ST. PAUL — While rising star Kevin Fiala and consummate pro Jared Spurgeon both rose to the occasion in Sunday’s 3-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in Edmonton, Alta., the most promising thing for the Wild might have been their depth.
Throughout Game 1 of the postseason series, coach Dean Evason never hesitated to send anyone over the boards.
It made no difference it if was the first line of Eric Staal centering Jordan Greenway and Kevin Fiala, the second line of Joel Eriksson Ek centering Zach Parise and Luke Kunin, the third line of Alex Galchenyuk centering Marcus Foligno and Mats Zuccarello, or the fourth line of Mikko Koivu centering Ryan Donato and Ryan Hartman.
“That’s huge,” Foligno said. “I don’t think I know a Stanley Cup team that hasn’t had four lines, and that’s what we need. We need guys to rise to the occasion every night. It’s not always going to be our top guys. It can be the third-, fourth-line guys. We need to spread it around.”
That’s something Evason has preached since taking over as head coach in February when Bruce Boudreau was fired. He has been clear that he doesn’t care who is playing where in the lineup. He’s going to use everybody.
“We have faith in all four lines and, obviously, all six defensemen,” Evason said. “If they continue to get the job done, we continue to put them in those spots.”
That does a lot for everybody’s confidence, according to Hartman, who has lots of playoff experience dating back to his time with the Chicago Blackhawks. He did a little bit of everything in Game 1, including laying the biggest hit of the night on Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev.
“We did a good job of letting (Evason) be able to roll the lines consistently,” Hartman said. “We need to continue to do that so that continues to happen.”
With no fans in attendance at Rogers Place, the chatter on the bench was more audible than ever before, something that didn’t phase the Wild.
“That’s normal,” Galchenyuk said. “We always keep it lively. It’s been like that since I got here. I think in the playoffs it’s going to ramp up even more.”
That more than made up for the weirdness of playing in an empty arena.
“Everyone says how quiet it possibly could be without fans there,” Evason said. “It’s not quiet down below. The guys are excited when things happen and they’re yelling when there’s possibly some adverse situation. Fortunately, our guys really held their emotions in check on the negative end of it.”
Asked why he ultimately went with Alex Stalock over Devan Dubnyk in the goal for Game 1, Evason said it came down to body of work.
“It was a difficult decision,” the coach said. “I guess the bottom line was Al was the goaltender at the pause (in mid-March) and we didn’t feel he had lost that position through training camp.”