Zach Parise has 1 goal and 6 assists through 6 games played in the 2018-19 NHL season, which is good for 1.17 points per game, and the State of Hockey breathes a sigh of relief.
Prior to signing in Minnesota in 2012, Parise had been a force in New Jersey. Parise scored a career high 94 points in the 2008-09 season consisting of 45 goals and 49 assists. That offensive outburst made him the 5th highest scorer in the league that season. He followed up that dominant season with 38 goals and 44 assists (82 points) in 81 games in the 2009-10 season, before missing the majority of the 2010-11 season following a torn meniscus.
Parise bounced back the following season, scoring 31 goals, adding 38 helpers for a (nice) total of 69 points. While it was a bit of a setback offensively, I’m not sure Parise much cared since he was named team captain and then helped lead the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals before bowing out to the Los Angeles Kings.
We all know what happened next, after much fanfare and some creeping in the bushes by Michael Russo, Parise signed in Minnesota along with Ryan Suter to lead his home state to the promised land.
That, of course, has not (yet) happened, but Parise’s individual play for the Wild started well enough. Eventually, injuries began to take their toll. Whether it was concussions, knee injuries, or his eventual back injury, Parise was seemingly never fully healthy and his production on the ice reflected that. Though he still gave it his all, Parise, it seemed, would never live up to his contract or return to the highs he had enjoyed as a New Jersey Devil.
Then a funny thing happened. After missing half a season following back surgery, Parise started slow (scoring 3 goals in 24 games), but ended the season scoring 12 goals in his last 18 games. Some attribute this to him playing with Mikko Koivu, while Parise points to NeuroMuscular Therapy, which is a thing I have never heard of before and I am desperately hoping it is not some sort of snake oil and/or doping. Whatever it was, Parise was playing differently. He was a man possessed, and some nights seemed to be the only Wild forward on the ice playing to win, and sometimes that was enough for the Wild to pull out wins. Parise was one of the few Wild players to show up in the series against the Winnipeg Jets before he broke his sternum (which, ouch). After a strong end to the 2017-18 season, Wild fans, and myself personally, hoped this was the real Parise and we could count on him as the next season starts.
So far so good. Yes it is a small sample size, and yes the Wild as a whole have looked out of sync, but Parise has been good. His drive in the Chicago game was incredible to watch. He has gelled well with Koivu and Granlund and the point total speaks for itself. Parise is leading the team in points, even if his possession stats lead something to be desired. Parise is at about 45% CF 5on5, which is decidedly not good, but is about team average. This is somewhat to be expected as head coach Bruce Boudreau’s system does favor quality over quantity when it comes to shots (personally I agree with Napoleon that “quantity has a quality all its own”, but there is a reason why Boudreau is behind the bench coaching the Wild and I am writing on the internet quoting a long dead French Emperor in a hockey article).
Based on his play at the end of last season and through 6 games this season, fans have a reason to hope that the Parise the Wild signed to that mega contract is back and the team needs him. The Central Division is a meat grinder and the Wild have to start winning or they will find themselves on the outside looking in when the playoffs start.
Unrelated to everything above, while doing research for this article I noticed that in 3 minutes of 5 on 5 action last night, Nate Prosser had a CF of 80%, meaning the Wild dominated possession when he was on the ice. For one game, Nate Prosser is second in the league for possession stats behind Brad Hunt. Here’s to you Nate!
All statistics courtesy of NHL.com unless otherwise noted.