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Second period dooms Wild like the old days

  • Blog Post by: Michael Russo
  • September 29, 2011 - 10:12 PM

Part of me wonders: When Mike Yeo went into the Wild locker room and told the players, "Great first period boys," did Todd Richards simultaneously go into the Blue Jackets locker room and tell the players, "Don't worry boys, they haven't played the second yet?"

Richards, the Wild's coach the past two seasons, got a different vantage of the Wild's second-period sleepwalk tonight. That was a trademark when he coached Minnesota, and now, Richards is Columbus' assistant.

The Wild took a 1-0 lead into the second period on Guillaume Latendresse's goal. They had a 16-7 shot advantage. They were skating so well, they drew three straight penalties.

But...that was 20 minutes in.

As all Wild diehards know, that means squat. The middle frame is usually what counts with this team, and this was even ghastly by Wild last-year standards.

I bet if you review the tape, you'll find one minute total (maybe) of offensive-zone time in the entire period. It was a period of defending, a period of being on the PK, a period of watching Rick Nash and Fedor Tyutin toy with them.

There were turnovers, reaching for pucks, slapping at pucks, poor support, allowing Columbus to make passes in the offensive zone that no team has any right to be able to pull off. We're talking through-the-slot passes. They won every race to loose pucks. They won every battle. Everything you can think of negatively described the Wild's game that period.

Columbus tied it by 44 seconds. It had the lead by 2:38 and it carried a 3-1 lead into the third on Jeff Carter's beauty of a tic-tac-toe power-play goal. Mikko Koivu pulled the Wild within one on a beautiful power-play pass through the crease by Dany Heatley (five goals, 11 assists in 3 exhibition games for the line, although they were sporadically good tonight and Devin Setoguchi seemed off).

The Wild picked up its play from there before Columbus scored a weird goal when Antoine Vermette's harmless looking shot redirected off Cam Atkinson slowly the other way from where Josh Harding was sliding.

Yeo was not pleased to say the least with the second period, saying, "In the second period, we couldn’t win a faceoff. In the second period, we couldn’t make a play with the puck and in the second period, we were not doing the right things without the puck, so we’re chasing the whole period. It’s not a fun way to play."

Yeo saw progress in the first period before regression in the second. He said he knew the team wouldn't master his way of playing overnight and progress needs to come quicker. The Wild hosts Edmonton in its exhibition finale on Friday night before a likely day off Saturday, practice day Sunday, two days in Duluth of practice and team building and then a sprint to the start of the season Oct. 8.

Days are dwindling before the opener and a 3-0 preseason has quickly become 3-3 with some alarm bells.

First, the Wild's a bit banged up. Second, the Wild's getting very little offense from any line but the first. Third, the blue line has been erratic, especially Marek Zidlicky, who against St. Louis was turning pucks over, and tonight was having trouble keeping pucks in Columbus' zone. With Brent Burns gone, the Wild needs Zidlicky to be a horse on the back end -- not just offensively, but steady defensively.

-- Couple other things: Nick Johnson missed a couple calls at noon (ET) and then by 12:05, it was a whirlwind. He had such trouble finding a car service to Columbus (three hour drive), he nearly drove his own car. But he made it, arrived around 5:15 and walked into a locker room where believe it or not, many players had no clue the Wild even picked up a player. They just saw a strange guy walk in with a Penguins bag. Johnson played with Darroll Powe, who played center, and Cal Clutterbuck. He's big, he works the wall well, he drew a penalty, he stood up to teammate. He did finish minus-2 in 11:41. Too early to say how good he is and too weird of a day to accurately and fairly judge him.

I will say this: Not a good sign for Casey Wellman that he was the guy scratched for him. He doesn't require waivers and after an early-camp injury, he didn't knock the socks off during his two exhibition games. We'll see if he plays Friday, but if he does, this could be his last chance to try to make the squad.

I thought Brett Bulmer showed good signs again today. It was his solid shift in the first that turned momentum three shifts before Latendresse's goal.

-- Fans booed Clutterbuck tonight a lot, which he was surprised about. I guess the fans were upset his face had the gall to take a dirty elbow from James Wisniewski.

-- Fedor Tyutin is good.

-- Ryan Johansen is going to be good.

-- I thought Justin Falk had a real solid game, although his penalty led to Columbus' eventual winner.

-- Chuck Fletcher said Mike Lundin (back) has felt better the past couple days and should ramp things up if that continues. He again maintained that Matt Cullen and Jared Spurgeon are just sore and if this was the regular season, they'd be playing.

I have a 6:55 a.m. flight and it's 11:10 p.m. now. So I'm outta here without proofreading this, so let's pray it reads cleanly. Talk to you after the morning skate in Minnesota.

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