Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.

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Posts about Wild off-season news

Game 5 preview from St. Louis

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 24, 2015 - 2:00 PM

St. Louis _

Some observations from the Blues and Wild morning skates at Scottrade Center:

-This is a series between point guards and power forwards. You walk around the Blues’ lockerroom and you see bodies that would look at home in an NFL facility. You walk around the Wild’s and you don’t see many candidates for protein powder commercials. You wonder, if this series goes seven games, whether the Blues’ superior size could wear down the smaller Wild.

-Devan Dubnyk is a loose, funny guy. He talked about feeling that he’s ``in the right place,’’ and that because of that feeling he doesn’t feel the amount of pressure he expected during a playoff series. ``We feel like we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing right now,’’ he said. ``We feel like we can win this game and win this series, and that’s when you know you’re supposed to be here, when it feels right.’’

-Zach Parise is so demanding of himself that I saw him curse himself after he missed the goal during drills.

-Parise is wearing a scruffy beard. He joked that he hasn’t had much success growing them in the past, but he’s giving it a try right now.

-Parise admitted he doesn’t like talking about opponents during playoff series. He’s close friends with Blues forward Chris Porter – they played at Shattuck together – but the two haven’t spoken during this series. Parise wouldn’t even offer praise of the Blues’ spectacular Vladimir Tarasenko. ``He’s good,’’ was all Parise would say.

-For Minnesota Wild fans who don’t get to travel to away games, please understand how good you have it. Of the away arenas I’ve traveled to in recent years – St. Louis, Colorado, Chicago, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, Anaheim and Dallas – only Anaheim and Dallas are anywhere as close as nice a joint as the Xcel Energy Center. They don’t actually compared, but at least they’re not dumps like Scottrade. Chicago has a tremendous game-day experience because of the fans, the Anthem and the game production, but the building itself is nowhere as comfortable and fan-friendly as the X.

-Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was tremendous when talking about the reasons for the lopsided performances so far in this series. I’m writing about that for the newspaper, but he noted that he’s never seen such short shifts, and that’s due to these being two teams offering maximum effort and investing themselves totally in their defensive assignments. Since Hitchcock has won 708 NHL games, his perspective is fascinating. This has been a remarkable series for sheer effort.

-Hitchcock noted that Blues agitator Steve Ott has played better, and under more control, when used at center. Hitchcock said that as a winger ``he’s a big of a wingnut.’’ His point: When Ott is at wing, he doesn’t worry about controlling the puck or maintaining position, leaving him free to roam around causing trouble. At center, he tries to run his line, keeping him in line.

-Wild captain Mikko Koivu has one assist and no goals in this series. Since 2008, when he had four goals and an assist in six games, he has one goal and seven assists in 22 games. He does a lot of little things well for this team. He is not doing the big things well.

-I’m not a big believer in the plus-minus statistic in hockey, but, for what it’s worth, Mikael Granlund is the only Wild player with a positive, at plus-2.

-Patrick Berglund leads the Blues at plus-5.

-Hitchcock said defenseman Alex Petrangelo has been his best player so far.

-Personal view: I picked the Wild to win in seven, and thought the first three games of the series – the Wild finding a way to win one in St. Louis, the Blues bouncing back, the Wild dominating Game 3 – were all fairly predictable. I did not expect the Blues to dominate the way they did in Game 4. I agree with Hitchcock when he said, ``The series is where it should be, all even. And I expect a really good hockey game tonight.’’

=================

Michael Russo and I will do a live podcast from St. Louis at 4 p.m. today (Friday) to preview Game 5. You can listen live or later at SouhanUnfiltered.com, or via Iheartradio. You can also get a free subscription through Itunes that will deliver every podcast to your inbox. Thanks.

@Souhanstrib

How Chuck Fletcher made me look bad

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 12, 2015 - 6:02 PM

On Jan. 10, the Wild lost a home game to Nashville while looking completely helpless. After the game, I wrote that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher should not try to save the season, that doing so would cost him prospects or draft picks and probably not provide enough help to salvage a horrible season in which his team was damaged by illnesses, the deaths of family members, injuries, the failure of young players to develop, and, of course, terrible goaltending.

Fletcher wisely did not listen to me. He traded a third-round draft pick for Devan Dubnyk and saved the season. Even if the Wild failed to make the playoffs from here, Fletcher will have been proved right. He gave his team a chance, a chance I didn't think existed.

I'm going to write about this topic more in the near future: It's heartening when a local talent evaluator makes the kind of move that the average observer could not have envisioned.

Fletcher saw something in Dubnyk that was not readily apparent to most of the population. It might be his most impressive move to date.

I'll be covering the Wild-Panthers game tonight with colleague Michael Russo.

You can find recent podcasts by myself and Michael at SouhanUnfiltered.com. Just don't tell anyone about the stuff Michael says on the podcast. It will get him into trouble.

Also, I'll be appearing every weekday afternoon on 105.1 The Ticket with Bob Sansevere. Please check it out.

@Souhanstrib

Yeo on State of Wild (Not State of Hockey)

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 2, 2014 - 2:53 PM

Wild coach Mike Yeo met with some high school hockey coaches on Tuesday.

Yes, he said, half-joking, they had suggestions for his power play.

It's been an interesting season for the Wild. They've battled the mumps. They've signed some of their best young players to long-term contracts. They seem to have set themselves up to be contenders for seasons to come, and yet, despite all of their promise, they are ninth in their conference right now, one point out of a playoff spot.

I asked Yeo how he feels about that.

``I would say that we have room for improvement, there's no question,'' he said after practice. ``I look at the stretch that we went through and there was an awful lot of travel, and during that time I felt that our game began to slip a little bit.

``I felt in the St. Louis game that we started moving in the right direction. In saying that, I think we've won six of our last eight games. at the same time, there's a certain feel taht you have when you're watching from the bench and you feel that your team is right on it.

`i look at where we're at right now. Far more imprtnat for me than the standings, and we've won six of eight, I want to make sure that we're tracking i the right direction. We have an opportunity now, schedule-wise, to get practice in to make sure we're playing the games the right way. i would really like to see our team move forward  here.''

I had a long conversation with Wild owner Craig Leipold, who said, ``In my heart, I believe we're going to be a better team as the season goes on.''

Leipold also told me that Thomas Vanek's gambling debts bothered him, and that general manager Chuck Fletcher has met with Vanek to make sure there isn't more to the story. Leipold said he thinks Vanek simply made a mistake.

As far as Yeo's comments, cover any underperforming team and you'll hear similar sentiments. In this case, I tend to believe Yeo and Leipold. The power-play can't be this bad for much longer. I spoke with several people affiliated with the organization who say they believe the key power play players have become up tight and have failed to shoot when shots are available. I've also heard from several people that Yeo should try changing up personnel, perhaps involving Nino Neiderreiter more.

But there's too much skill for the power play to languish forever.

As much as hockey people love to talk about the hard-edged aspects of the game, over a long season successful NHL teams find ways to score easy goals, either via individual skill or the power play. If the Wild's power play improves to even average it will give this team a big boost.

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My full conversation with Leipold, involving Vince Gill, The Beatles, his business and leadership philosophies, the difficulty of firing Doug Risebrough, and his memories of his mother are on my podcast at Souhanunfiltered.com. Previous conversations with Paul Molitor, Michael Russo, Mark Craig, Twins' assistant general manager Rob Antony and ESPN.com football writer Kevin Seifert are up, too.

Tomorrow (Wednesday, Dec. 3) at 5 p.m. I'll host a new podcast at The Local in downtown Minneapolis. My guest will be Twins star Glen Perkins. Next Wednesday it will be at Kierans Irish Pub with Jayhawks front man Gary Louris, who is doing solo work and will play at the Cedar Cultural Center on Dec. 11. Dec. 17 it's back to The Local with guest Roy Smalley, the former Twin and great baseball storyteller.

All podcasts go up at Souhanunfiltered.com. Thanks for reading and listening.

@Souhanstrib

Parise on lunch, Koivu, changing up routine

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: May 11, 2014 - 12:49 PM

Chicago –

BREAKING NEWS EXCLUSIVE TO THE STAR TRIBUNE: Wild star Zach Parise told me what he eats for lunch every gameday.

``Lunch is going to be the same,’’ Parise said after the Wild’s morning skate at United Center. ``Pasta, chicken, a little salad with ranch, bread and olive oil. Home and road, it’s always the same.’’

That was about the only new out of the morning skate, other than this: The Wild, as it did before Game 7 in Colorado, changed the players’ locker stalls. ``Trying to reverse the luck,’’ Parise said.

Of course, the Wild’s only road win during the playoffs was at Colorado in Game 7.

The Wild is 0-5 in United Center during the playoffs the last two years, but this is a different team. Last year, when Parise and Mikko Koivu struggled to score against Chicago, the Wild had few other offensive options. This year, Koivu has just one assist in the four games, but the Wild has been able to win two games while Koivu has concentrated his efforts on stopping Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews.

``I think he did a really good job the last two games against Toews’ line, not only slowing him down but keeping the puck in the offensive zone,’’ Parise said. ``To me, that’s the best defense, to make them work in their own end a little bit.’’

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I’ll be covering Game 5 tonight in Chicago along with colleague Michael Russo. I’ll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. and on 1500ESPN in the Twin Cities at 12:15ish on Monday to recap the game. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

Wild wins, Bridgewater arrives, Twins beat JV

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: May 10, 2014 - 12:04 AM

Quite a day on the tundra.

The Wild played brilliantly in a 4-2 victory over the Blackhawks. Wrote my column for the Friday paper on the Wild's dominance.

The Twins beat Justin Verlander in Detroit with a limited roster.

The Vikings introduced their potential franchise quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, and the guy, at least, passed the interview portion of his career.

Then Bridgewater attended the Wild game, and saw what I saw: The local franchise thoroughly outplay the Stanley Cup champs.

My takeaways from the Wild game:

-I'm no fan of Matt Cooke or his history, but he played extremely well on Friday. His energy and forechecking led to the Wild's first goal and set up a couple of other prime chances.

-Ilya Bryzgalov gave up a terrible goal in the first period, but settled down. He allowed two goals in two home games to the Blackhawks. That's far better than could have been expected.

-The Wild's quality depth at forward has led to an impressive forecheck and plenty of scoring chances. This team, unlike last year's, doesn't have to have Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu score to succeed.

-Marco Scandella and Clayton Stoner are becoming the defensemen the Wild hoped they would be.

-The atmosphere at the X was outstanding once again. Late starts on a Friday play havoc with newspaper deadlines, but they're good for pre-game lubrication.

-Wild coach Mike Yeo's ability to match Koivu against Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews has helped hold Chicago in check. Koivu has managed only one point during this series, but his defense has been exemplary, and he saved at least two goals with timely checks on Friday.

-If Nino Niederreiter keeps working for the puck and skating the way he is now, he's going to become a star. He already has a star's shot, and he's willing to go to the front of the net.

---------------

I'll be in Chicago for Game 5, so I'll be doing Sunday Sports Talk on 1500ESPN from 10-noon on Sunday, with Korzo in studio.

My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

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