The Blues could not stop the Minnesota Wild’s top line Sunday night. They could not contain the trio of Saku Koivu centering Zach Parise and Danny Heatley.
“This was hard,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said after the game. “That’s probably the best line they’ve played against yet this year. That was a hard challenge today.
“They’ve got weight, they’ve got size, they’ve got speed. To me, Parise is the best player in the league bringing the puck off the boards to the net. He scored two goals today directly because of that.”
The Koivu, Parise and Heatley combined for a seven-point night. But the other Minnesota forwards didn’t get much done as the Blues rallied for a 5-4 overtime victory.
While the Note roll four lines and consistently generate scoring chances from three of them, the Wild rely heavily on their top grouping.
“They need some help,” Wild coach Mike Yeo told reporters down the hall in the bowels of Scottrade Center. “We can't just ask those guys to score every goal for us every game.”
The Wild feature a top-heavy payroll, with Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter toiling under $98 million contracts. Yeo likes to deploy his two star wingers with his top center, but that leaves a void on his other three lines.
Forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mikael Granlund each have two points – and no other Wild forward has more than one.
Yeo faces a dilemma. He could break up his top line to distribute his talent more evenly, but then all three of the top forwards might suffer.
If he keeps his big three together and they either hit a rut or suffer injuries, then his team could really struggle to score.
The Wild look like a lot of teams in the Western Conference this season. Their third and fourth lines will try to set a tempo, create some power-play opportunities and generally make life easier for the skilled guys.
For more hockey news and notes, check out my story on STLToday,com.