At season’s midpoint, Wild is justifying those lofty hopes

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 12, 2013 - 10:48 AM

As the season enters the second half, coach Mike Yeo’s division-leading squad has rounded into form.

hide

The Wild signed free agent Zach Parise (11) for nights like Sunday, when he had two goals and an assist in a 4-2 victory over Vancouver.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The one thing we learned about Mike Yeo before Sunday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks is the Wild coach has a dreadful poker face.

As Yeo declared that the Wild was “ready for this one,” he nearly grinned — as if he was slow-playing pocket aces

If Canucks coach Alain Vigneault spotted Yeo, he would have folded his cards in a second.

Yeo knows the personality of his team and admitted after the Wild’s 4-2 victory that he had a “real good feeling” going in.

Slowly but surely, the Wild is starting to play like the team Yeo envisions. Every line is establishing an identity. Team defense has again become the staple (seventh best in the NHL). Rookies Jonas Brodin, Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker are growing up. And Zach Parise and Ryan Suter have both made significant impacts, with Parise leading the team with 11 goals, and Suter playing nearly half the game in an almost calming manner.

The Wild has reeled off points in 10 of 14 games (9-4-1),
and Sunday’s hard-fought
victory put a convincing stamp on the first half. Minnesota sits atop the Northwest Division — tied with Vancouver with 28 points.

What changed and how?

“It hasn’t been easy,” Yeo said, laughing. “I can’t count the line combinations that we’ve had. But it does take time. We have everybody contributing right now. We have roles that are defined and guys that are going out and doing their job.”

• • •

With expectations so high at the start of the season, especially after a four-month lockout doused the enthusiasm created with last summer’s $196 million Parise/Suter spending spree, it took time for the Wild to gel.

Without the benefit of a long training camp and lots of in-season practice time, the Wild, which had more players who didn’t play elsewhere during the lockout than any other, had to mold a largely turned-over roster.

So when the Wild got off to a 4-5-1 start in a shortened season in which every loss is magnified, it felt as if the roof was caving in for a team that has missed the playoffs for four consecutive years.

Pressure mounted, especially on Yeo.

“We were not just going to arrive and all of a sudden be a great team,” Yeo said.

But Yeo and the players kept focusing on improvement. Yeo says, “We’re not there yet,” but it’s coming.

“We’re learning how to win. We’re learning how we have to play against those top-tier teams to win,” Parise said. “I think we’re getting there. You can tell with just the consistency we have. I mean, earlier we had those periods where you just wonder what we were doing.

“We’re minimizing those now. We’ve still got a lot of work to do and a lot of improvement, but we’re getting there.”

• • •

This second half has the makings for more emotional roller coasters. In an ultra-tight Western Conference where one loss can knock you outside the top eight, the Wild must continue to stick with Yeo’s system. It’s proven effective when everybody’s on the same page and exuding the same work ethic.

“You see the way guys are competing,” Yeo said.

The second half begins Tuesday night when the Wild, 9-2-1 at home, is host to the mighty Anaheim Ducks, who have lost once in regulation in the past 14 games and are 15-2-2 since Feb. 1 (including two victories over Minnesota in Orange County).

There have been several reasons for the Wild’s 14-game turnaround, too, since Feb. 9.

Yeo says it starts with the character throughout the lineup and leadership, especially captain Mikko Koivu, Parise and Suter.

Veteran Matt Cullen has been outstanding for a month, and right winger Devin Setoguchi has scored, been physical and put forth solid efforts after a slow start. Along with the speedy Zucker, who has four clutch goals in four wins, the second line hounds the puck and routinely creates chances.

Mike Rupp also has made a big impact since being traded to the Wild on Feb. 4. He plays his role to perfection — keeping it simple, getting pucks deep and forechecking. He has helped create some big momentum shifts with linemates Zenon Konopka (when he plays) and Torrey Mitchell.

Brodin has been nothing short of tremendous when one considers he’s 19. The poise has in the defensive zone is something most veterans don’t have.

But the biggest factor may be Brodin’s defense partner, Suter, who has recovered from a slow start with a string of big games. He constantly gets the puck out of trouble, out of the defensive zone and up the ice. His vision and innate passing ability has helped a Wild offense (26th in the NHL) that is gradually getting better.

Since Feb. 9, Suter has 14 points. He is riding a seven-game point streak, a franchise-record for a defenseman. Logging an NHL-high 27 minutes, 29 seconds a game, Suter has 17 assists (tied for second among NHL defensemen) and 18 points (tied for fourth). To put that in perspective, Jared Spurgeon led the Wild’s defensemen in those categories last season with 20 and 23, respectively — and that was in 46 more games.

Yeo says the Wild’s a team “on the up.”

Parise agrees.

“There’s a better attitude in here,” Parise said. “We’re playing with a little more swagger. It’s about maintaining it now.”
 

  • related content

  • Chart: Wild at the midpoint

    Monday March 11, 2013

    Record: 13-9-2 (third in Western Conference, 
first in Northwest Division) • Home: 9-2-1 • Road: 4-7-1Goals for: 2.29 per...

  • Wild-Anaheim game preview

    Monday March 11, 2013

    7 P.M. VS. Anaheim • Xcel Engery Center • FSN, 100.3-FMPreview: The Wild is 0-2 against the high-flying Ducks this...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Chicago 17 FINAL
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 33 FINAL
Dallas 10
Seattle 19 FINAL
San Francisco 3
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Chicago 12:00 PM
Boston
Golden State 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Dallas 6:30 PM
Toronto
Milwaukee 6:30 PM
Detroit
New Orleans 6:30 PM
Atlanta
LA Clippers 7:00 PM
Houston
New York 7:00 PM
Oklahoma City
Orlando 7:00 PM
Indiana
Sacramento 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Phoenix 8:00 PM
Denver
Memphis 9:00 PM
Portland
Minnesota 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
NY Rangers 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Chicago 3:00 PM
Anaheim
NY Islanders 4:00 PM
Washington
Winnipeg 6:00 PM
Boston
Montreal 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Detroit 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Carolina 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Vancouver 6:00 PM
Columbus
Ottawa 6:30 PM
Florida
Edmonton 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Minnesota 7:30 PM
Dallas
Tennessee 11:00 AM
Kansas
Eastern Ill 11:00 AM
NC Central
New Orleans 12:00 PM
Texas A&M
Radford 12:30 PM
NC A&T
Butler 1:00 PM
Georgetown
Prairie View 1:30 PM
Brown
Southern U 1:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Santa Clara 1:30 PM
Rhode Island
IUPU-Ft Wayne 2:00 PM
Dartmouth
FIU 2:30 PM
Wright State
Texas-El Paso 2:30 PM
Xavier
Penn State 3:00 PM
Bucknell
James Madison 3:00 PM
Ohio State
Yale 3:00 PM
Providence
Lamar 3:00 PM
Texas Southern
Miss Valley St 3:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Missouri State 3:00 PM
Alaska-Anchorage
Minnesota 3:30 PM
Georgia
Oklahoma 3:30 PM
Wisconsin
Stephen F Austin 4:00 PM
Austin Peay
Norfolk State 4:00 PM
St Francis-NY
USC Upstate 5:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Middle Tennessee 5:00 PM
Cincinnati
Char Southern 5:00 PM
Florida State
Princeton 5:00 PM
San Diego
Drake 5:00 PM
Valparaiso
Rice 5:15 PM
Washington St
Rider 5:30 PM
Georgia Tech
High Point 6:00 PM
Clemson
Emerson 6:00 PM
Hartford
Savannah State 6:00 PM
Jacksonville St
Monmouth 6:00 PM
Maryland
South Alabama 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Boise State 6:00 PM
NC State
Vanderbilt 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Gonzaga 6:00 PM
St Johns
Holy Cross 6:00 PM
Syracuse
Bradley 6:00 PM
TCU
Alabama State 6:00 PM
TX-Pan American
Delaware State 6:00 PM
Wake Forest
Tennessee St 6:30 PM
Saint Peters
North Carolina 7:00 PM
Florida
Memphis 7:00 PM
Indiana State
Hofstra 7:00 PM
Jackson State
Samford 7:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Cleveland State 7:00 PM
Marshall
UT Martin 7:00 PM
Nebraska
SE Louisiana 7:00 PM
Tulane
Creighton 7:30 PM
Ole Miss
Murray State 7:30 PM
Portland
North Texas 8:00 PM
Arkansas
UNC Greensboro 8:00 PM
Indiana
Michigan State 8:00 PM
Marquette
Western Mich 8:00 PM
San Jose St
Stetson 8:00 PM
Northern Colorado
Texas-Arlington 8:05 PM
Montana State
Pacific 8:30 PM
Colorado State
Miss State 8:30 PM
Saint Louis
La Salle 8:30 PM
Virginia
North Dakota 9:00 PM
Utah
UCLA 9:30 PM
UAB
Baylor 9:30 PM
Illinois
Long Beach State 10:30 PM
Washington
Mercer 10:59 PM
UC Santa Barbara
LSU 23 FINAL
Texas A&M 17
(6) TCU 48 FINAL
Texas 10
Northern Ill 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
UCF 12/4/14 6:30 PM
East Carolina
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Michigan 11:00 AM
Washington St
Green Bay 11:00 AM
Georgia Tech
Eastern Kentucky 11:00 AM
Western Carolina
NJIT 11:00 AM
Florida Atlantic
Fordham 12:00 PM
Incarnate Word
Furman 12:00 PM
Florida State
Illinois State 12:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Eastern Michigan 12:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
George Washington 12:00 PM
NC State
Ohio State 12:15 PM
Wichita State
Western Ky 1:00 PM
Tulane
La Salle 1:00 PM
Long Island
Binghamton 1:00 PM
St Johns
UNC-Asheville 1:00 PM
NC Central
North Florida 1:00 PM
UNC-Wilmington
Akron 1:00 PM
Belmont
Miss Valley St 1:00 PM
UMKC
Liberty 1:00 PM
Penn State
Colgate 1:00 PM
(21) Rutgers
Mercer 1:00 PM
Saint Louis
Northeastern 1:30 PM
No Dakota State
(10) Maryland 1:30 PM
James Madison
Villanova 1:30 PM
Arizona State
Tulsa 2:00 PM
Buffalo
Boston College 2:00 PM
Brown
Wyoming 2:00 PM
Iowa State
Weber State 2:00 PM
New Mexico St
Texas Tech 2:15 PM
Purdue
Washington 2:30 PM
Hartford
Fla Gulf Coast 2:30 PM
Clemson
Drake 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
UNC Greensboro 2:30 PM
Navy
(15) Nebraska 3:00 PM
UCLA
Northern Iowa 3:00 PM
Hofstra
Austin Peay 3:00 PM
Southern Miss
(17) Iowa 3:00 PM
Arkansas
Cal-Irvine 3:00 PM
Bowling Green
Samford 3:00 PM
Georgia State
Siena 3:30 PM
Denver
Abilene Christian 3:30 PM
George Mason
Towson 3:30 PM
Rhode Island
Howard 4:00 PM
St Marys-CA
Houston 4:00 PM
Idaho State
IUPUI 4:30 PM
Texas Southern
East Carolina 4:45 PM
Wisconsin
USC 5:00 PM
Sam Houston St
Minnesota 5:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kent State 5:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Montana 5:00 PM
Princeton
(9) Kentucky 5:00 PM
Oklahoma
Arizona 5:00 PM
FIU
Northern Ky 5:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Stetson 5:00 PM
Marist
American Univ 5:30 PM
Gonzaga
UAB 5:30 PM
Loyola Marymount
Oral Roberts 5:30 PM
NC A&T
Stony Brook 5:30 PM
(8) Duke
TCU 6:00 PM
Colorado State
(5) Stanford 6:00 PM
(11) North Carolina
Monmouth 6:00 PM
Wagner
Portland 6:00 PM
Nevada
Stephen F Austin 6:00 PM
UC-Riverside
Alcorn State 6:00 PM
Rice
Lafayette 6:00 PM
(12) Louisville
Florida 6:00 PM
Georgetown
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Oakland
SE Missouri St 6:05 PM
Southern Ill
Florida A&M 7:00 PM
SMU
Northern Colorado 7:00 PM
Nebraska Omaha
Montana State 7:00 PM
CS-Northridge
(22) Syracuse 7:00 PM
(1) South Carolina
Dartmouth 7:00 PM
Cal Poly
Utah State 7:00 PM
(13) Baylor
Toledo 7:00 PM
Virginia
Christian Brothers 7:05 PM
Arkansas State
South Florida 7:15 PM
Illinois
Coll of Charleston 7:30 PM
(3) Connecticut
Wake Forest 7:30 PM
Charlotte
San Jose St 7:30 PM
(14) California
Central Michigan 8:00 PM
Oregon
Fresno State 8:00 PM
San Diego
Boston U 8:00 PM
New Mexico
Missouri State 8:30 PM
Colorado
Ole Miss 8:30 PM
Utah
Prairie View 8:30 PM
Hawaii
Army 9:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Cincinnati 9:30 PM
Creighton

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Gophers and Vikings do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close