Wild lean hard on ‘security blanket’ line of Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno and Jordan Greenway
‘I wish they never got tired,’ Coach Dean Evanson says.
ST. PAUL -- Give Minnesota Wild coach Dean Evason credit for trying something new to start this season.
He clearly felt Joel Eriksson Ek deserved a chance to play No. 1 center, so when the Wild dropped the puck for the Oct. 15 season opener against the Anaheim Ducks, Eriksson Ek was on the ice between dynamic wingers Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello.
But Evason knew there was a chance he would reunite Eriksson Ek with hulking wingers Jordan Greenway and Marcus Foligno at some point. He consistently refers to that line as a “security blanket” for the Wild based on how dominant it was for much of last season.
“We were having some success at the start so it didn’t happen as quickly as it should’ve or could’ve or whatever,” Evason said. “We knew it was in our back pocket, right? That’s nice for us as a coaching staff that we could experiment with some stuff.”
In the end, Evason chose to reunite the Eriksson Ek with Greenway and Foligno last month, and with the way they have been playing as of late, it’s hard to imagine he separates them anytime soon.
To say that line was dominant in Saturday’s win over the Toronto Maple Leafs would be putting it lightly. It started with Greenway laying a big hit on Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews.
“We knew we were going to have to shut down their top line, and obviously he’s a big part of it,” Greenway said of Matthews. “I thought that was an opportunity to frustrate him specifically. Just to show them that we were coming and we weren’t backing down. I think that’s what started things.”
Indeed. Moments after Greenway upended Matthews with his big hit, Foligno dropped the gloves with Maple Leafs winger Wayne Simmonds. Not surprisingly, Eriksson Ek was right in the thick of things as well.
While that physical sequence helped set the tone, the Greenway-Eriksson Ek-Foligno line made an impact in a variety of ways. Whether it was controlling the pace of play in the offensive zone, or shutting things down in the defensive zone, that trio played a big role in the win.
“I wish they never got tired,” Evason said. “They were doing the right things in all areas of the game. They were leading our group by what they were doing. Just showing that leadership quality. It’s a great game by them, basically every night.”
That’s something the Greenway-Eriksson Ek-Foligno line takes a lot of pride in providing night in and night out.
“We know what we have to do to help this team win games,” Eriksson Ek said. “Just trying to get sticks in there and be a hard line to play against. I think (in Saturday’s win) we clicked while on the forecheck and getting pucks back.”
There’s no doubt that they elevate each other in a way no other players on the team can. Just look at how much more effective Greenway has been since reuniting with his linemates.
“They play similar yet they are different,” Evason said. “It’s hard to explain. They all look kind of the same. But they have some elements that are a little different. We know what they are. We experimented earlier this season with some other stuff. But I don’t know. It’d be really hard to move them around at this point.”