This pairing has led to the Wild having their best coach in team history and when you pair this Wild lineup with Bruce’s system is the best lineup that Bruce has ever coached. Prior to this season, the best team that the Bruce Boudreau had coached was the 2013-2014 Anaheim Ducks. Looking back at that amazing season, I am going to make my case as to why this season will be different for Bruce Boudreau in the regular season as well as the postseason.
Anaheim Ducks 2013-2014 To pay homage to this team – they were very good. This was a team that finished the season 263 goals on the season (most by any team that season) with only letting up 203. The team that ended up stopping them in the playoffs was the LA Kings and it took them 7 games. This was an interesting stretch for the NHL where you had teams like the Bruins and the Kings (A Stanley Cup that I would have loved to see) who were able to slow down fast teams. In that 7 games series, the Kings physical play slowed down the Ducks to the point of only letting them score over 2 goals twice, which was crazy for a team that had finished the season average of 3.21 GF/Per Game. It was this physicality that the Ducks could not withstand in a 7 game series and this was not any kind of choke because the Kings gave this same 7 game beating to the San Jose Sharks and the Chicago Blackhawks to later win the Stanley Cup over the New York Rangers who could not match the physicality or offensive fire power.
The Ducks were an offensive powerhouse and generated the best record in their franchise history. But it was in this wrong time of history where the physical teams like the Bruins and the Kings were in their prime and their toughness was taking a toll on teams like the Ducks and had not yet taken the toll on their own players careers.
Today: Today those physical teams that had dominated the ice in recent years are paying the price for the physicality they put on their own bodies, therefore leaving most of the powerhouse teams with a combination of a heavy goal scoring with complimentary defense and physicality only when necessary. The Kings still average some of the most hits in the league but this physicality has not generated more chances on the offensive as we saw in their Stanley Cup run, which is visible in this year’s GF/per Game (2.44) and GA/per Game (2.46). And when you have the anchor of your team Jonathan Quick out for practically the whole season, this definitely forces you to think more defensively when on the ice.
Looking back towards Bruce’s squad, the Wild benefit from having a very good balance of speed with Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Jordan Schroeder, and Erik Haula, paired with the size of the 6 large, 208+ lb. forwards that are far from plugs on the ice (Koivu, Coyle, Staal, Nino, Hanzal, and Stewart).
Combining with this size/speed balance, you also have a team that is projected to put up 277 Goals For and 195 Goals Against which beats the 2013-14 Ducks in both categories (GF 263 and GA 203). You can’t count on these two stats alone because the playoffs are a whole new season (ex. 2014 LA Kings) but I believe that with this offensive productivity and disciplined defense we will be able to stand up in the playoffs to any team coming out of the West.
The size and physicality that Bruce Boudreau ran into in 2014, would not result in the same outcome if this Wild team were to come across it in the Postseason. And if you pair that with the goal scoring ability that the Wild have gained in Bruce’s system – this team is the best team that Bruce has coached and will represent the West in the Stanley Cup.
– Joey Almars