Chahlie the wingah pahked the rubbah puck over the goalie’s shouldah.
That’s how Charlie Coyle might describe it.
The New Englander with the pronounced Boston accent scored two goals in the Wild’s home opener, a 3-2 victory over St. Louis at the Xcel Energy Center.
Considering he scored 11 goals all of last season, two goals in one game is an interesting development for the power forward whose production has stagnated in the NHL.
His second goal was a gift, Thomas Vanek’s shot bouncing off his leg and into the net. His first was more a work of “aht.” He chipped a puck past Carl Gunnarsson, split Gunnarsson and Kevin Shattenkirk, swept in front of the net and roofed a backhander past goalie Jake Allen.
It would be called a “goal-scorer’s goal” if a goal-scorer had scored it. But it was Coyle, who hasn’t scored more than 15 goals in a season since 2010, when he played for the South Shore Kings.
Now Coyle is centering a line featuring Vanek on the wing. Both are coming off disappointing offensive seasons. Together they could give the Wild a third line that does more than skate backward.
“You never want to settle,” Coyle said. “I’ve passed up shots a lot. I want to be a guy who uses my shot more.”
In the second period, Vanek seemed to score his 300th NHL goal, and his second goal of the season.
Last season Vanek didn’t score his second goal until Nov. 28. He is ahead of schedule statistically and physically, one reason the Wild is 2-0 despite two uneven performances against talented teams.
Vanek became a flashpoint last season because he often didn’t skate hard or well, and finished with his lowest goal total in any full NHL season.
He became a flashpoint again in September when he told the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo that he didn’t have much help from Wild centers and took it upon himself to be a playmaker instead of a scorer.
Everything Vanek said during that interview sounded like an excuse. He was injured. He didn’t play with playmaking centers. He played on a defense-first team.
Just because they sounded like excuses doesn’t mean they aren’t true. What’s interesting is that after Vanek complained about not having a playmaking center, Coyle finished second in the NHL this preseason with seven assists and third in the league with eight points, before starting the regular season with two goals in two games.
Coyle played right wing during the opener at Colorado. He played center on Saturday.
Vanek is in need of a productive season to fumigate the stench from last year, when it became public that he had signed over an NHL paycheck to gamblers and he played as if he was every bit as injured as he now says he was, citing groin strains and hernias.
Asked if he and Coyle could turn the third line into a scoring unit, Vanek said, “That’s the plan. I think so. He’s playing great, playing with a lot of energy and a lot of power. You have a guy like him, he creates a lot of room.”
The Wild is 2-0 more because of timely goals than overall strong play. They have not looked as strong yet as they did at this point last year, when smothering defense led to easy chances. Devan Dubnyk has been good enough, not great.
To win, the Wild has required goal-scorer’s goals from Zach Parise, Vanek and Coyle. If Vanek and Coyle can find a way to produce the way they were supposed to, together, the Wild will be stronger for it.
Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and Matt Dumba were supposed to be the players improving the Wild’s scoring, but none of those players have Vanek’s scoring pedigree.
The way he’s playing, he’ll get his 300th goal soon enough, and the way Coyle is playing, Vanek’s milestone might be linked to the playmaking center from Weymouth, Mass.