The Wild might not have gotten anywhere near the NHL playoffs this season, but a former member of the team has enjoyed a deep postseason run and had enough success that he is in the running for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
Charlie Coyle, who was traded to Boston on Feb. 20 for Ryan Donato and a conditional pick that turned into a fourth-rounder, has scored goals in three consecutive games in the Stanley Cup Finals against St. Louis. Coyle, 27, scored the Bruins’ first goal of the game on Monday in a 4-2 loss that tied the series at 2-2.
Coyle had only two goals and four assists and was a minus-2 in 21 regular-season games with Boston after leaving the Wild, but he has nine goals and seven assists and is a plus-6 in 21 playoff games. Two of Coyle’s goals have come on the power play.
This is exactly what the Wild and their fans wanted from Coyle during his six-plus seasons in Minnesota. Coyle, a native of Weymouth, Mass., and a Bruins fan growing up, now has one more point in the Bruins’ playoff run than he did over 44 games and in six playoff appearances with the Wild (seven goals, eight assists and a minus-17).
Last season, Coyle had no points in five games as the Wild was eliminated in the first round by Winnipeg. His best postseason in Minnesota came in 2014, when he had three goals and four assists in 13 games.
Coyle, who found himself moving between center and wing with the Wild, has settled in as the Bruins’ third-line center and appears far more comfortable and assertive than he did in Minnesota. In fairness to the Wild, and general manager Paul Fenton, the 23-year-old Donato contributed upon his arrival in Minnesota and looks to have a bright future. The winger had four goals and 12 assists in 22 games.
If seeing a former member of the Wild go elsewhere and contribute seems familiar, that’s because Coyle isn’t alone. In a trade that looks far wore than the Coyle move, Fenton sent winger Nino Niederreiter to Carolina for center Victor Rask on Jan. 17. Niederreiter, who had only nine goals and 14 assists and was a minus-11 in 46 games with the Wild, was used on the Hurricanes’ top line and contributed 14 goals and 16 assists and was a plus-7 in 36 games.
He added one goal and three assists in 15 playoff games as Carolina made it to the Eastern Conference finals before being swept by Coyle’s Bruins.