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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Effort is there, defense is there, but the Wild cannot finish again; Prospects need patience

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: February 13, 2013 - 12:46 AM
Ray Ferraro, who was at ice level between the benches calling the game for TSN, came up to me by the locker room after tonight’s 2-1 loss and said, “They play like that every game, they’ll be OK.”
 
That’s how impressive the effort tonight in a game the Wild was playing for a third time in four night against a fresh Vancouver team that hadn’t played since the weekend.
 
But as usual, the Wild cannot score. It’s beyond belief. The Wild has scored one goal in regulation in the past six games.
 
Tonight, the chances were there, especially in the third first and third periods. The Wild found its legs in the third, controlled the play, generated chances.
 
“We did everything except finish,” said coach Mike Yeo.
 
It’s a common theme. Yeo reunited the top line of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley in the second half of the second period and the third, but the three completely snakebit players couldn’t finish despite chances, too. The best chance came in the third when Heatley set up Parise in front, but Roberto Luongo denied Parise, who had six shots, from point-blank and Ryan Suter hit the crossbar on the rebound try.
 
Heatley has no points in the past eight games. Koivu hasone assist in the past seven and Parise has one goal in the past eight. Parise was absolutely seething after. He sat in his gear, skates on, well after the game and just stared at the floor.
 
“I don’t know what the answer is right now,” said Parise. “It’s just frustrating. We’re all having a hard time scoring.”
 
Just a frustrating loss because the Wild did a pretty strong job defensively. They kept the Sedins off the scoreboard. And again, just cannot finish for the life of em.
 
Mikael Granlund had his best game in the NHL. He had an assist, was separating guys of the puck all night and won 9 of 12. Jonas Brodin may have had his toughest. Charlie Coyle moved onto a line with Granlund and looked comfortable with his Houston linemate.
 
Like I said, I was chatting with Ferraro for a while after the game. He couldn’t be more impressed with the Wild’s kids.
 
All three of these guys will be good. They can’t be expected to be polished NHLers at 19 and 20 years old.
 
The Wild may have some of the best prospects in the NHL. But they’re still prospects.
 
They will grow up, mature, put on weight, begin figuring it out. I was looking at pictures in the press box tonight of the Sedin Twins when they were 18. They were rails. Now Henrik is two points from being the all-time leading scorer in Canucks history.
 
A guy like Coyle is probably 30 pounds from his eventual playing weight. Granlund will adjust to an NHL rink. Look how poised and solid Brodin is now at 19. Imagine him at 22. And there’s more down in Houston – Jason Zucker, Brett Bulmer, Johan Larsson, Matt Hackett, etc. – and tons of others not yet pro, from the Matt Dumbas and Raphael Bussieres’ to the Mario Lucias and Erik Haulas.
 
Patience is needed. Not easy because the expectations for this team are so high. Not easy because these prospects have been built up for so long as the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
 
But they’re still 19 and 20.
 
Now, that doesn’t justify why this current team can’t score a goal. As good as the effort level was tonight, lots of board battles were lost. And that’s emblematic of the lack of offense. The team just doesn’t do a good enough just getting to the hard areas, winning battles and getting numbers to the net.
 
Goals don’t ever happen off the rush with this team. It must be figured out.
 
I’ll write more about that in Thursday’s paper. I’ll also have comments from Darcy Kuemper, who made a fine NHL debut tonight with 28 saves. Real cool moment before the game when Roberto Luongo skated up to him and wished him luck.
 
Kuemper said it really calmed his nerves.
 
The Wild is spending the night here in Vancouver and then flying home Wednesday. It lands late, so no practice. So barring news, the next time we’ll speak is Thursday.
 
To clarify Matt Kassian, he’s technically not being put on waivers until 11 a.m. Wednesday, so there will be no resolution with him until 11 a.m. Thursday. He will either be claimed or assigned to Houston.
 
 
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