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Wheels coming off the Wild; Latendresse sidelined again

  • Blog Post by: Michael Russo
  • March 11, 2011 - 11:41 PM

When Kyle Brodziak accidentally redirected Trevor Daley's pass behind Jose Theodore for a 2-0 lead with 4:08 left in the second period, about 30 seconds later, I wrote on Twitter, "I think they unravel now."

Then they did immediately after I said it.

I wasn't trying to pick on the Wild. My reasoning for saying that was this: Jamie Benn scored 12:02 into the first period. Before that, the Wild worked exhaustedly to try to take the lead. After that, the Wild worked exhaustedly to try to tie the game.

This is a team that's got to work relentlessly to score goals. They're shorthanded without Mikko Koivu and Cal Clutterbuck. Guillaume Latendresse was gone by then (more on that later). So you just sensed that just like Long Island, when the Stars were able to make it 2-0 despite all of the Wild's effort, it was going to naturally deflate and it would be meltdown time.

It was. Quick and painful.

The Wild gave up, including the Daley goal, three goals in a 1:31 span (three quickest goals ever allowed by the Wild on the road) and two in 18 seconds.

The third goal at 17:05 was a bad goal from the half wall by Tom Wandell that somehow got under Jose Theodore. The fourth goal, Matt Cullen teed it up so perfectly for Mike Ribeiro on a turnover, you would have thought Cullen mistook him for a teammate.

Game. Set. Match. 

Maybe for the season, too. As I said before the Nashville game, even if the Wild could somehow rebound from these two games and go 2-0 in Vancouver and San Jose, giving two points each to Nashville and Dallas would be devastating.

Well, now the Wild's four back of a playoff spot and going to two of the toughest road buildings out there. It was the way the Wild lost, too.

8-0 combined score. 33 combined shots -- 14 tonight. For the first time since 2003, the Wild was shut out in back-to-back games.

Last night, the Wild didn't have a ton of chances. But tonight, the Wild spent a lot of time in the Dallas end. During one shift, the Wild spent two minutes in the Stars' zone. Marty Havlat and Brodziak, according to the time on ice by the off-ice officials, played about 2 1/2 minutes each on that shift (avg shift is like 40 seconds) and Andrew Brunette logged 1:42.

The Wild was in there so long, three Wild players took line changes. The crowd was freaking out. 

At the end of the shift though, the Wild not only didn't score, it was credited for no shots. The Stars kept the Wild to the outside, the Wild slid pucks through the crease, the Wild hit legs.

That's the way it is with this team. In the first period tonight, Andrew Brunette got a point-blank chance and was handcuffed. Pierre-Marc Bouchard airmailed a point-blank chance over the net. Then Bouchard fanned on a one-timer. Later, Marco Scandella similarly swung and missed on a one-timer. In the second, Matt Cullen hit the post. Marek Zidlicky fired wide by several feet on a glorious chance.

In Nashville, Antti Miettinen missed a wide-open net before Nashville made it 3-0.

This is the Wild. It's been this way all year. The Wild needs to work exhaustedly to score. Other teams need 3 chances in a span of 1:31.

And now, the big offensive boost, the big, alleged trade-deadline pickup, Guillaume Latendresse, is hurt again. "There's something," said Richards, confirming it's lower body and related to his myriad previous lower body ailments.

Even if we haven't seen the last of Latendresse this year (I bet we have), how effective will he be when he can return this time? He's just not skating well due to all the soreness he's been complaining about.

Hey, maybe the Wild gets Mikko Koivu and/or Cal Clutterbuck back Monday in Vancouver, but even if it does, is that enough? The Wild, in my mind, needs at least 18 or 19 points in its final 13 games.

Is that doable for a team that is a shell of what it was for 2 1/2 months as of two or three weeks ago? I think it'll be an incredible task to find that team again even with the return of Koivu and Clutterbuck. There's no on and off switch.

This team is just not deep enough to withstand the loss of Koivu and Clutterbuck. The Wild has raved about its improved depth all year, but you're only as deep as your latest injuries. And the Wild does not have enough talent to make up for losses to its key players.

That's it for me. I have another early flight, although this time I get to sleep in -- 4 a.m.

I am flying all day to Vancouver. The Wild spent the night in Dallas and will be flying most the day to Vancouver.

So no access tomorrow, meaning you'll hear from me next most likely after Sunday's practice on here.

Or, follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/russostrib.

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