Heading into the third period of the Minnesota Wild’s season opener against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, head coach Dean Evason spotted something that wasn’t working the way he wanted and decided to switch things up. In between Zach Parise and Kirill Kaprizov on the top line, Nick Bjugstad was slotted in to start the game, but in the final 20 minutes, he decided to put former healthy scratch Victor Rask up there with the big boys.
Rask was an odd decision from the more critical fan’s point-of-view. He was already wading his way through the waters of the fourth line and to give him that direct promotion to the top was jarring. But that decision clearly worked as the Wild had a two-goal period to come back and tie the game, forcing an overtime which Kaprizov was able to net the beautiful game-winning tally.
At least it’s a little refreshing for an NHL head coach to spot something not working, and change it up a little bit. Instead of sticking to their guns through the hour, maybe work in the chemistry lab to find the right mix of styles to get some players going.
But it sounds like the #mnwild will have a bit of a revolving door at center and Evason will make in-game changes the way players are going. Last night, Evason did a good job recognizing when to make switch, plus faceoffs, Bonino won 13 of 20 & took most important late-game ones— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) January 15, 2021
Sometimes players are just feeling it on a certain night.
Even if it is technically a shortened season with 55 more games ahead of them, it’s going to feel extremely long as the condensed schedule takes its wear on those involved.
It does appear though, that Evason is planning on doing some more work in his lab. Through this extremely weird season, he’s going to try and get every skater used to playing with every other skater in any opportunity.
Evason said he's told every player to get used to playing with everybody— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) January 15, 2021
Now I’m sure we’re not going to see First Line Center Jonas Brodin, or anything like that, but it will get some new pairings and lines to see what they can do. Especially with a blue line so locked into place, it has my curious side pumping with excitement to see if Evason will ever take the gamble to play someone like Carson Soucy alongside Jared Spurgeon, for example.
Every fan goes through periods of rosterbation, trying to match players on lines that fit together according to them. Unfortunately, while it’s an immensely fun exercise, sometimes a head coach can see another side of the player and try to bring those stylings into game action.
I don’t know if we’re going to see Rask on the top line again, or even Bjugstad up there again after Thursday night’s performance, but it’s going to be a fun time in this transitional season. We don’t really have any expectations for this team to perform—maybe just be better than the terrible southwestern teams to make the postseason—so why not have some fun and see new combinations?