Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise combined for 29 goals and 75 points in 48 games for the Minnesota Wild – roughly a quarter of the team’s total goals in the regular season.
Through two playoffs games against the Chicago Blackhawks, both players have zero points and are both a minus-3. Their linemate through the first two losses in the series, Charlie Coyle, has one assist and is a minus-1.
The primary reason: The Blackhawks’ line of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad have outplayed them, even if Hossa’s goal is the only point they’ve mustered.
That’s the other way of looking at it, of course: That the Koivu/Parise line has also held the Toews line in check, while generating 17 shots in the two games in Chicago.
But with Patrick Kane a whirling dervish of offense on this line, the Toews line can afford to act as more of a shutdown unit if necessary – and when matched against the Koivu/Parise line, it’s what they’ve done.
Coach Mike Yeo was asked about the matchup heading into Sunday’s Game 3, via the Star Tribune:
“If we think (splitting up the top line) is what we need, then that’s something we would be willing to do, for sure,’’ Yeo said. “Again, we’re coming home. It’s a little bit of a different situation now. … I think because we played one game that wasn’t good, I don’t think we need to reinvent the wheel here.’’
Parise said his line needs more sustained puck possession against the Blackhawks:
“We’ve got to find a way,’’ said Parise, who has nine shots on goal and no points in the series. “Game 1, I had one in overtime. Game 2, I had about 15 whacks right in front of the net. You’ve got to put those in. No excuses.’’
The Toews line is only part of the equation. Coach Joel Quenneville has used defensemen Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson throughout the first two games, matching them even more vigilantly against Parise and Koivu than he has the forward line.
"They defended well and their gap was good. A lot of times you've got Johnny out there as well, so you're not always defending. They're still going to get chances against you. You just want to make sure they're few and the quality is down."
To put it lightly: The Wild need Koivu and Parise to score if they’re going to rally in this series. Yeo will have the last line change, which means he may be able to get his stars away from the Blackhawks’ shutdown units.
Or perhaps it’s time to split them up, spread the offensive wealth.