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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Red-hot Wild extends NHL-lead to 4 points: "We’re not satisfied and settling with that"

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild game coverage Updated: December 10, 2011 - 11:08 PM

The Wild won again, 4-1 over Phoenix – to take a four-point lead in the NHL and five-point lead in the Western Conference.
The victory was Minnesota’s seventh in a row, seventh in a row on the road and 17th out of 21 overall. It now is 10-3-2 on the road, tops in the NHL in terms of points (22).
It was the first NHL team to 40 points Thursday in L.A. (now has 43 in 30 games, not accomplished to Game 39 last year). Tonight, it became the first team to 20 wins, something the Wild didn’t accomplish until Game 40 last year.
But most impressive?
No celebrations. No high horse. No patting itself on the back. No, “We’re so cool, we’re so good.”
This team takes on the personality of its coach, and Mike Yeo calls it a “process,” and Mike Yeo says, “winners are never satisfied,” so after tonight’s win, every single player said they’re looking forward to keeping it going in Winnipeg.
It’s always play, it’s usually win, and it’s always move on to the next one.
As Yeo said after this one when told he had a four-point lead in the NHL, “The only reason we’re here is we’re not happy with that. We’re not satisfied and settling with that.”
It’s pretty hard not to buy in whenever this guy speaks, and you can see why the players have all bought in.
Hey, tonight wasn’t all roses. The Wild got off to another great start, but after killing off a power play late in the first, the final five minutes of the period and much of the second, the Wild sat back and didn’t really get much going in the offensive zone.
Now, it was certainly opportunistic when Mikko Koivu made it 2-0 and Kyle Brodziak scored his second power-play goal of the game to make it 3-0. Those were the first two of the Wild’s three second-period shots.
But Yeo wasn’t thrilled and says the Wild can’t get into shells when leading.
“I love the way we want to defend and I love the fact that we can defend well and the commitment of the guys, but when we’re down, we haven’t changed our game. So when we’re up, let’s not change our game either.”
Yeo felt it was one of the Wild’s worst games in the offensive zone, “but the things we did well, we did very well.”
He was talking about Niklas Backstrom’s goaltending (35 saves in his return from a groin injury) and the Wild’s special teams. It killed off four Phoenix power plays and scored three power-play goals for the first time since Oct. 19, 2010.
In fact, it was only the third time this season the Wild’s scored two power-play goals, first since Oct. 27 and first time on the road.
Brodziak was awesome, but read the game story for that. He leads the Wild with 10 goals and has two 2-goal games in the past five.
Remember, I wrote a centerpiece three or so weeks ago saying he’s doing everything but scoring. Now he’s lighting it up and, as Yeo said, “His defensive commitment hasn’t wavered one single bit.”
Brodziak, always the team guy, wouldn’t give himself any credit, saying, “It’s just the product of what we’re doing. The way everybody’s playing just makes it easier for all of us.”
Mikko Koivu was great and he has points in 11 of his last 12 games (6 goals, 16 points). Dany Heatley scored and now has a point in six straight games. Jared Spurgeon had two assists, as did Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who was so good on the road trip at creating turnovers with speed on the forecheck.
I thought Mike Lundin and Nick Schultz were awesome tonight. Lundin’s headman pass to Jeff Taffe on the rush was exceptional en route to Koivu’s pretty snap-shot one-timer, and he drew a penalty and was sound defensively. Schultz was a stud on the PK and had five blocked shots.

By the way, remember when the Wild couldn't score? It's averaged 3.57 goals a game during the seven-game win streak.

Cal Clutterbuck should be back by Winnipeg. The Wild sent Taffe back to Houston after the game. He was real good. Two assists in two games, and the former Coyote is a real good guy. First time I’ve ever talked to him. He should offer the Wild quality depth the rest of the way. The way he played these two games, he just leapfrogged a couple guys in the callup department in my opinion.
That’s it for me folks. The Wild will be off Sunday, so barring news, no blog Sunday. But of course, I’ll have a story in Monday’s paper. Kent Youngblood has Monday’s practice and a real nice story in the can for Tuesday’s paper. I’ll talk to you next Tuesday morning from Winnipeg.


 

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