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 player moves

Yeo breaks it down

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: May 3, 2015 - 12:45 PM

Chicago

Nice to see Erik Haula not only in the lineup, but dressing in an actual locker today. No longer is he sitting under the occupancy sign and in front of a brick wall.

Haula will bring speed to the Wild's lineup, and I'm guessing that if Mike Yeo was willing to pick him to replace the injured Justin Fontaine, that Haula's conditioning and practice intensity have improved of late.

Sometimes Wild coach Mike Yeo is very forthcoming about the way the game is played, and I loved the way he broke down the Wild's philosophy when attacking the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks are excellent at breaking out after blocked shots or rebounds. So how does the Wild adapt to that?

Here's Yeo at length on the subject from this morning:

``One, you have to make sure that when you have an oportunity to shoot the puck you’re getting it off quickly. Especially their defensemen, they like to front a lot of shots, which leads to a lt of blocks, and obviously those blocks they’re in a pretty good structure and position where they can coutner attack from that.

It’s the recognition. We still have to shoot pucks. It’s not like we can all of s sudden be afraid to shoot pucks, we have to make sure we’re getting pucks there and if we do get it by then then quite often we’ve seen a few pictures already where we’re in behind them and we’re all alone with the goalie where we can create an advantage if we get it off a little bit quicker and do get it to the net.

``If that’s not there the recognition of making sure we’re not forcing it, that’s actually how we scored our first goal of the game, we didn’t’ have a play to the net and their defensemen were coming up, we were able to get that puck down low and establish some puck control from there.''

Yeo was also asked about the closeness of many of his players.

Yeo: ``Obviously as a coach you try to learn as much as you can what builds teams. Certainly we try to do anything we can as far as the team0-building. First and foremost it’s about bringing eh right people into your organization. But nothing builds a team the way that winning does. As we’ve started to win some more games, players start to recognize and they look across the lockerroom and see a guy who is doing everything he can to help you and your cause, those are the things that build a team for sure. We’ve got good people and we’ve got good people pulling for each other.''

I also liked his answer to a question about Matt Dumba's enthusiasm. Dumba has been full of life during practices here.

Yeo: ``I think that’s a really really important quality. Quite often there’s such emotion and with emotion comes tension and obviously frustration at times, at the complete other end of the spectrum. The ability to enjoy what we’re in right now, to me that’s crucial, and obviously we all have big plans of what we’d like to do here, but the bottom line is you have to enjoy what you’re doing ,and you have to enjoy the competition and you have to enjoy the hard parts. It’s something that we try to stress – that’s what makes it great right now. Enjoy the pressures and enjoy  the difficulties and the battles through the course of the game, because in the game overcoming that stuff is what makes it so great.

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When the Twins started 1-6, guess what? Fans were angry, because this felt like the same ol' mediocre team.

Since then, the Twins are 11-6 even without their two primary free agent signees the last two seasons, Ervin Santana and Ricky Nolasco.

Paul Molitor should be commended for providing calm when this team needed it. Players are raving about his demeanor. I also think Torii Hunter's ability to remain positive while he and the team were struggling has played a role.

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On SouhanUnfiltered.com, Michael Russo and I previewed the series in our last podcast. Next one: 2 p.m. Tuesday at The Liffey, across from the Xcel Energy Center, with Wild owner Craig Leipold. Free Guinnesses and prizes to people who show up.

@Souhanstrib

               

Zach Parise is suddenly full of praise

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: May 1, 2015 - 1:50 PM

CHICAGO – During the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, while facing the St. Louis Blues, Wild forward Zach Parise offered little in terms of praise. He kept saying that he doesn’t like to talk about opponents during the playoffs.

Now that Parise is facing the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round, suddenly he is quite happy talking about the opponent.

My guess: He really didn’t like or respect the way the Blues played, and, because he’s such an honest guy, knew he couldn’t say anything nice about that would be truthful.

Now he’s facing a championship-caliber team with classy core players, and he’s fine praising them.

``We know how good they, are and how good they can be, and we respect them,’’ Parise said Friday after the Wild’s morning skate at United Center. ``We respect how good they are and how much success they’ve had as a team. And we know that we have to play our best to beat them.’’

The Blues tried to start fights, or bait the Wild into retaliation, after almost every whistle. The Blackhawks feature one instigator, in Andrew Shaw, but even he probably won’t go the lengths that Blues forward Steve Ott did, patting Jason Zucker on the head.

``I don’t think this is two teams that get in scrums after the whistle,’’ Parise said. ``It’s not like our first round where after every whistle there’s a scrum. I just don’t think the two teams are built like that. I think that both teams respect the way the other team plays and what they do.’’

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Strib hockey writer Michael Russo and I are in Chicago for Games 1-2. We're also doing a podcast at 5 p.m. today. You can find it at SouhanUnfiltered.com. You can listen live or anytime later via the web site, Iheart radio, or Itunes. Thanks.

@Souhanstrib

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

Yeo defends use of Dubnyk

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: March 19, 2015 - 10:35 PM

Devan Dubnyk wasn't the problem in the Wild's 3-2 loss to Washington on Thursday night.

Alex Ovechkin made one stunning play to score a goal, and scored another off a faceoff on a shot that Dubnyk never saw.

In general, it was typical of the Wild's recent losses - by one goal, at home, to a physical team.

Wild coach Mike Yeo has played Dubnyk relentlessly since he arrived. I don't think Dubnyk looked tired on Thursday, but I was curious about Yeo's philosophy, so I asked if he has seen any signs of fatigue from his goalie.

Yeo's full answer:

``I thought he was really good tonight. I don’t think we could fault him on anything tonight. I know there’s a lot of talk about this right now, but looking at the minutes he’s played…

``We just played a goalie of a team that’s been battling for first place in the conference, (Nashville's) Pekka Rine, and they played him four games in six days. They’ve been playing him every day. Carey Price is playing every game. That’s where the league is at right now.

``The game means something so you're going to go with the guy you think is hot and the guy you think gives you the best chance that night. Certainly it's something to keep an eye on, But I haven’t seen anything. For some reason, it’s a story that keeps coming up, and I haven’t seen any reason for it.''

For the record, I'm not actually second-guessing Yeo on this. He has one goalie playing exceptionally, and two who can't be trusted. I'd do the same thing.

I do wonder if Dubnyk will wear down, and whether playing every game will catch up with him in the playoffs, if the Wild makes it.

The gap between Dubnyk and the backups is so immense right now, Yeo has little choice but to keep playing Dubnyk.

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Last 3 podcasts this week on SouhanUnfiltered.com: Quincy Lewis, Peter Killen and Michael Russo. Friday night, 6 p.m. at O'Gara's, my guest will be Gophers senior associate athletic director Dan O'Brien, who was born in Winthrop and attended St. Thomas.

Stop by or use SouhanUnfiltered.com like a radio DVR. It's radio on demand, available any time on any computer or device.

@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

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