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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Ten random thoughts on the Wild after Bouchard's goal lifts Minnesota to victory

Posted by: Michael Russo under Rookies, Wild game coverage Updated: January 29, 2013 - 11:06 PM
The Wild snapped a three-game winless streak with a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight. Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s goal on a 2-on-1 that Bouchard basically turned into a breakaway with 5:19 left snapped a 2-2 deadlock. It was his 18th career winning goal (third all-time).
 
Just a great play all the way around. Zenon Konopka put the puck around the Wild net to Marco Scandella, who chipped it up ahead to Bouchard inside the blue line. Bouchard passed it across near the Wild bench to Justin Falk and then began flying through the neutral zone.
 
Falk sent it diagonally across the neutral zone to the far blue line for Torrey Mitchell. As Konopka dangled the blue line to stay onside, Mitchell made a soft area pass for Bouchard to accept as he flew across the line. With Fedor Tyutin back and playing the 2-on-1 oddly, Bouchard snapped a shot past Steve Mason.
 
It was the 100th career goal for the franchise’s third leading scorer all-time (330 points) mostly known for playmaking (230 assists). Mitchell got his first point with the Wild.
 
Good evening from the Xcel Energy Center press box. Rachel Blount is busy writing the game as I blog.
 
Big sigh of relief from the Wild and its fans tonight as the Wild, which played strong through two periods, again began the penalty-box march in the third period. It took four more minor penalties after taking three in St. Louis. It did give up the tying goal before Bouchard helped the Wild regain its lead, but as Niklas Backstrom said, “the PK guys played huge. They won the game for us in the third period.”
 
TEN RANDOM, OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD THOUGHTS
 
1. Wild fans got to see the real Ryan Suter early tonight. Maligned for the start to his Wild career, he played a strong all-around game, helping the breakout, leading the rush, being much more aggressive and assisting on Mikko Koivu’s first-period goal. He was paired with Jonas Brodin, who also had a solid night. Both were on for Columbus’ second-period goal to trim Minnesota’s lead to 2-1, BUT they got caught out there because of a series of mishaps in the neutral zone earlier that resulted in the initial turnover and about a 90-second shift before Mark Letestu predictably scored (was undoubtedly going to end badly with a penalty or a goal). By the end of the shift, they, like the three forwards on the ice (Mikael Granlund, Bouchard and Mitchell), were dead tired. Also, read my Suter notebook in Wednesday’s paper. Good stuff on him from St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock. Suter has points in three straight.
 
2. Brodin is so poised, smart and mobile. He made a couple defensive plays that should not in all that is right with the world be made by a 19-year-old defenseman playing his third NHL game and first-ever in Minnesota. Defensemen typically hit their strides in the early- to mid-20s. He is 19. He is a special one, folks. The real deal. And you will see him on the Wild blue line for many years. His game will only evolve defensively, and he already has two assists in three games. But in his own zone, he’s rock solid. And as he adds more strength, he will only get better.
 
3. Tom Gilbert scored his second goal tonight on a deflected Koivu shot and he looked great with Clayton Stoner. That’s a big reason coach Mike Yeo got Stoner and Gilbert back together. They were good the first couple games. Gilbert has a three-game point streak, defended real well and skated real well tonight. He led the rush a couple times and was flying.
 
4. Besides Stoner, I thought Justin Falk played a superb game. Up front, Kyle Brodziak rebounded bigtime from St. Louis’ minus-4, and was outstanding on the PK with Cal Clutterbuck. Also, this was by far Matt Cullen’s best game. Great on the PK, couple scoring chances, skated real well.
 
5. Granlund. As you can read in my notebook, Mike Yeo met with him to discuss his play away from the puck the last couple games. He had to talk to him again after the second period tonight. It was his neutral-zone decisions that resulted in that 90-second shift and the Letestu goal. He also took a third-period penalty that resulted in Jack Johnson’s tying goal. Although, Yeo forgave him for the penalty because he felt like he played a quality third. But, I think this is worth paying attention to. Granlund has not been good the last three games. The second line is completely ineffective despite Devin Setoguchi working hard the last couple games to create chances and play physically. Granlund hasn’t been good in the faceoff circle. He is getting pushed around. There’s no doubt in my mind he will be a good player in this league. But, with points so at a premium and the second line a big problem, how patient can the Wild be with Granlund if he continues to not function? Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle and Johan Larsson are playing real well in the minors. Do the Wild maybe at some point send Granlund back for some more seasoning and bring up one of the other rookies and put Cullen back to where, in my opinion, he belongs – center? At the very least, with the Wild below average in the faceoff circle this year, how much longer can the Wild not have Cullen taking faceoffs? He’s annually been one of the better faceoff guys in the league. I usually preach patience. But my opinion right now: I think the Wild seriously need to consider sending Granlund to the minors and calling up one of the other kids.
 
6. Because of the lack of special teams in the first two periods, Yeo was able to roll four lines pretty much and got some good shifts from Darroll Powe, Konopka and Mitchell. Powe jumped to Mitchell’s defense when Colton Gillies gave him a couple extra shoves for Powe’s liking. And when Suter got slashed by Derek Dorsett, Konopka skated right up to him on the ensuing line change and was later out there on the second line when Dorsett was on the ice. They nearly fought, but Konopka said one of Columbus’ coaches screamed from the bench for Dorsett to desist. Konopka and Dorsett played together in Syracuse and Konopka said Dorsett is basically his “little brother,” but he knows he cannot be slashing Suter.
 
7. Wild still has secondary scoring issues. The Wild’s top line created the first two goals tonight. Bouchard’s goal was the first from a forward not named Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu or Dany Heatley since Opening Night. The Wild’s 16 goals have come from six players – five forwards.
 
8. Parise’s five-game point streak came to an end and his 200th goal was wiped out by Toronto when it was ruled his second-period tally was punched into the net. He was real good as usual though.
 
9. The Wild has to stop taking penalties in the third. Almost ruined another game and frankly, if they do it Wednesday night against 6-0 Chicago, it’ll be cooked. The entire Blackhawks staff was at the game. Big test Wednesday.  Wild has an 11 a.m. meeting but no morning skate.
 
10. Linesman Thor Nelson left the game in the second period due to concussion-like symptoms after being struck by a puck. Nelson had major concussion issues last year. He will see NHL referee medical trainer Dave Smith, who I know well from when he was trainer in Florida, and head of officials Terry Gregson (Doug Risebrough’s brother in law) will work to reschedule some of his upcoming games, NHL exec Mike Murphy tells me.
 
Talk to ya Wednesday

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