CALGARY, ALBERTA – His highlight-reel, game-winning goal Tuesday in Edmonton still was making waves around the NHL a day later. In fact, Charlie Coyle was pelted with hundreds of tweets and what he guesses were 50 congratulatory text messages and Snapchats (ask your kids) from family members and buddies.
“That was nice because I haven’t gotten that much this year,” the Wild forward, admittedly in the midst of a tough season, said, smiling.
In fact, Coyle’s deft, casual, long-reach goal from well behind the net was so extraordinary, it was the top play on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” “It was pretty amazing where he was able to put that puck in from in relation to where his body was,” coach Mike Yeo said.
“I bet the other nine plays were basketball,” Coyle deadpanned.
The goal also highlighted a special game by Coyle and Nino Niederreiter, who always seem to be joined at the hip when it comes to Yeo’s attempt to prod each of the talented youngsters. That was the case late last season, and that had especially been the case the past half-dozen games when they’ve been linemates on the Wild’s ... fourth line.
Each scored in Edmonton, Niederreiter’s being his first since Dec. 16 to end a 17-game drought. And both say they were jolted back into reality when Yeo recently called them into his office for some, let’s call it, motivational speaking.
Coyle said seeing his name on the fourth line provided a “shock factor.”
“That was just a big sign for me to, ‘I need to get going. I need to build confidence fast,’ ” Coyle said. “I think that’s been my issue this year. It’s got to come from within. It kicked me into gear.”
Niederreiter also said confidence has become a major issue for him during his six-week slump.
“When you don’t score, you play with less confidence,” Niederreiter said. “You start making simpler plays and I don’t want to say you’re scared going out there, but it’s more like you don’t want to mishandle the puck and you don’t want to make any mistakes. And that’s when you play a little differently than when you have a lot of confidence and just play the game.”
When Yeo spotted that confidence was at rock bottom for both forwards, he decided to, in his words, put them on the fourth line to take pressure off, give them a “chance to reset their game” and basically try to teach them to play a complete game.
But by being on the fourth line, they do sometimes get lost in the shuffle and see limited minutes. They each played less than 12 minutes Tuesday. Before the shift that Coyle scored on with 4:23 left, he had played four third-period shifts totaling less than two minutes.
“That’s the way it goes when you find yourself on the third and fourth line,” Yeo said. “A lot of times the priority of ice time goes to other people. Ice time to me is irrelevant right now. I know people want to look at that and everything, but to me, if they play eight minutes, if they play 12 minutes, make the most of it and that’s the idea here.
“I want them feeling excited for their next shift and not assuming that it’s going to come. As we keep doing that, you’ll see that their game will keep coming.”
Offensively, Coyle and Niederreiter are big bodies who are best when they’re physical, crash the net and protect the puck on suffocating forechecks. But defensively, Yeo wants them making smart decisions, playing the system correctly and managing the puck properly.
On a Justin Schultz breakaway Tuesday, Coyle threw the puck away and Niederreiter wasn’t doing a good enough job in covering for a pinching Ryan Suter.
“These are things that we’re trying to drill in their head,” Yeo said.
Yeo is trying to get his youngsters playing a mature, responsible, two-way game so he can trust putting them on the ice at any time. Both may not always like it, but they say they trust they’ll develop into better players because of this tough love.
“I guess it’s tough not getting a regular shift all the time, but you can’t think of it like that,” Coyle said. “You get two shifts, you get 30 shifts, you have to take advantage of it. That’s how you get better. That’s what I’m trying to do. That’s how it is. You’ve got to work with what you’ve got.
“I’ve got to earn more ice time. That’s up to me.”
In the meantime, Niederreiter hopes his goal Tuesday will open the floodgates for the Wild’s once leading scorer.
“So many times I’ve been close and I don’t know how it doesn’t go in,” he said. “That gets in your head. I’m trying to reset, make sure I do all the details right and focus on just getting my shot off when I can instead of waiting until I make the next play.
“When you’re not scoring goals and playing with confidence, that’s when you pass up shooting pucks. I need to get to the net and go back to having a shooting mentality.”