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Russo's Rants

Michael Russo gives you complete coverage of the Minnesota Wild and the NHL

Postgame: Wild competes and defends better, but loses in OT

The Wild very easily could have won this afternoon's game against Detroit.

But it didn't after the Wild's long list of snakebit players again couldn't convert in a 3-2 overtime loss in the team's final game EVER at the Joe.

But, even though the Wild was playing a Detroit Red Wings team poised to miss the playoffs for the first in 26 seasons, the Wild took the positives out of this one after competing much better than we've seen in some time and held the Red Wings, who usually have an itchy home shot counter, to 19 shots -- three in the third period.


Couple tidbits first:

-- Non-Wild news, but I hear Vinni Lettieri is very close to deciding his future. The Gophers free-agent forward is deciding between the Rangers and Blackhawks. He loves both and has been to Rangers development camps many times in the past.

-- Wild news. GM Chuck Fletcher reached out to Jordan Greenway’s advisor about turning pro Sunday after the Wild draft pick and Boston University power forward was eliminated by University of Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday.

It’ll be up to Greenway, but with the contract likely not to start until next year and an amateur tryout in the offering to start immediately in Iowa, Greenway will need to decide if it’s worth ending his sophomore semester early for a few weeks in the American Hockey League.

So, if he doesn't sign immediately, don't freak.

-- I tweeted in the second period Sunday that it looked like Devan Dubnyk went to the defensemen side of the bench and gave a pep talk.

I shouldn't assume things from the press box. Turns out that Dubnyk was having such trouble playing the puck because of the always odd caroms off the Joe Louis Arena's bouncy dashers and boards (Nate Prosser scored a goal after a funky one today), he told the defensemen that he didn't plan to leave the net again to play the puck on rims unless they were obvious easy ones.

"I said, 'Just plan on me staying in the net,'" Dubnyk said.

-- Lately, Eric Staal and Charlie Coyle have been only taking faceoffs on their strong side, meaning Staal in left circles and Coyle in right, because they both feel they're stronger on their backhand, like most centers in the NHL.

A couple times lately, it burned the Wild, and again today. After Coyle iced the puck late in the first period, he lost a draw cleanly and the Red Wings tied the score with 18.5 seconds left. The goal ruined a strong first by the Wild after Staal gave the Wild a 1-0 lead on his team-leading 26th.

The Wild lost 12 of 15 draws in the first period but ended up winning 31 of 55.

As for the game, the Wild fell to 29-3-3 when leading after two periods and blew a pair of one-goal leads.

During this bad 3-10-1 month, the penalty kill has been about the only thing that's been above average. So, the past two games, the PK of course gave up some huge goals, including 55 seconds into the third to tie the game and ruin the Prosser storyline.

He scored his first goal since Feb. 14, 2015, to snap a 106-game goal drought, the second-longest spell in the NHL (183 Wild games actually if you include his scratches).

In the final minute of regulation, Jimmy Howard made big stops on Eric Staal, Jason Zucker and Jason Pominville. In overtime, he denied Erik Haula on a 2-on-1 right before the winner.

Martin Hanzal again was tough to watch at times tonight, and Boudreau actually didn't play Haula in the last 12 1/2 minutes of regulation, according to the ice time log.

Boudreau thought it was less, and Haula thought it was about nine.

Boudreau said he had no problem with Haula's game, but in a 2-2 game, he didn't want to change the lines when he decided to cut to nine forwards. He decided to trim down because the fourth line got hemmed in their last shift and he didn't want them to get caught on the ice against the Henrik Zetterberg line.

I asked Haula how he's handling being demoted to the fourth line since the Hanzal trade (other than the three games Hanzal was sick).

“I don’t really know how to answer that. I honestly don’t, really,” Haula said before referring to the Wild’s 11 losses in 14 games. “Overall picture, it’s just unfortunate how things are going. It’d be less frustrating if we were winning.”

Haula did say, "It’s tough when I didn’t play for the last nine minutes and you get a chance in overtime and get that look,” Haula said. “I can’t really be complaining if I can’t put that in.”

Haula noted he hasn’t scored since a goal he thought should have counted in Columbus on March 2 was disallowed. He has no goals and one assist in the past 14 games.

He's one of many snakebit guys that I'll document in Tuesday's paper.

Veteran Chris Stewart, who has two goals in the past 25 games, was scratched for the first time this season.

“I don’t think he’s played as well as he’s capable of playing,” Boudreau said, adding somebody has to be scratched and he wanted to play Jordan Schroeder today.

As I said, the Wild took the positives out of this one.

"We held them to three shots in the third period. That’s the best game we’ve played in a month," Boudreau said. "To hold this team to under 20 shots, in their building, where they count everything that even looks like a shot, pretty good. We would have loved to get the extra point. We didn’t get it, and they did."

Boudreau said, "We played the right way today. We got it deep when we had to get it deep, you didn’t see the constant odd-man rushes against for the most part. You saw playing the smart way, and I thought we had good chances to score and win the game."

Some other quotes:

Prosser said, "For most of that game, I thought we dictated a pretty good portion of that game. I think there’s a lot of positives that we can take from this. Obviously it’s not the result we wanted; we wanted wins and that’s what matters right now. But we battled and competed on the road in a tough building. It’s making the simple, hard plays in effect all the way up and down the lineup, and we were doing that. There is some positives that we can take from this, and I thought that as a team, this is one of our better team games."

Staal said, "This is a better effort. We have to feel better about our game as a whole. We’ve been chasing games. Tonight we were initiating a little bit more, a little more on our toes. With breaks, we would have extended the lead. Overall this is the type of hockey this be rest of the this year and the playoffs. We have to get used to it and we should be. We’ve got good players in here that know how to play defense. It’s a better game than we’ve had the last few. But we want to win. Losing [stinks].

"We’re after wins here and two points every night. But, looking big picture, this is the type of game we need to keep playing. We need to grab a hold of that and understand that. This is the type of hockey it’s going to be the rest of the way and playoff time. Be comfortable in these kind of matches. We had our looks to get an extended lead and to win it in overtime.

"Our battle level was high. We competed in a lot of areas we wanted to. Our compete and hunger to get back on track that we want to be on was a lot better."

Koivu said, "It’s tough to say that right now. We’ve got to take some positives out of it. I thought it was better. That’s not enough. But you’ve got to start somewhere. There was a lot of good in that game and we just came short."

Washington Capitals come to St. Paul on Tuesday for a quick two-game homestand.

I have to catch a flight. Off-day Monday, so no blog unless there's news. Next Russo-Souhan Show is Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Hell's Kitchen.

Postgame: Wild's spiral downward continues

Bluntly, the Wild’s one bad hockey team right now.

It’s that simple. Just look at the third-period power play it had tonight when players were busy slapping errant passes to each other, almost like, “Here, it’s your problem now.”

Last game, the loss to the Flyers, was troubling because the Wild looked fatigued and lacked fight. Today’s game – a 4-2 loss to a Vancouver team that had won six times since the All-Star break – was troubling because the Wild didn’t seem engaged, didn’t battle until it was down 4-0, couldn’t execute one-timers, simple passes, overskated rebounds, shattered sticks.

So many snakebit players all over the ice, yet the Wild continues to play soft hockey in every facet, especially in its zone as evidenced by the four goals it allowed in the second period – matched a Wild home record for most goals against in a period.

The Wild, which still can officially clinch tonight if the Rangers beat the Kings in regulation, lost for the ninth time in 11 games and 10th time in 13 games this month.

Brock Boeser, fresh out of a University of North Dakota sweater, scored his first goal in a Canucks sweater. It was pretty sweet because his family – mother, father, uncles, aunts, cousins – were all sitting in the main concourse level suite closest to where he scored (please read my game notebook on this because the Canucks classily let his parents announce the starting lineup to the team; Boeser started with the Sedins and played regularly with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi).

But back to the Titanic that is the Wild.

The Burnsville native’s goal was the game-winner after Ryan Suter and Eric Staal scored in the final 2:41 of the game to make the score seem less humiliating.

Wild fans let the Wild players have it with mock cheers and boos in the second, and coach Bruce Boudreau did the same after the game saying the outcome was “embarrassing,” he was embarrassed and if he were the fans, he’d boo more.

The Wild’s simply fallen apart and with eight games left in the regular season, there’s very little time for this team to patch itself together again.

Anybody who feels that can magically happen in the first round is fooling themselves, and Boudreau knows it. He slammed the team after the game in a fairly controlled manner.

“It’s got to be up to them,” he said. “That was embarrassing. I’m embarrassed. To me, if I were the fans I would be booing even more because they pay good money for this, and to see an effort like that. When you don’t win any battles – you know, I’ve been here when we’ve been losing and I haven’t said anything too negative about the team, but I mean, if you can’t compete one on one, if you don’t have the emotion to want to get out there and do the right things, let alone the things the coaches are telling you, I’m telling you, if this was earlier in the year, changes would be made.”

Changes can’t be made now. It’s completely up to this cast. Trade deadline’s gone, and it’s not like the Wild can recall half of Iowa to send a message (not that it would want to anyway). You’re only permitted four non-emergency callus after the trade deadline.

Sign of a fragile team is just how easily this game turned upside down.

Started with veteran Ryan Suter taking a penalty. Seconds into the second, it continued with veteran Mikko Koivu having his clearing attempt blocked. Seconds after that, it continued with veteran Jared Spurgeon being unable to intercept a bouncing puck. Boom, 1-0.

“The puck was bouncing, but at the same time we just let them skate right in and shoot the puck,” Boudreau said. “Nobody took anybody, we just flopped around.”

Reid Boucher, who scored the first goal, made it 2-0 after play was stopped because Toronto saw the puck actually hit the camera in the back of the net, not the post.

This happened after Christian Folin turned the puck over and Darcy Kuemper, starting for the first time since March 10, yanked in his past two starts and giving Devan Dubnyk his first rest since Feb. 16, didn’t stop a stoppable shot.

Just so soft all over the zone

“Every facet, we don’t win a battle,” Boudreau said. “In front of the net it seems like teams have total leeway, they’re doing what they want, whereas we can’t get to the net. I don’t know, at this stage, whether that’s the will to get to the net or if the other teams are being that good. But they had a player today that played for North Dakota last night. I don’t think college hockey is as good as the NHL and he scored a goal.”

Boeser made it 3-0 after Marco Scandella, the king of getting shots blocked, got a shot blocked by Sven Baertschi. Scandella tried to go get the puck, but Baertschi kicked it out to Boeser, who triggered a breakaway because Scandella and Spurgeon were now out of position.

But things got worse when Scandella retreated, then didn’t stick with Boeser and peeled off. Kuemper made the save, couldn’t hold the puck and now a left alone Boeser scored.

Scandella owned the mistake.
Asked how disappointed he is with the vets, Boudreau said, “There’s a lot of guys I’m disappointed in right now. I’m not going to mention names. They might be disappointed in me – I don’t know. But I know one thing – we’re not going to use fatigue as an excuse anymore. I don’t care if we play four nights in a row, we’re going to be practicing hard when we start practicing again.

“Practicing hard. See how bad they want to get out of it. Because talking to them and being nice isn’t the way right now.”

Of course, the next scheduled practice is Wednesday. Wild plays in Detroit at 11:30 a.m. Sunday and is off Monday and plays Tuesday.

Some player quotes:

Kuemper on fans turning on them: “I get it. We’re just as frustrated, trust me. We’re out there trying, and things aren’t going our way right now. You can kind of see it in our play. We’re just as frustrated as they are, so I understand where they’re coming from.”

Kuemper on the second period: “They got the power-play goal. Then we had stretches where we were good, and then we just had some breakdowns and they were capitalizing on their chances. Things snowballed in the whole building, and we couldn’t get to the intermission fast enough.”

Scandella on the chances lately: “We have to tighten up defensively and play like we did in the third. That’s the main thing. We can’t give them big chances; that’s what we’re giving up every game right now. They’re capitalizing, but we’re giving up big chances and that’s not our team.”

Scandella on the early goals (Boucher’s first goal was 19 seconds into the second after Philly scored the winner 21 seconds into the second): “It’s killing us, and we just gotta clean that up. Like I said, tighten up defensively. We’re very capable in this room; we’ve got a great group. And not giving away games like that, not giving away big chances.”

Mikael Granlund: “It’s tough. We’ve just got to find a way. This is not good enough and we all know that. We will get better. I’m sure about that. We gotta find it.”

Jason Zucker on the second: “Yeah, it wasn't good enough. We are leaving guys open. We aren't winning battles. We are hanging our goalies out to dry. I don't think we're prepared enough to start some periods and they score quick and we're not being resilient enough to come back.”

Zucker on how guys are fighting it: “We aren't crisp. We aren't sharp. Everybody seems to be fighting it. It all starts with winning battles and playing to our strengths and not turning pucks over. Just playing the right away.”

Zucker on snapping out of it: “It doesn't just turn around. You can't just turn it on and off. You've got to start with one period and make it a second period and then a third period and that should win a game. You have to do the same thing over again and over again and over again. At that point, then it's something good. You can't do it for one period or one shift and hope that it's just going to all of a sudden turn around. We aren't going to get five empty net backdoor tap ins and all of a sudden win a game. It just doesn't work that way.”
Brock Boeser

On his parents in the room pregame: I had a few tears in my eyes when they brought them in because I'm thankful for everything they've done for me. Just being able to see them before the game was definitely nice and I was very happy to make them proud."
On lining up next to the Sedins: It's something you dream about, I mean, I think they got drafter the year I was born. So it's really special and a special moment and I'm definitely gonna cherish this for a long time."
on the last 24 hours: "Yeah, it's been crazy. Obviously a heartbreak loss there with my North Dakota team but, you know, I had to regroup there and focus on this game. I definitely think adrenaline kicked in here for this whole game."
On getting his first goal here: "It's an awesome experience and just to have my family and friends in the crowd I think it definitely means a lot to all of them and me and, like I said, it's a dream come true."
Does today lessen last night's loss: “No. It's a heartbreaking loss and it's hard to leave those guys in North Dakota but, you know, with me I had to take a new step and I'm looking forward to the future."
That’s it for me. I better jet to the airport. Talk to you from Detroit.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Tampa Bay at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm on FSN

  • Timberwolves at Indiana

    6 pm on FSN PLUS, 830-AM

  • Washington at Wild

    7 pm on NHLN, 100.3-FM

  • Twins at Boston (spring training)

    12:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Twins at Tampa Bay (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Ottawa at Wild

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 100.3-FM

  • L.A. Lakers at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Rochester at Twins (exhibition)

    11:05 am

  • Wild at Nashville

    1 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Real Salt Lake at Minnesota United FC

    7 pm on Ch. 29, 1500-AM

  • Sacramento at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Colorado at Wild

    5 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Kansas City at Twins

    3:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Portland at Timberwolves

    6 pm on FSN, 830-AM

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