Even strength lines:
Mats Zuccarello/Nick Bjugstad/Kirill Kaprizov
Bjugstad needs to take advantage of the role he'll be assigned. He needs to find his inner beast and apply it. He's a 6'5" giant. Zuccarello and Kaprizov are often outmuscled. They need a big body on their line to gain body position in front of the net and bang in rebounds left and right. Bjugstad has a decent set of mix skills. He'll be in a similar role like Hartman, but is bigger and can withstand the Blues defenders in front of the net. Bjugstad can set screens. Bjugstad should fit in nicely into playoff hockey. He won't be phased by what the Blues will try to pull. He can fit in with their style of play, but that shouldn't mean the Wild should think they can outmuscle the Blues. We learned that lesson in game 1. Hartman isn't a big body to drive the middle of the ice. He can't create space like Bjugstad and win puck battles in the corners. Kaprizov and Zuccarello get dominated around the boards. We need a different player in this spot.
Matt Boldy/Tyson Jost/Kevin Fiala
I don't know what the Wild are trying to do with Jost. They brought him here to get more of an opportunity to get a look offensively. Yet, he's in the same role as he was in Colorado. I get that Jost isn't highly skilled, but how do we know unless you put him with the right linemates to unlock his offensive potential? Boldy and Fiala need another player who can create. Gaudreau's play isn't inspiring. He's a stable center who would be another great shutdown center for us in our bottom-6. He's more built to be in a checking line role. Jost isn't built for the bottom-6. He's got another gear to him. He's not going to unlock that by playing with Duhaime and Deslauriers. He's capable of being a top-6 player. Center as well. He needs a supporting cast. People are saying next year. We're in the present. If we want Jost to blossom the time is now for him to do just that. Evason's lack of creativity is getting to him.
Jordan Greenway/Joel Eriksson Ek/Marcus Foligno
Stop taking dumb penalties.
Ryan Hartman/Freddy Gaudreau/Nic Deslauriers
A new shutdown line fabricated by myself. It doesn't necessarily take away what these guys can contribute offensively, but now you have players who can level out the playing field and be completely supportive behind the GREEF line. They will continuously agitate by forechecking the Blues' breakout. They will continue to skate. This is where you got to have both Hartman and Deslauriers keep their tempers in check. They can agitate by forechecking the life out of you. Finishing their checks. Gaudreau is a really good stabilizing center. That line will be a shutdown line that will be heavily used. Maximizing our depth.
Jacob Middleton/Matt Dumba
Dumba is playing hurt. He needs a physical body to take the burden of having to be physical off of him. He isn't big enough to be effective at moving players. He provides energy and snarl, but his frame prevents him from being a true physical presence. All of his career he tried to be Dustin Byfuglien. That's why he's injury prone and will likely never make the kind of physical and offensive impact we need him to make again, but with Middleton Dumba can take this as a momentum booster and provide what he can offensively because that's his game. He needs a physical stable partner. That's Middleton.
Jonas Brodin/Jon Merrill
Same goes for Brodin. Merrill isn't the mean type which is unfortunate, but he can still apply himself and make sure to lift sticks and support Brodin in moving some bodies. This pairing will need to rely on positioning and taking away the Blues sticks. Brodin needs to play around a big body that can give him confidence to play his game effectively in all 3 zones. Merrill had a solid game 1. It was overshadowed by the team's lack of effort. Brodin needs a conference booster and Merrill can help form a stable pairing that can be a little physical. You want stable and simple play from these two.
Alex Goligoski/Jared Spurgeon
This pairing can be reunited, but in a role where they don't have to play a lot. Goligoski is baked goods to me, but let's see if Goligoski is motivated after being a healthy scratch. Everyone's in competition with each other and Goligoski has more credibility than Dmitry Kulikov. This pairing can't try to outmuscle the Blues. They will lose every time. They will need to take away the Blues sticks as much as possible. They can't score what they can't play off their sticks. If a puck goes off of a skater it will be up to the goalie. So positioning is important.
Let's say we give up rebounds. The Blues can't get to them if we tie up their sticks. There was instances that Fleury kept us in the game, but we collapsed defensively. Then we let our emotions get the best of us. If we had guys to better take away sticks Fleury would've gotten to the rebounds. Game 2 is a coin toss in goal. Talbot does deserve to start game 2, but Fleury isn't the problem. If the defense still plays like trash in front of Talbot he's likely going to allow 3-4 goals.
Joel Eriksson Ek/Kevin Fiala/Kirill Kaprizov/Ryan Hartman/Jared Spurgeon
Our powerplays aren't operating the right way. There needs to be a mix of net front presence and shooting from the art of creativity. JEE and Hartman need to be around the net. They are the strongest there. They aren't facilitators. They will create havoc in front of the net. Fiala and Kaprizov can shoot a lot. They can generate rebounds and set guys up in the slot. Spurgeon an support by continuing play. Set up defections.
Marcus Foligno/Mats Zuccarello/Matt Boldy/Tyson Jost/Alex Goligoski
This powerplay has a similar style in how things work. I believe Jost has a little more to offer offensively. We aren't using him right. The Gaudreau experiment needs to be over. Foligno is a pure net front presence. Nothing more. He will do his job by getting to loose pucks. He will battle at will. Jost could have a finishing touch in the slot if you actually have Zuccarello or Boldy feed him pucks. You have two legit playmakers in Boldy and Zuccarello. Jost and Foligno can provide a finishing touch at the net with a mix of skill and grit. Goligoski is the lone guy at the point as he will provide a mix of everything. Boldy and Zuccarello are elite puck movers. Goligoski is the supporting guy. They need to get the puck to the crease by side set up guys at the net.
Penalty killing lines:
Freddy Gaudreau/Joel Eriksson Ek
Jacob Middleton/Jared Spurgeon
We need our best capable players defensively to improve our penalty kill. Gaudreau and JEE take away space and know how to be in position and can withstand the bigger bodies of the Blues forwards and defensemen. Middleton will provide the heavy play as Spurgeon will rely on stick positioning to lift sticks in case of deflections. I can see every player blocking shots on this unit. Here's another role where Dean can praise Gaudreau.
Nick Bjugstad/Jordan Greenway
Jonas Brodin/Jon Merrill
Brodin gets support on this unit by being surrounded by bigger bodies. They'll need to learn how to play their bodies. I can't see Bjugstad and Greenway not clicking. Both are pretty much similar players. When they are applying themselves they are effective in their own end and are more impactful on the physical side of things. They need to get comfortable with each other and be an example. Our penalty kill needs to be remodeled and more structured. Brodin and Merrill should be able to block shots in the crease. Bjugstad and Greenway need to support the lack of physicality from Brodin and Merrill somewhat.
Why did we lose game 1?
We tried to beat the Blues at their own game and that isn't going to fly. We aren't built like them. We don't have enough players to be a heavy team like the Blues. We can beat them by skating with them and getting into position at every play. Once you're in position use your stick to take away shots and rebound shots. Think ahead at every instance. Don't try to get into extra curriculars just to set the tone. Play your game to set the tone. Our matchups need to be better. I believe having another shutdown line will level out the playing field because we keep bodies fresh and 4 lines rolling. We got great role players and high end talent. Evason needs a gameplan. He needs to get creative. We need to stay disciplined too. However, if Kaprizov gets snuck then all hell should break loose.
BEST. OF. 7.