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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Why all the dump and chasing?; Stoner injured in Wild loss

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: October 28, 2011 - 11:22 AM

Evening from the X, where the Wild's 27th-ranked penalty kill was beaten twice more tonight despite the Wild surrendering only 16 shots on goal in a 3-2 loss to the Ducks. Wild better fix this with a home-and-home coming up with Detroit.

Amazingly, the Wild's given up 16 shots and 14 shots this season, and that resulted in two if its three regulation losses (the other at the Islanders).

For the sixth straight game, the Wild scored two or fewer goals. Its power play did score twice but still was beyond frustrating at times to watch.

The Wild suffered one potential serious injury. Defenseman Clayton Stoner blocked a shot with his hand two shifts in his second period. He was lost for the final 37 minutes with a finger injury, but coach Mike Yeo didn't have an update on the seriousness or specifics of the injury. Obviously, Stoner not being able to return is not a good sign.

As for the game, just frustrating again. Yeo did his best to paint a pretty picture, saying the Wild did enough good things to win. Obviously, giving up 16 shots is a big part of that.

But Anaheim's three stars each scored on broken plays into wide-open cages, the Wild took a bunch of ridiculously careless penalties tonight. Sorry, you hold George Parros at the defensive blue line, you probably deserve to be scored upon (Darroll Powe). Little mistakes always lead to trouble, and a poorly-placed, too-fast rimaround by Nick Johnson led to the puck going the other way. Then, Kyle Brodziak way, way behind the play trips Luca Sbisa, and that led to another goal. Then, after Matt Cullen trims it to 3-2 with 6:06 left, Guillaume Latendresse sails a puck into the seats with 4:52 left. The Wild put forth a big kill, and seven seconds later, Cullen trips Bobby Ryan with 2:45 left.

Well, comeback dead. 

The Wild's offensive attack is again few and far between, and often times because this is a franchise that has mastered the dump but not the chase part of the dump and chase.

Said coach Mike Yeo: “I really believe we had the puck a lot more than them tonight. … We kept them to 16 shots. When we have the puck that much, we should be getting close to 40 shots (they had 25). We’ve had a tough time getting over 30 shots, and that’s because we don’t take shots unless we think it’s absolutely going to turn into a goal. We have to start using shots to create more offense.” 

See Marek Zidlicky as an example in the second period where the sharpshooter pinches between the circles and held it too long to get a good shot off. Zidlicky, by the way, had another tough, tough game, turning pucks over left and right. And ZHIDlicky has ZHero goals, which if you're going to be a liability, you better be scoring.

I asked Yeo if he wants the Wild dumping and chasing EVERY SINGLE TIME it crosses the red line. He said no, but that's basically what the Wild does. In the first period, Cal Clutterbuck was on a 3-on-2 over the blue line, had Dany Heatley on his right wing and chipped the puck deep. That was emblematic of the night.

“Certainly early in a game like this, there would be a focus of trying to get a puck behind their defensemen," he said. "But no, we want to have the mentality that we want to play behind their defensemen. We should be using our speed that we’re backing them off, but by all means, when there’s a play to be made, we’ve got to make the play. There was a play in the third period where we were yelling, ‘4, 4,4,’ – that means we have our fourth guy supporting the attack – and we end up chipping it in. And guys are trying to do the right thing, but certainly you have to make plays when there’s plays there.”

So how do you get them out of this habit of dumping and chasing all the time? “It depends. You have to read the situation. Part of it is we’re still young in our game. A huge part of our game is playing in the offensive zone and not turning pucks over. When we’re coming through the neutral zone right now, how do we read these situations? How do we read, ‘Where’s my support? Can I make a play right now? Or am I forcing something?’ So it’s normal that guys are being a little more careful right now than being too high risk, so these are reads that we still have to learn.”
 

Yeo said he's not getting impatient.

"I don’t know when it’s going to happen. I can’t sit up here and say at the 12-game mark all of a sudden our game’s going to be there," he said. "It’s impossible to do that. We’re trying to create a new culture, we’re trying to bring in a new system. … Dan Bylsma told me … just so you know, it’s probably going to take you 30 games. I hope it doesn’t take that long. I’ve been very impressed with a lot of things that we’ve done along the way. Did we not do enough to win that game tonight? So, if we win the game tonight, what are we saying? Now all of a sudden the story is a different story, right? But the reality is the game was pretty much the same. We just have to find a way to win those games, that’s all.”

That's it for me. Just an fyi, I'll have a really entertaining, interesting Matt Kassian profile running at some point soon, and I'll have my Sunday Insider in, uh, Sunday, but Kent Youngblood is on the team Friday-Monday as I head to a wedding. I'll meet up with the team Tuesday in Detroit, so be kind to Kent.

For more info on this game, check out the game story on startribune.com/wild. Take care

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