Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Wild's winless skid hits 7

Posted by: Michael Russo under Vikings draft, Wild game coverage Updated: March 23, 2011 - 1:21 AM

3-0 is better than 8-1, so at least, there's that.

Who said I wasn't a glass half full guy?

The losing hit seven in a row with tonight's shutout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. It feels like there's no end in sight.

Well, that's not true. The losing is guaranteed to at least end eight games from now when the Wild officially misses the playoffs for a third consecutive season. 

The Xcel Energy Center has just become a miserable place to watch a hockey game if you're a Wild fan. It's now 17-15-5 at home. It's scored 91 goals at home, fourth-fewest in the NHL. It's given up 101, 10th-most.

The fans are restless and leave the arena too often feeling disappointed and at the very least feeling like they didn't get their money's worth.

Over this 7-game winless streak overall, the Wild's been outscored 12-2 in the first period, has been outscored 32-9, has trailed by at least three goals in five games, has led for an embarrassing 12:39 of 424:26 and has given up the first goal in every game.

The players are fighting it now. Tonight they couldn't score on four breakaways. The goalies are giving up goals early in games, so the Wild is always chasing, and they're just not good enough and certainly don't have enough scoring to always chase. Even when the Wild defends better, like tonight, it's giving up odd-man rushes and nightly goals from prime scoring areas, like dead center between the circles every literally every single night now.

The team played better tonight, and still has shattered confidence to the point it's squeezing sticks into sawdust (if they were still made of wood).

Fragile, lacking confidence. It's just astonishing how this season has unraveled.

They've become the Colorado Avalanche, only while the Avalanche will for the second time in three years get one of the top picks in the draft, if the season ended today, the Wild would select ELEVENTH in the draft.

Todd Richards is out of answers, too. You can tell he doesn't even know what to say anymore, how to answer questions without sounding like a broken record, how to get these guys motivated to show up for work with the playoffs no longer a light at the end of the regular-season tunnel.

Of course, the questions being asked are starting to be like a broken record, too.

A month ago, I was getting questions asking if I thought Richards would get Jack Adams votes. Now, I have my serious doubts Richards survives this.

And the way these players are playing, no player should feel safe either.

It's not like the Wild has a bottom of the barrel payroll.

This isn't Bob Naegele spending $21 million in 2005-06 while raking in dollars from a soldout arena. This is Craig Leipold spending $60 million and losing money doing so.

That right there creates the pressure.

No chance Leipold's enjoying sitting in the middle of this arena, watching this team perform so poorly and so unsuccessfully and having to hear it from his unhappy customers.

I just never envisioned any of this happening. I remember sitting out in LA five or six weeks ago talking to folks about the playoffs.

I was convinced.

Then they actually played a strong game that next night against LA despite. Then, they beat Anaheim with 6.3 seconds left in overtime.

Most teams would grab momentum from that and go on a tear. The Wild has been crummy ever since.

It's a true shame.

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