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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Team Strib is at United Center today for Wild practice. Just listened to a few Blackhawks players and coach Joel Quenneville speak, and they kept ripping themselves for letting the Wild dominate puck possession in Game 1, particularly in the second period.
I view that as bad news for the Wild: They got beat, 5-2, and their opponents, the defending Stanley Cup champs, think they should play much better going forward.
My colleague Michael Russo came up with an incredible statistic on Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. in his last five starts, including the playoffs, he is 1-4 with a 4.96 goals-against average and a .819 save percentage. And in those five games, he has faced more than 24 shots only once.
The Wild has played very well over the last month from crease to crease, but its goalie situation remains untenable.
The Wild won round one because it peppered and took advantage of Semyon Varlamov. Now its facing a team whose perceived weakness is its goalie, Corey Crawford, and yet Crawford is playing better than Varlamov, and far better than Bryzgalov.
There has been another unsettling development for the Wild in the last month. While young forwards Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter have surged, Jonas Brodin, who developed much faster than his younger teammates, has regressed. He might have cost the Wild the game last night with his high-sticking penalties and overall shoddy play. He's got to be better.
We'll provide full coverage of Wild practice on startribune.com today and will have the usual full gameday coverage in the Sunday paper.
Please tune in to 1500ESPN from 10-noon tomorrow, as Scott Korzenowski and myself break down the Wild, Twins, NBA playoffs, Wolves coaching search and the saga of Donald Sterling.
Here's why the Wild lost:
They missed on a handful of great scoring chances near the net. Jason Pominville continues to shoot wide. Jonas Brodin, the best of the Wild's young players last year, has regressed. And the Blackhawks are the kind of team that will punish mistakes when you make as many as the Wild did on Friday night in a 5-2 loss to Chicago at United Center.
I wrote my column on goalie Ilya Bryzgalov's performance, and the Wild's desperation at the position. That will be in the Saturday paper and online.
The money quote of the night came from Wild coach Mike Yeo: ``I thought we had a handful of guys who were below-average at best.''
Unless Yeo was fibbing when he said that Josh Harding is a long shot to play in this series, the Wild will have to rally around Bryzgalov, but it's going to be tough to limit quality shots against the Blackhawks. The Wild enjoyed a 32-22 advantage in shots.
My theory is that when your team wins, you can call that an advantage. When you lose, those shots are nothing but missed opportunities.
Zach Parise said this game felt a little like the first game of the Colorado series, and he's right. The Wild played a talented opponent pretty evenly and lost.
I'd point out that the common denominator was Bryzgalov playing less than stellar between the pipes, but that's just me.
Clayton Stoner played very well
Michael Russo, myself and the startribune.com team have loaded the website with photos, videos, blog posts, columns and stories. Here are a few notes you probably don't really need to know heading into Game 1...
-Nino Niederreiter scored two goals, including the game-winner, in Game 7 on Wednesday. He also had an assist, making him, at 21, the fourth-youngest player to record three points in a Game 7. He is the second-youngest to score in OT of a Game 7. (Via Elias and Wild media relations)
-Zach Parise is tied for the NHL lead with 10 points this postseason. That's a career high for his most points in a single series. He set a Wild single-game playoff record with four points in Game 6 against Colorado.
-Parise has scored 25 playoff goals. His dad, J.P., scored 27.
-Mikko Koivu tonight will play in his 24th playoff game, tying him for second-most in Wild history along with Nick Schultz. Marian Gaborik played in 29.
-The Wild is 1-6, including five overtime losses, in the first game of a playoff series. It has lost its last six.
-In the Game 7 victory, the Wild became the first team ever to score four-game tying goals in a GAme 7. (Again via Elias and the Wild.)
-Ryan Suter was on the ice more than any other player during all seven games of the Colorado series.
-Dany Heatley, who began the series as a healthy scratch, wound up leading the team in plus-minus rating at plus-5.
-Charlie Coyle leads the Wild in hits and is tied for the team lead in goals, with three.
-Mikael Granlund has scored points in five straight games.
I'll be on 1500ESPN from 10-noon on Sunday. We'll provide lots of material and a video to startribune.com after the game, and in the Saturday paper. Thanks for reading.
Settled in at the United Center for practice today. Mike Russo and I will be filing blog posts, stories and videos.
First thought of the day: Even if you buy that Matt Cooke's hit on Tyson Barrie was unintentional, it's one of the big reasons the Wild is still alive.
With Barrie out, the Wild dominated puck possession by keeping the puck in the offensive zone and fiercely forechecking the Avalanche defense, which did not handle the pressure well.
Cooke's hit not only hurt the Avs, it wound up unintentionally helping the Wild. Cooke's seven-game suspension opened the way for Kyle Brodziak to return to the lineup, and Brodziak wound up playing a major role, especially in Game 7.
Cooke is eligible to return in Game 4 of this series. Wild coach Mike Yeo said he's looking forward to Cooke returning to the ilneup, because of Cooke's ability to check and defend.
In reality, Cooke has already done the Wild a favor, even if you think, like I do, that the suspension was just.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 12:15 with Mackey and Judd.
Greetings from Chicago, where we met with Wild coach Mike Yeo and the players at the team hotel before they met to game-plan for the Blackhawks series.
Wrote my column for the Friday paper on the unlikelihood of a line of Kyle Brodziak, Nino Niederreiter and Dany Heatley dominating Game 7 of the playoffs, and while speaking with Heatley, he went out of his way to spread some of the credit around.
Heatley was scratched in Games 1 and 2. Instead of griping, he, according to Yeo and his teammates, kept his chin up and encouraged his teammates. He said he actually benefitted from the rest, and from working on skating and skills with two Wild coaches who also played for the team, Darby Hendrickson and Andrew Brunette.
Hendrickson is an assistant coach. Brunette is an advisor to hockey operations and a power-play consultant. So, a coach.
``It was tough,’’ Heatley said of being scratched. ``You kind of knew that if you get scratched and the team goes on a good run it’s going to be tough to get back in. I kind of took it as a positive, to get some rest. You’ve got to give Darby and Bruno a lot of credit. They really helped me, skating, working on different stuff that you don’t get to do if you’re in the lineup.
``I did feel like when I was in the lineup I was able to help this team.’’
I've been impressed with this group's maturity. So often when a team pulls an upset, you hear coaches and athletes taunting anyone who could have possibly doubted them, overlooking the fact that their own performances in the past made them underdogs.
This team hasn't whined about bad calls, hasn't made excuses. Kyle Brodziak and Heatley were benched and they didn't complain, and they were big factors in the series win. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are cool heads, and the combination of their leadership and that of the coaching staff has helped the young players develop and handle the pressure of the playoffs.
Even when I spoke with a prominent player in private at the team hotel, and noted that he must be exhausted, that the Wild has been put in a terrible position by having to play two days after an overtime night game in Game 7, the player said, ``This is great. This is what you live for.''
To me, Yeo has proved himself as a leader down the playoff stretch and through one round of the playoffs.
What Wild fans might want to remember is that this team wasn't supposed to make it to the second round of the playoffs. So if the expected happens, and the Blackhawks win this series, that shouldn't discredit what the Wild has done the last two months. For me, this season is already a success.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 and 1500ESPN in the Twin Cities at around 12:15 on Friday. I'll be in Chicago for Sunday Morning Sports Talk, 10-noon on Sunday.
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