Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.
Also find Russo on Facebook.
Email Michael to talk about hockey.
Only the Wild can strut into Anaheim, come away with its most impressive win in the year and wind up turning the same road trip into the feeling of such disappointment.
But that was the feeling in the locker room after tonight’s 4-3 overtime loss to Calgary. The Wild returned to Minnesota following a 1-1-2 road trip, which is better than the 1-2-1 trip it came so close to being.
Still, player after player called it a disappointment.
Evening from the Saddledome.
Here is my Sunday column on an early look at Chuck Fletcher's thinking heading into the trade deadline.
The Wild battled back from a 3-1 deficit to get a point, but for the second consecutive game, it followed a horrible second period with a strong third period. Unlike Colorado on Thursday, the Wild at least forced overtime this time before Mikael Backlund’s winner 2:25 into the extra session.
In Colorado, the Wild gave up 18 shots in the second period and three goals. Tonight, another 18 shots and one, taking three penalties in an 11-minute span as Calgary took a 2-1 lead after Matt Cooke previously tied the score with his 15th career shortie.
The Wild was undisciplined, generated few scoring chances, was soft on pucks, threw pucks away and was sloppy in the first 40. Nineteen seconds into the third, the Wild drew a holding penalty with a chance to tie.
Instead, it gave up a shorthanded goal. That seemed to wake the Wild up because it was all Minnesota the rest of the period. At one point, the Wild was being outshot 26-10. The final shots were 32-23 as Dany Heatley and Keith Ballard scored 5:55 apart late in the third.
Coach Mike Yeo said, “Defensively we were OK, but offensively we very much on the perimeter and not gritty enough, not dirty enough. Took us to get down 3-1 to really start to develop that mentality.”
Yeo was happy with the way the Wild battled back, but he said the Wild has to rectify the second periods of the past two games.
“This hasn’t been a trend lately. It’s been the last two games and we have to fix it,” he said.
Early in the game, Yeo said the Wild wasn’t committed enough to playing a heavy game, getting to the middle and battling.
“We were looking for easier stuff instead of harder stuff,” Yeo said. “Every time we got the puck in the offensive zone, we threw it away, gave it to them and broke it out for them. When we’re playing well, we’re strong on that puck, we’re controlling the puck in the offensive zone, moving our feet. I didn’t see any of that early in the game.”
Calgary’s first goal, with two guys deep, Jason Zucker threw it away. Calgary’s third, the shortie, Ryan Suter tripped or was tripped (never saw a replay) and a 3-on-1 was triggered.
This was one of those games where the kids had trouble, weren’t strong on the puck. Charlie Coyle took two penalties and had one shot, although he made a great move and Karri Ramo robbed him. Nino Niederreiter didn’t get a shot off on three good lucks. Zucker worked his tail off but was bounced off the puck over and over and was minus-2.
After so much was made about putting together Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville, Parise and Pominville were minus-2 and Granlund was minus-3. Kyle Brodziak, struggling mightily in the faceoff circle lately, lost 13 of 16.
On the winning goal, there was a total breakdown between Ballard, Pominville, Granlund and Marco Scandella.
“Me and Granny (he meant Pominville) were in the corner, on the side boards with two of their guys,” Ballard said. “I think he thought I was going to go, he thought I was going to go. Neither one of us went fast enough.” Scandella then took himself out of the play by sliding, Granlund lost Sean Monahan and Pominville was defending the middle of the ice rather than Backlund.
The bad news is Phoenix beat Pittsburgh tonight and Dallas beat Anaheim. The Wild is going for one of the last two wildcard spots. There’s just no chance they’re going to catch St. Louis, Chicago or Colorado, so Phoenix, Dallas, Vancouver and maybe LA will be the teams to watch the rest of the year.
Wild’s still in 7th, two up on Vancouver and three up on Phoenix. Two home games before the break, starting Tuesday against the Lightning.
“We’ve got to take the points right now,” Heatley said. “It was a tough trip, a lot of travel, some good teams, We’ll take four points, but really would have liked six, I think.”
The Wild has Sunday off. I’d assume Stephane Veilleux at least will be Iowa bound soon. Talk to you Monday.
The good news for the Wild tonight is Phoenix lost at home to Buffalo and Dallas lost in overtime to New Jersey, so the damage of a 5-4 loss wasn’t overly detrimental.
One game after its most impressive win of the season by handing Anaheim only its second home regulation loss, the Wild fell behind 4-1 in Denver before seeing its comeback fall short.
The Wild just didn’t execute in the first two periods, taking three minors in a 5 ½ minute span of the first and seeing that momentum filter into the second.
The Wild gave up three goals in the second – a softie by John Mitchell, a soft play along the wall that resulted in Paul Stastny’s tally (he looked offsides on replays) and a Maxime Talbot goal when he smacked the stick of the posterchild for scrutiny Kyle Brodziak, who was slow to move the puck out of harm’s way and thus basically scored an own goal.
That ended Darcy Kuemper’s night. Well, sorta. He was going to get pulled, but Niklas Backstrom’s mask was in the locker room, and when he didn’t retrieve it fast enough for the ref’s liking, the ensuing faceoff occurred. Finally, at the next stoppage, Backstrom replaced Kuemper.
Before Zach Parise was injured, many fans and media members had been clamoring for Yeo to try Parise with Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville. In Anaheim, on the power play and a few even-strength shifts, the chemistry was there.
Yeo didn’t start them together tonight, but he ended them together, uniting them in the third period. They were fantastic, generating sustained pressure and scoring chances every shift.
Parise followed his 3-point night and winning goal in Anaheim with two goals, two assists and nine shots tonight. Granlund had a goal and two assists, 12 faceoff wins and logged 22 minutes and Pominville had a goal and assist. He scored with 2:14 left -- 11 seconds after Nathan MacKinnon’s breakaway goal by Backstrom, which actually gave Backstrom the loss despite Kuemper giving up four goals.
So that MacKinnon goal was a killer.
The trio will obviously stay together in Calgary. The question is whether Yeo keeps them intact once Mikko Koivu returns. I talked about this on FSNorth during the first intermission even before the third-period display and I think it’s time Yeo tries separating Koivu and Parise, especially because Granlund is playing at such a high level.
Jonas Brodin had a real tough night. Soft on the puck all game, turnovers galore, a penalty, minus-2.
But Brodziak will continue to get the fan’s scorn. The trend tonight was not moving the puck quick enough. That happened on one wall play in the first period and led to a minute of frantic play.
His lack of finish continues to be aggravating. Nobody gets better looks at the goalie, in large part because he often does the right things without the puck. But once he gets that puck, he doesn’t bury it. In the first period, Ryan Suter and Matt Cooke made a couple nice plays on the PK that led to a Brodziak chance, but Semyon Varlamov made the save. It happened later in the third, too.
Brodziak and Cooke were minus-3. Justin Fontaine were minus-2. Yeo wasn’t thrilled with their game and especially Brodziak’s, but Yeo feels Brodziak has been playing good hockey lately.
Once Koivu comes back, the easiest thing to do will be to send Erik Haula down. But one wonders if Yeo would ever pull Brodziak for a game or two to give him a little jolt.
Yeo made clear he’ll return with the Parise-Granlund-Pominville line in Calgary. He ended tonight with Charlie Coyle playing with Dany Heatley and Fontaine and Nino Niederreiter skating with Haula and Cooke. Brodziak was demoted to the fourth line.
Kuemper will likely return to the net.
I’ll talk to you Friday, although I may have some travel issues getting out of Denver. Also, I am scheduled to land in Calgary after practice, so I’ll get Yeo and players at the team hotel afterward.
At noon CT, USA Hockey will announce which player of Parise, David Backes, Ryan Suter, Dustin Brown and Ryan Callahan will captain the Americans in Sochi. I’ll be in the air, but my editor will drop the news on the blog.
The Wild has today off, and they're heading to the beach. It will be back in action Tuesday night in Anaheim.
A 3-2 loss in overtime in San Jose was worth a point. Poor faceoff performance was the culprit ... read the game story here.
Staff writer Michael Russo has been away from the beat for a few days. His stepfather passed away in Atlanta after a long illness. Please keep the family in your thoughts and prayers.
The Wild is at San Jose tonight for a 9:30 p.m. (Central) game that kicks off a tough, four-day road trip with games also in Anaheim, Colorado and Calgary.
Mikko Koivu and Jared Spurgeon flew in with the team yesterday, but aren't like to play on the road trip, coach Mike Yeo said.
A reminder, Michael Russo is away for a family emergency. We have veteran writer John Ryan stringing for us, and you'll get a first report from John at startribune.com when the game ends. TV tonight is Fox Sports North.
Zach Parise felt fine after his return from a broken foot. John's report from Friday's practice is here.
Sharks, of course, are without rookie sensation Tomas Hertl, who tore up a knee and is out for the season. San Jose made big news yesterday when they extended the contracts of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.
Preview box for tonight's Wild game:
Preview: The Sharks are fourth in the Western Conference, and the Wild is tied for seventh. The teams have split 3-1 games this season, both winning at home.
Players to watch: Wild RW Jason Pominville scored his team-high 20th goal in Thursday’s 2-1 victory over Chicago. … Ryan Suter (31 points) is 10th in the NHL in scoring for defensemen. … G Darcy Kuemper has a 2.22 goals-against average in nine games but has started six in a row. … Sharks C Joe Thornton leads the NHL with 47 assists and is sixth in scoring with 53 points but has only six goals. Thornton and W Patrick Marleau both got three-year contract extensions Friday. … C Joe Pavelski is second in the league with 28 goals. … G Antti Niemi (2.38 goals-against average) has played in 43 of 51 games.
Numbers: Former Minnesota State RW Eriah Hayes has skated in the past nine games for the Sharks and is looking for his first NHL point. Ex-Minnesota Duluth G Alex Stalock has consecutive shutouts as Niemi’s backup. The Sharks’ Justin Braun, a Minneapolis native, is seventh among NHL defensemen in plus/minus (plus-20). … The Wild is 1-8 in its past nine games at the SAP Center.
Injuries: Wild G Josh Harding (illness), D Jared Spurgeon (foot) and C Mikko Koivu (ankle) are out. Sharks forwards Logan Couture (hand), Tomas Hertl (knee), Raffi Torres (knee) and Adam Burish (back) are out, as is D Scott Hannan (concussion).
Greetings from the press box at Xcel Energy Center, about 1½ hours after the Wild finished off its 2-1 victory over Chicago.
This is the second of my two days filling in for Mike Russo, who is away seeing to a family matter. Let’s all wish him well, and I thank you all for being so patient with my attempts to fill his very large shoes.
I thought the Wild played a very, very good game tonight. Except for Jason Pominville’s goal, which came at the end of a wonder series of passes, this wasn’t a flashy game. But that’s how the Wild has to play to beat a team as talented as Chicago, something the Wild has now done three times in four games.
Here are some final thoughts on the game, in no particular order:
--This was the seventh straight game without a power play goal for the Wild. Somehow, the team has been winning more than losing during this stretch, but this has to change. The Wild had a 1-0 lead and 2 minutes’ worth of a 5-on-3 to double that lead in the first period, but didn’t really even get a good scoring chance. On the other hand, the Wild did manage to stay out of the penalty box except for Matt Cooke’s tripping penalty late in the first period. But the Wild needs to figure this out. Zach Parise’s return to action should help.
--Parise wasn’t a huge factor in this game, but he looked pretty good for a guy who had missed 14 games. And he said he felt good, too. “Actually, really good,” he said. “No hesitations, I felt like I had good energy, and good jump. So it was a good first one, I thought.”
--The line of Kyle Brodziak, Cooke and Justin Fontaine was not only very good against Jonathan Toew’s line tonight, but they scored a goal of their own. “That was a huge matchup for us tonight,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “You’re talking about a great player in Toews. If (Brodziak’s) line is able to go out and do that, that’s huge.”
--Tonight was Jason Zucker’s first real experience skating on the Wild’s fourth line. He skated with Erik Haula and Torrey Mitchell tonight. Zucker looked good on the team’s only penalty kill, and he also had a team-high three shots on goal. “I liked our fourth line a lot tonight,” Yeo said. “Zuck did a really good job. We asked him to bring what he usually brings, but bring more in some other areas. He really stepped it up.’’
That’s about it for now. Have a great Friday and a great weekend.
|Vikings (33)||Gophers injuries (2)|
|Gophers on TV (1)||Gophers coaches (2)|
|Gophers players (7)||Gophers game day (6)|
|Gophers postgame (12)||Gophers awards and honors (1)|
|Gophers post season (1)||St. Cloud State (1)|
|Wild news (467)||Bears (5)|
|Lions (1)||NFL draft (1)|
|Packers (2)||Super Bowl (6)|
|Vikings fans (3)||Ex-players (1)|
|Injury report (1)||On the road (185)|
|Rookies (36)||Roster moves (14)|
|Vikings draft (91)||Vikings trade talk (3)|
|Fighting (3)||Stanley Cup (28)|
|Wild coaching (32)||Wild game coverage (391)|
|Wild management (15)||Wild off-season news (421)|
|Wild player moves (125)||Wild practice (333)|
|Wild pregame skate (350)||Wild trade news (37)|
|Wild training camp (121)||Adrian Peterson (4)|
|Ben Leber (1)||Bernard Berrian (1)|
|Brad Childress (3)||Brett Favre (5)|
|Jared Allen (2)||Leslie Frazier (1)|
|Brad Childress (3)||Leslie Frazier (1)|
|NHL news (1)||2010 Winter Games (5)|
|Olympic hockey (27)||Olympic luge (3)|
|Olympic ski jumping (2)||Olympic skiing (2)|
|NHL draft (7)||Gophers sports (3)|