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 has offensive explosion in blowout of Vancouver Canucks

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: November 4, 2011 - 12:02 AM

First, to massage my own ego because, hey, that's me, as Fox Sports North's Kevin Gorg and his lovely job shadow Devin Lowe can (better) attest, not only did I predict to them in the press room before the game that the "floodgates would open" tonight, I predicted a 5-1 Wild win.

Also, discussed the same thing today with Nick Schultz's brother Kris via Twitter and my buddy "Rufus." 

Just sensed it coming. You don't play that well 5-on-5 in Detroit and it be a fluke. You don't have such a determined demeanor about you at the morning skate and it be a fluke. You don't have these offensive weapons and have them sit idly forever.

Sadly, I didn't make a cent on such Nostradamus, uh, ism? Is that a term?

Wild's fourth in the West for the first time since Dec. 2008.

Wild exploded offensively tonight. As I wrote on Twitter after the first period, the Wild was dominating and played a great first period. It was leading every single place but the scoreboard, where it trailed 1-0 only, and I mean, only because of Cory Schneider.

Tonight was a perfect example of what can happen if the team continues to believe in its system, play the same way and attack and attack and attack. Eventually, you should be rewarded.

That's what happened tonight when the Wild came in with a single "mindframe," as Mike Yeo likes to say. SHOOT THAT PUCK!

Some shots might not be threats, but they can create offense and breakdowns and zone time and wear teams down. The Wild forechecked better than I've seen them in seven years covering this team. Just like the Edmonton game here, the Canucks coughed up the puck time and time and time and time again because of this pressure. And we're talking normally dependable guys like Kevin Bieksa and Alex Edler.

“We lost 5-1 and our best player by far was our goaltender,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “That about sums it up right there.”

Added seven-year defenseman Kevin Bieksa, “This was probably the worst performance I’ve been a part of in this jersey. ... It was an ugly game."

Ditto for seven-year winger Alex Burrows: "Probably the worst game we played since I’ve been here. ... [Schneider] should have been the first star. It could have been 12 tonight easily."

Just by chance you're lost, loyal Star Tribune readers. I want to make clear: THE WILD -- the Minnesota Wild -- did this to them.

Just an utter domination after what Guillaume Latendresse said was the best morning skate of the season today.

Man, just so many good signs tonight that this team is buying what Mike Yeo is selling.

1. Yeo storms off the ice at the morning skate in Detroit and tells the team that preparation for games doesn't happen at gametime, but in the morning. Then, the Wild shows up today as a collective 20 focused and have a crisp, sharp skate?

2. Yeo and his staff have been trying to get this team to shoot. It took 45 shots tonight -- a franchise-record at home. It had the first 11 in the second period and 22 in the second, one off the team record for a period. It had 26 shots by the 30-minute mark. This is a team that entered tonight having averaged 25 shots PER GAME (fourth-fewest in the NHL).

3. Yeo sternly talked to Marek Zidlicky for 20 minutes on the ice yesterday. How does he respond? Just tying his career high with a PLUS-4!

4. Yeo changes the top two lines, putting Latendresse with Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley, and Devin Setoguchi with Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Matt Cullen to create jump and two lines, one built on power, the other with speed.

The result was all offense. Latendresse tied the game with a sick backhand. Heatley had seven shots. Cullen had his ninth 2-goal game of his career and tied a career-high with nine shots. He also had an assist. And Bouchard finally showed with his first goal (21 seconds after Latendresse) and 3 points. Cullen also won 13 of 17 faceoffs, was plus-3 and I was raving about him on Twitter way before he even scored tonight. He was that awesome in all three zones and at even-strength and on both special teams.

Lots and lots of unsung heroes tonight:

-- Wild was down 1-0 when Brad Staubitz beat the tar out of Aaron Volpatti -- momentum-builder. It was 2-1 just 1:13 after Staubitz's fight.

-- Darroll Powe, tremendous, especially on the PK, where he blocked two shots and took two shots.

-- Colton Gillies -- very good, fast, physical

-- Cal Clutterbuck -- six hits, taking hits to make plays

-- Marco Scandella -- just steady, steady play and one mammoth shot for a goal

-- Nick Schultz -- Plus-3, one assist

-- Setoguchi -- outbattled two Canucks behind the net before Bouchard's goal -- the eventual winner.

-- Josh Harding -- 24 saves,1.47 goals against average this season, .964 save percentage. He's won three in a row for the first time since March 12-26, 2010. He is 13-5-2 all-time at home as a starter, with a 2.20 goals against average and .927 save percentage. Oh, is there any doubt you come back with him Saturday vs. St. Louis?

Zero, I'd say.

"Good stuff," as my pal, Kings coach, Terry Murray loves to say.

Now the Wild has to keep it up. Like any good coach, Yeo immediately was challenging his team to bring this again Saturday, to not let up, to not get on that high mountain and thinking you're all that. I think that's what happened a bit to Vancouver tonight after scoring 12 goals the past two games.

Lastly, Cal Clutterbuck inadvertently twice punched linesman Darren Gibbs today. The man can take a punch. Maxim Lapierre, being the agitator he is, tried to lift Clutterbuck by the leg and put him into the Canucks bench while at one point Dan Hamhuis grabbed Clutterbuck from the bench.

Trying to defend himself, Clutterbuck threw 2 punches -- only he got the linesman. Clutterbuck, Hamhuis and Lapierre got 10-minute misconducts, which is key. Not game misconducts, which means no abuse of officials being charged by referee Tim Peel and Gibbs. In fact, Gibbs skated to the ref after and said something and Clutterbuck still got off.

I think it's being deemed an accident (refs wouldn't comment) and abuse of officials discipline according to Rule 40.1 must be deliberate.

Here's the second punch:

Couple other things I had to trim out of the notebook, and please read the gamer and notebook for quotes from the game and a red-hot Casey Wellman update:


Yeo was happy for captain Mikko Koivu when he scored his first goal of the season – a tying goal with a minute left -- in Detroit on Tuesday. He then set up Devin Setoguchi’s overtime winner after a powerful move to protect the puck in the corner against Niklas Kronwall.
Yeo was hoping the critics would get off Koivu’s back for a lack of offense.
“I believe that this guy should be considered for Selke Trophy winner,” Yeo said the trophy given annually to the NHL’s best defensive forward. “The guy kills penalties, the guy is great on faceoffs, night in night out plays against top lines. I bet if you go around the league and ask guys if they like playing against him, I know they don’t.
“You go into a corner with him, you know you’re going to have to put everything you got into trying to win that battle.”
Yeo said Koivu’s offensive numbers are sacrificed because “there’s no cheat to his game.”



Former Blackhawks defenseman Jordan Hendry (two assists, plus-8) was released from his tryout with Houston so he can sign with Lugano in Switzerland.
 

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