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Postgame: Slumping Wild's winless skid hits five

  • Blog Post by: Michael Russo
  • December 21, 2011 - 12:42 AM

Quick blog because it's real late and I have an early flight up to Edmonton, so read the game story and notebook for other details.

An abysmal second period doomed the Wild tonight in the Saddledome, where Jarome Iginla, like he used to do on an almost nightly basis, scored the big go-ahead goal and eventual winner to hand Calgary a 2-1 win over Minnesota.

The Wild's now winless in five.

The Wild played well in the first, mostly well in the third, and the second? Ugly -- as bad as I've seen it in awhile.

In the defensive zone, it would scramble, have to chip the puck out and go for a change. On the rare times it went on transition, the Wild would either turn the puck over at the blue line or dump the puck, generate a feeble forecheck and watch the Flames easily break out.

On the second of back-to-backs and with a bunch of guys injured, the Wild needed to execute simply, and unfortunately, a bad line change resulted in Marek Zidlicky's slashing minor. The Wild killed it off, but eight seconds later, Iginla scored on his own rebound when both Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon were caught reaching instead of taking the body.

For Iginla, he's got 33 goals and 61 points in 64 games against the Wild -- the most all-time. It was his ninth winner against the Wild, the most all-time. The Flames are 21-2-1 when he scores vs. the Wild.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard also scored tonight. It was his first-ever goal against Miikka Kiprusoff and first in 19 career games at the Saddledome. Back in the day when the Flames had a horde of physical defensemen – Dion Phaneuf, Robyn Regehr, Rhett Warrener, Denis Gauthier and others – Bouchard was often ineffective against Calgary, and to me, that's the indication.

The Wild's a shadow of what it was a few weeks back.

For those of us who sometimes get on Mikko Koivu, take him out of the lineup, and you realize just how much he's this team's ignition in every way. Faceoffs, PK, PP, fire, intensity, effort, somebody for the other team to be fearful of.

Couple his absence with the losses of Guillaume Latendresse, Devin Setoguchi and Casey Wellman, and this is a team that lacks skill and speed and threats right now.

Dany Heatley's gotten chances the last few games -- three in the third tonight -- but he has nine goals this year (Wild's 9-0 when he scores) and one in the past eight games. Now is the time the Wild needs him to finish.

But right now, so many guys look dead tired. Kyle Brodziak has had to take on an awful load since Koivu's injury, and he at times can barely skate to the bench. He topped 22 minutes tonight. Cal Clutterbuck looked tired. Heatley's not skating well during this stretch. The Brodziak line, with Nick Johnson, hasn't been nearly as effective. Spurgeon and Scandella are being asked to play insane minutes for two young 20-somethings.

This is a team that's banged up, has been playing a ton of games lately and mostly on the road (in a stretch of 19 of 27). Because of the fatigue, Yeo will give the team off in Edmonton on Thursday.

And look, the reality is with all the injuries, you have a lot of minor-leaguers in this lineup right now.

The Wild were able to rally in games a lot early in the season, but that's when it had most its forwards in the lineup and much more firepower. Koivu, himself, has tied five games up this season. Now they lack that firepower. Heck, I know the power play has been struggled all season, but tonight, two must-score power plays in the third and the Wild can't even muster up a single shot. Guys like Spurgeon and Brodziak had trouble keeping pucks in. The puck support and placement was brutal. This is another area where Koivu is just missing. And Marek Zidlicky, man, shoot the puck.

Early in the season when they were devastated by injury on the blue line, there were a lot of interchangable parts. Justin Falk stepped in and did a good job. Nate Prosser came up and did a good job.

But the reality is, at the pro level, the Wild lacks top-6 forward depth in Houston. That's what we're seeing now. This is a team with a bunch of prospects on the way, but they're all in Europe or juniors. So with so many injuries up front, you're asking the third line to be the second line, you're asking Heatley to play with Matt Cullen (which I wanted to see, but now that I see it, I don't want to anymore, haha), and you're asking guys like Jed Ortmeyer and Warren Peters and Jarod Palmer to step in and be impact players.

This team is thin right at the moment and now it's up against it. It's being tested now. Frustration's starting to infiltrate the locker room. You could see it after the game even though each player tried to say it wasn't with their words.

We'll see if Koivu plays in Edmonton. I'll blog if there's news tomorrow, but with no practice, I'm not too sure what kind of news or updates there will be. Talk to ya.

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