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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Frustrated Wild again pay for not capitalizing offensively

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: January 25, 2013 - 11:07 PM
Despite controlling much of the play in the first half of the game, the Wild failed to capitalize on a bunch of chances and wound up paying big time when the Detroit Red Wings’ stars showed they don’t need much to make you reel.
 
Evening from an empty press room at the Joe, where conveniently the Internet finally works. Honestly, brutal night to cover. I can’t wait til realignment makes us come to this decrepit arena more.
 
Frankly, I still don’t have a real grasp of what went on in the second half of the game because, if you were following on Twitter, you know I had big-time computer problems and had to reboot my machine a couple times because the always-lousy wireless in this place made this night almost unworkable.
 
The gist of what happened (but of course, please read the gamer right here) in a 5-3 loss:
 
-- The Wild had eight power plays – seven in the first half of the game. It scored once (Zach Parise’s first of two on a 5-on-3), although the Tom Gilbert tying goal in the second may as well have been a power-play goal because it came two seconds after one expired.
 
But, for a power play that spent basically two minutes in the zone on almost every one, it left goals on the ice just like it did against Nashville.
 
Mike Yeo feels the Wild still gets too cute on the power play and at 5-on-5 and needs to get more aggressive putting pucks at the net. Mikko Koivu, in particular tonight, passed up several shots on the power play while standing in the right circle.
 
But Yeo said, “He’s not the only one. I think it’s an overall mentality. Whether it’s from the blue line, whether it’s off the flanks or off the sides, we have to find a way to get pucks to the net.”
 
--Speaking of too cute, the game unraveled with the game tied at 2. With the Wild on a power play, Devin Setoguchi lost the puck on a breakaway. The Wild got the puck back, worked it down low to Matt Cullen and Cullen tried an attempted behind the back pass across the goalmouth for Setoguchi that Brendan Smith picked off.
 
I asked Cullen about the play. He did take exception to me describing it as too fancy, saying, “It’s a set play on the power play. The D made a good read and backed off and caught the puck. I mean, it’s goalmouth. I don’t think that that’s overly fancy.”
 
After the turnover, Setoguchi got away with a penalty. After the refs failed to call basically their first penalty of the night in this penalty-infested game, Setoguchi seemed to just idle up the ice. He never picked up anybody on the backcheck, and suddenly, there were just breakdowns all over the ice, nobody picked up Henrik Zetterberg and he scored when Josh Harding lost his net and Mikael Granlund showed that goaltending is not his first position.
 
That made it 3-2. Still, the Wild had a chance again to tie it, but Cal Clutterbuck’s one-timer was blocked and then Kyle Brodziak couldn’t convert. A Koivu penalty later, Pavel Datsyuk scored when Ryan Suter didn’t move Johan Franzen out of the crease and Harding was screened.
 
Yeo was upset because he felt the goal shouldn’t have been allowed because Franzen was a foot in the crease.
 
-- Just like the loss to Nashville, the shame of this game is the Wild had plenty of chances to win and couldn’t convert. Then, they clamped down defensively and only gave up one shot in nine minutes after Detroit scored twice on two shots in the first 55 seconds of the second, and that still wasn’t enough despite the team rallying on goals by Parise and Gilbert.
 
“Look at the first half of the game, until we got down by a couple, I mean we were in control,” Yeo said. “It’s funny how you’re in control of the game and it can just slip away from you like that.”
 
Added Setoguchi, it doesn’t take a genius to realize the Wild just didn’t capitalize on its chances.
 
Parise echoed that, saying, he felt the Wild played well in spurts.
 
Added Tom Gilbert: “It was a good pushback (tying the game after being down 2-0). Our power play did a lot of positive things. But we have to understand: we had a great first period. We did everything well. The score didn’t justify what we did on the ice. But to come back like that, you’ve still got to be patient against a team like Detroit. They can score at any moment, so we have to stick with our system and we let it slide a little bit.”
 
-- Yeo indicated the Wild will look at changing up the personnel on the second and third lines. The Wild had had a lot of zone time with those lines, but they’re not scoring. Eight forwards don’t have a goal through four games – Koivu, Cullen, Setoguchi, Clutterbuck, Brodziak, Darroll Powe, Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell.
 
Also, the Wild was at least credited with only five hits tonight. Now they go into the toughest building in the league against arguably the biggest team in the league – St. Louis on Sunday. I’m betting Matt Kassian is dusted off.
 
-- Ryan Suter was great in the first half of the game and played 32:02, but at the end of the night, he’s on for three more goals against and has now been on the ice for eight of 10 this year.
 
“He played hard minutes, it was extremely difficult,” Yeo said. “You’re looking at the goals, I mean which one can you fault him on? I think it’s a matter of circumstance more than anything else. It’s unfortunate. He’s been on the ice for goals, but he’s been on the ice a lot.”
 
Still, I think with both Suter and Shea Weber, who has no points for Nashville, we’re seeing that life without each other is a tougher transition than many of us would have guessed. It’s not easy when you grow such a comfort playing half the game with the same partner every year. Then add the fact that Suter is on a new team with a new system with new partners, I think this could take a bit of time before he feels comfortable. Still, this is a great player and I think he’ll be alright.
 
Just look how good he was in the first 30 minutes. That’s the real Ryan Suter.
 
-- Jonas Brodin looked real good in his first NHL game. One assist. 19:05.
 
Brodin showed immediately how good he has a chance to be on his first shift where he just spun away from Valtteri Filppula. His skating, hockey sense and ability to defend and move the puck are elite. The rest of his game is evolving and he’ll only get better as he matures, but he is so much better in the offensive zone than we’ve seen even at development camp and things like that.
 
Granlund has eyes in the back of his head, but clearly strength is an issue right now. He’s having to clean himself off the ice often and the refs aren’t giving him the benefit of the doubt because of his size. That’s clear to me. There have been a few times the last couple games where he should have drawn penalties, but he’s not getting the call.
 
That’s it for me. Posting without a proofread right now, so I will fix any typos at the airport in the morning.
 
Talk to you after Saturday’s practice in St. Louis.
 

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