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Postgame: "Fragile" Wild continues to sink in Calgary

  • Blog Post by: Michael Russo
  • January 8, 2012 - 12:53 AM

I've covered teams unravel before, including the Wild the past two years. But that waited until March.

This? Just beyond belief.

I'm not sure I've ever seen a team go from so high to so absolutely low in one month. Just consider: When the Wild won in Phoenix on Dec. 10, it was Minnesota's franchise-record seventh consecutive win on the road and seventh consecutive win overall.

It's now winless in its past seven on the road (0-6-1), with five goals in that stretch. It's now 1-8-3 (five out of a possible 24 points) in its past 12 overall. It's gone from first in the NHL three weeks ago to one point ahead of ninth- and 10th-place in the West.

And I'm sorry: No offense to the Calgary Flames, but if you want to be in the postseason, this was a game that was an absolute necessity to win. There is just zero debate about that.

They were playing a team absolutely demolished by injury. It was basically Jarome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff and the Abbotsford Heat. They were playing a team that got absolutely demolished physically, mentally and emotionally by a 9-0 score IN Boston two days ago.

And the Wild, in a desperate situation after two days of clearing their minds in Banff, lose 3-1.

The Wild just has no ability to score right now. Just punchless.

The Wild did some good things the first two periods. It defended well, it got on some quality forechecks. It sweat all over the ice. And then you look at the scoreboard, and not only do they have no goals for that effort, they have 17 shots.

Their execution was lousy, especially on four or five odd-man rushes. Their unwillingness to battle for a goal, to crash the net, was inexcusable. How many times did a guy drive the net but continue to veer past instead of parking there? Then, they were forced to reach for rebounds or simply were long gone. How about the second period puck laying in the crease and three Wild players are trying to play pool with the puck. Get in there.

For a team that added finishers, they are about a dozen goals behind last year's midseason pace. This is part of the reason. Sacrifice to score.

One other area that's a massive concern is the Wild's shown little ability to generate offense from the blue line. Six goals all year long from the defensemen. They don't get shots through, and when they do, they're a mile wide, like Marco Scandella's, which led to the Flames exploding the other way for its first goal -- Lance Bouma's first of his career -- 2:02 into the third.

Scandella, a mess lately, somebody coach Mike Yeo said is playing "afraid" after the game," then took a penalty his next shift.

And then, the surest best in the world happened -- Jarome Iginla scored his 500th against his favorite foe -- a centering feed that deflected in off Mikko Koivu's skate. That ended up being the winner. Curtis Glencross then scored on a power play.

Dany Heatley scored with 6:19 left, and the Wild did push after that, but it took until then. Basically it was the final six minutes of the game and the first eight minutes of the game where the Wild really put some heat on Kiprusoff. But that was it.

Yeo, after the game, admitted this team is "fragile" right now, but like teams in crisis always do, they talked on and on in the locker room about bottling up the good things they did tonight and taking it home. And there were good things, good signs, but the Wild cannot afford modest gains anymore.

It needs to win, and next on the horizon, vs. San Jose, at Chicago, at St. Louis, at Philadelphia, at Toronto.

Good luck with all that. The dads are coming on the Philly-Toronto trip. Maybe that's what the Wild needs -- the fathers around to offer a little extra motivation. At this point, they'll take anything they can get.

Oy. What a mess this team has become. It's a shame. This really was a good team for awhile, this team really had a good thing going.

And now. All lost, all forgotten. Sorry, there aren't technically must-wins in January, but against a down-and-out Calgary team when you desperately need to stop a nosedive, this was as must a win as you can get in Game 42.

Check out all the coverage on www.startribune.com/wild. In the main story (gamer), Chuck Fletcher does talk to me about trades. Also check out the realignment follow notebook and my Sunday Insider on world juniors.

I've got an early flight. Barring news, no blog Sunday but a follow notebook in Monday's paper. I'm off Monday, so Kent Youngblood will have the keys to the team and the blog.

I will be hosting Paul Allen's 9-noon show on KFAN on Monday. I've got some cool guests lined up, including Matt Cullen, who is expected to play his 1,000th game Tuesday against the Sharks, my buddy and former NHL coach and executive Doug MacLean and Houston Aeros coach John Torchetti.

I'm trying for one big surprise guest, but it might be tough with his travel and time change.

Talk to ya.

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