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Has Wild's Coyle finally figured it out? We're still wondering

Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle (3) handles the puck as St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (91) falls to the ice during the second period in game four of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on Wednesday. Jeff Curry / USA TODAY Sports

Since joining the Minnesota Wild full time for the 2013-14 season, Charlie Coyle has been a great help to beat reporters covering the team. On the rare occasions these fine men and women are hurting for ideas, the young forward unerringly provides a fallback.

Stumped for a notebook lede at the Saddledome?

"I guess I'll just ask (Yeo/Torchetti/Boudreau) about what's wrong with Charlie Coyle."

Hungry for a follow at Honda Center?

"I'm gonna write about how Charlie Coyle seems to finally be figuring it out."

Such are the expectations for Coyle, 25, that even when he disappears he can be the most conspicuous player on the ice. His performances in the Wild's past two playoff games explain it all — the tying goal in a 3-1 loss in Game 3 on Sunday, the winner in Wednesday's night's 2-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues in Game 4.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound center/wing finished with four shots on Wednesday; every one of them was a legitimate scoring chance. He was around the puck and won battles.

"You'd like to get it every night," coach Bruce Boudreau said afterward at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. "Right now, I just would like to get it for the next three games."

The Wild will need it to rally back and win this seven-game, first-round series. They staved off elimination on Wednesday but still enter Game 5 on Saturday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center trailing, 3-1.

"When he wants to play, he can play," Boudreau said upon his arrival back in Minnesota on Thursday, April 20.

That's as candid an assessment as we're bound to get.

Coyle finished the season with career highs of 18 goals, 38 assists and 56 points despite long stretches of inoccupation. He went without a goal for 16 games between Jan. 8 and Feb. 12, and without a single point for 10 games from Feb. 14 to March 9 — which is essentially two not-very-good months.

The suspicion is that when Coyle finally really does figure it out, he'll be a star.

When he came over from San Jose, acquired in the deal that sent Brent Burns to the Sharks, one wondered if the Wild had managed to lasso the next Ryan Getzlaf or Corey Perry, the Anaheim forwards who 10 years ago exemplified the prototype forward for the modern NHL — big guys with soft hands who could skate — helping the Ducks win the 2006-07 Stanley Cup.

The Ducks played a good Wild team in the first round that year, and when Getzlaf and Perry weren't putting points on the score sheet — three goals, four assists combined in five games — they were separating Minnesotans from the puck. At 21, they seemed to already have figured out the effort it takes to be a consistently effective NHL player.

Ten years later, Getzlaf and Perry have 814 and 717 career points, respectively.

Coyle has never seemed like less than a conscientious player, and no doubt wants to win; but the more one watches professional sports, the more one comes to understand that it takes most young players years to understand what that really means. Did you watch the Timberwolves this season?

Before Game 4, Boudreau seemed to find the right tone for his frustrated players, who had generally played well while losing each of the first three games in the series. The Wild need to keep playing the way they're playing, he said, and add 10 percent.

Asked if that happened in Wednesday's victory, the coach said, "I thought we were pretty determined, and we have to be because we're playing a team that didn't want to come back here. If we didn't play better, we wouldn't be here."

Here we are again, wondering whether Charlie Coyle has finally figured it out, but maybe Boudreau has discovered the math. Ten percent more. That seems reasonable.

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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