Standard behavior isn't up to Minnesota Wild's standards

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 26, 2013 - 6:24 AM

Mike Yeo's dump-and-chase system draws criticism, but it's common for successful teams.

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There’s proof in the net that the Wild can score, provided by Zach Parise in St. Louis last month. “It’s a learning process. It’s only been, what, 17 games? I’m not pushing the panic button,” captain Mikko Koivu said of the Wild’s offense. “It’s just a matter of doing things more consistently.”

Photo: Jeff Roberson, Associated Press

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The Pittsburgh Penguins won a Stanley Cup by dumping and chasing in 2009.

All four conference finalists last year -- Los Angeles, Phoenix, New Jersey and the New York Rangers -- dumped and chased.

"We went to the Finals dumping and chasing," said the Wild's Zach Parise, referring to last year's Devils. "We did it more than anybody. And we scored a lot."

Dumping the puck into the offensive zone and chasing after it is not unique to the Wild.

Still some Wild fans, frustrated that the team ranks 28th in the NHL with 2.06 goals per game, have been criticizing coach Mike Yeo's "system," which is their code word for the Wild's propensity to dump and chase. That's when the Wild chips the puck behind the opposing defensemen and into the offensive zone from between the red line and offensive blue line.

Parise said the Wild's offensive troubles are "not a system issue."

"A lot of teams play the same way in the league, and what it comes down to is who does it better. And I think we're pretty inconsistent in how we play our system," Parise said. "What people don't understand, the other team is trying to win, too, and the other team is trying to make you turn the puck over.

"We would all love a game where you can skate it in, curl up and make a play every time. That's not the way the game is played. When we do have the opportunity to skate it in, we all have the green light to do it, but not at the risk of having a D gap up in your face, trying to make a cute play at the blue line, turning it over and having them come right back down on us.

"I actually think that's what we're guilty of sometimes."

Dump and score

Parise continued: "Pittsburgh dumps the puck. The highest-scoring teams in the league ... everybody dumps the puck. The difference, though, is they dump it and forecheck the right way to get it back. That's our problem."

There is no strict edict from Yeo that Wild players must dump the puck every time it crosses the red line. But if the opposing defensemen are standing up at the blue line, dumping the puck is the strategy.

"You learn that as a kid. It's simple, stupid math," captain Mikko Koivu said. "Red line to blue line, you don't want to lose the puck."

The point of dumping the puck is to wear down the opposing defense.

"The best football teams have good running games," Yeo said. "They pound the ball and pound the ball and eventually soften up the defense. Same in hockey. It's easier to defend than to create offense, so you dump the puck to find ways to break them. Early in games, you should actually be doing it a lot because it's not about that shift or that period. It's about investing in the whole game.

"You put a couple pucks in behind the defensemen and let [Cal Clutterbuck] run loose on them, as the game wears on, they'll start to get tired, their gaps will get worse and suddenly everything about their defensive coverage gets softer. They don't want to get hit anymore."

Working together

The key is good puck retrieval. It starts with proper puck placement, then putting forth the effort to get the puck back and going to work with, as Koivu says, "all five guys on the same page."

The Wild must do a better job in this area.

"Our forecheck has been improving, but it's still not where it needs to be structurewise and from an aggressiveness and physicality standpoint," Yeo said. "We have to make it tougher on defensemen."

Parise said that means stopping on pucks, coming out of the corners with pucks and not losing "50-50 pucks all over the ice."

"It's got to be a mindset," Parise said. "We all know the way we have to play. It's just a matter of doing it all the time, and that's what separates teams in this league. That's the path we're trying to find.

"We have to do a better job of what I call 'pushing the pace of the game,' keeping the puck going forward. I don't think we've done that well enough. But that's not a system thing because we know what we're supposed to do, and when we do it, we win. We just don't do it enough.

"It's not the system. It's more execution of the system."

Koivu has faith it will come.

"It's a learning process," he said. "It's only been, what, 17 games? I'm not pushing the panic button.

"If we played not one good game yet, I would be worried. But it's there. It's just a matter of doing things more consistently."

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