third-pairing. Folin is an example of that- he plays a more defensive style, and has the size to be a punishing defender. But Folin can also move the puck, and while you won't see that perfect breakout pass from him every night, it's important that those guys have the ability to at least flash those skills.

A similar moment happened right after Folin's breakout led to Vanek's beautiful clapbomb. Jonas Brodin drew a tripping penalty, putting the Jets on the penalty kill with a chance to tie the game and reclaim momentum.

In the early days of the Chuck Fletcher era, we've seen the Wild's penalty-killing units populated by grinder-types. Eric Nystroms and Darroll Powes and Torrey Mitchells. Even last season, among the leaders in PK time were Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cooke, two of the least skilled forwards on that team. But when you can put a speedy, skilled guy like Erik Haula in that traditionally defensive role, your penalty kill becomes a threat.

The Wild didn't beat the Jets because they out-muscled, out-fought, or out-gritted them. They won because they have role players who are able to take defensive situations and not only perform well defensively, but organize a counter-attack. If Folin was a one-dimensional banger, Thomas Vanek doesn't that one-on-one shot at Pavelec. If Haula had the hands of Kyle Brodziak, that shot rings off the post. While older-school clown antics may get the credit, the Wild's skill from the bottom of their lineup was truly what sparked the Wild to a big divisional win.