Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.

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Posts about Wild management

Yeo had team ready

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 25, 2014 - 12:18 AM

I’ve probably never had so many mixed emotions about a local coach as I have had about Mike Yeo.

He’s a bundle of admirable characteristics. He’s likeable. He’s about as honest as anyone in his profession. And he probably became an NHL head coach before any team other than the Wild would have even considered him.

To avoid irrational exuberance after the two best Wild games/game experiences I’ve ever witnessed, I’ll keep this simple:

Yeo, faced with a messy goalie situation and lacking any pure goal scorers, has had his team in position to win three of the four games in the series. In the other – the Game 2 loss – his team dominated the first period before crumbling.

I’ve been debating some of my 1500ESPN friends about Yeo. I can’t say I would have hired him. But I think he’s doing the job admirably.

The Wild’s energy level, defensive system and puck support have been outstanding. Young players like Mikael Granlund and Jonas Brodin have developed, and role players seem to shine when he calls upon them.

I think that has something to do with coaching.

Wrote about the Wild’s sheer dominance for my column.

Postgame, when I asked Zach Parise about Granlund’s three blocks in the final two minutes – one when he didn’t even have his stick – Parise gushed, ``That was awesome!’’

That sums it up.

Wild fans can be rather passive during the regular season. The last two games, and especially on Thursday, they created one the best game-day experiences in recent Twin Cities history. (At least the past four years.)

I had friends in the stands who said this is as good as its gotten at Wild games since their one playoff run.

Now we see if they can shut down Nate MacKinnon on his home ice, when Yeo doesn’t have the advantage of matching lines.

I love playoff hockey almost as much as I hate regular-season hockey.

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Best moment of the night: When time expired, half the bench rushed to Darcy Kuemper for the traditional post-win goalie hug...and the rest of the bench rushed to envelop Granlund.

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I'll b on 1500ESPN at 12:15 or so tomorrow with Mackey & Judd. I'll be in Colorado for Game 5, and will call in to Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon on 1500ESPN, before heading back for Game 6.

                                            

Backstrom's here, Flip's back...

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: May 3, 2013 - 11:33 AM

Checking in from the United Center in Chicago, where the Wild is about to skate.

Niklas Backstrom took a commercial flight to Chicago, which is fascinating. I would still expect Josh Harding to start tonight, but Backstrom probably wouldn't be here if he didn't have any chance of playing.

I'd start Harding regardless of Backstrom's readiness. Harding played great on Tuesday. He's acting loose and confident. He's playing with house money. I'd give him a shot rather than hoping Backstrom is recovered from his mystery injury.

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What you get from the Chicago media is that the Blackhawk players regret coming out so slowly in Game 1 and plan to correct that tonight. The Wild may have to survive an emotional start.

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I'm in Chicago, so I missed the Flip Saunders press conference.

Flip is a smart guy with tons of NBA experience. He could be a very good GM. The question is, can he stay in his lane, or is he taking this job with an eye toward coaching in the future?

As GM, it's his job to make Rick Adelman want to come back. What kind of vibe is Adelman going to get when he talked to Flip about that? Friday morning, Flip wouldn't say he isn't interested in coaching sometime in the future. Does Adelman want to work for his eventual replacement? In some ways, he was better off working for David Kahn, because Kahn had to hand over power to Adelman for Adelman to take the job. Flip will not be handing over any power.

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I'll be covering the Wild skate and Game 2 tonight. I'll be on 1500ESPN with Judd & Dubay at noon. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

 

A playoff hockey reminder...

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 30, 2013 - 11:52 PM

If you had never seen an NHL playoff hockey game before, Tuesday's night's in United Center would have been a great introduction.

I wrote about Josh Harding for the paper. Here are my thoughts on other topics related to the game:

-Jason Zucker makes some rookie mistakes, but his speed and aggression can win you a game. He drew two penalties on Tuesday night and almost scored the winner off a faceoff in overtime.

-I don't know how Ryan Suter does it. He played a game-high 41:08 Tuesday. The Wild player with the next-highest total ice time was his defensive partner, Jonas Brodin, who played 34:20. And those were all stressful minutes against an excellent team.

Suter was outstanding, and Brodin seems to keep getting better. He's a brilliant skater and remarkably calm with the puck for a rookie.

No Blackhawk was on the ice for more than defenseman Michal Rozsival's 27:11.

-Fatigue could be a big factor in the series. The Blackhawks are deeper and were the superior team after the Wild bottled them up in the first period. I saw Matt Cullen leave the ice with an apparent injury, and he would be a major loss if he can't return for Game 2.

-I actually saw Pierre Marc-Bouchard throw a body check. That's when my cohort Michael Russo said, ``It must be the playoffs.''

-Wild coach Mike Yeo defended his first line after the game. Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle managed a combined five shots. Yeo said they played well defensively, which is true. But the Wild needs scoring from that line and that line was rarely an offensive threat.

-Eden Prairie native and former Wild prospect Nick Leddy wasn't on the ice for any of the goals, and put two shots on net.

-The Wild's lack of size on defense is most evident on the power play. Andrew Shaw spends a lot of time in front of Harding. Suter battled him aggressively, but Jared Spurgeon can't move him.

-The magic question is whether playing so well in Game 1 and losing is a positive or a negative for the Wild. Does it set the tone for a competitive series, or this the Wild getting its best chance to win a game (or a game on the road) and missing its opportunity.

The concern for the Wild is that its players performed extremely well, played physically, blocked a lot of shots and got a tremendous goaltending performance and still lost. Is this team capable of playing like that every night?

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I'll discuss with Judd & Dubay at noon on 1500ESPN every day this week. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

 

Is there reason for optimism? Maybe....

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 30, 2013 - 5:20 PM

By now you've probably heard a dozen reasons why the Wild can't compete with the Blackhawks in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. All those reasons are legit.

If you prefer to search for reasons for optimism, here's one that might work for you:

Corey Crawford.

The Blackhawks are talented, deep and well-coached, and Crawford is an outstanding goaltender. If the Wild has any chance in this series, Crawford will have to be less than stellar. And that's a possibility.

Crawford has been solid statistically in the postseason, but consider his record. In the regular season, he's 83-43-19. In the playoffs, he's 5-8. Last year, in the first round against Phoenix, he allowed soft goals in Games 3 and 4 to Mikkel Boedker, a big reason the Hawks didn't advance.

There are a couple of lesser reasons for optimism. The Blackhawks scored goals on just 5 of their last 40 power plays of the regular season, and two of the three games between the teams this year were decided by one goal.

I believe the Wild will miss not only Jason Pominville, who appears to be out because of a concussion, but also Dany Heatley. Heatley was the rare Wild forward who could battle in the crease and score ugly goals.

Replacing Pominville is Zenon Konopka, who scored zero points this season and took a lot of bad penalties. If Konopka can bother the Blackhawks with physical play, maybe he can make a positive impact. But he has not been a worthwhile player this year.

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I'll be on 1500ESPN with Tom Pelissero at 6:30. Tomorrow, I"ll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. and 1500ESPN at noon with Judd & Dubay.

You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

Wild lose

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 21, 2013 - 9:00 PM

Wrote about the Wild's 4-1 loss to Calgary for my column in the Monday paper.

My impression: This is a tight team. I didn't sense any lack of effort or passion. I thought the Wild dominated the first period. It hit two posts in the second period. I felt this was a team playing with desperation early, and desperation is hard to sustain.

The Wild played horribly in the third period.

I talked to one of my personal hockey insiders before the game, and that person (affiliated with the Wild, but brutally honest, which is what I look for in my hockey insiders) told me that the Wild's defense just isn't deep enough. Get past Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin, and who do you trust?

Also, this team lacks big, physical players. I think the Wild really misses Mike Rupp right now - a physical player who doesn't take stupid penalties.

Most of the Wild's players, even the very good ones, are skill players, finesse players. And two of the holdovers from the down years, Cal Clutterbuck and Pierre Marc-Bouchard, aren't producing.

All that being said, this team should still make the playoffs, and if it matches up with anybody other than Chicago, it could be competitive in the first round.

But despite the additions of Parise, Suter and Pominville, this is still a roster with major flaws.

-I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 and 1500ESPN with Judd & Dubay at noon tomorrow.

 

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