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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Another Wild season comes to an end; Backstrom had sports hernia

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: May 10, 2013 - 12:57 AM
Painful end to the Wild’s season tonight as the Chicago Blackhawks dispatched the Wild in five games and nine days from its first-round series with a 5-1 win.
 
When it comes down to it, the Wild simply didn’t convert on its chances. Seven goals in five games as the Blackhawks advanced past the first round since beating Philadelphia in the Stanley Cup Finals three years ago. The power play went 0 for 17. Mikko Koivu didn’t have a point and was minus-6. Zach Parise scored one goal and was minus-7.
 
Please read the “gamer” for many of the details, but one piece of news, Niklas Backstrom admitted to me after the game that he has a sports hernia. That will require surgery. One has to wonder if he has played his last game with Minnesota.
 
The Wild used six defensemen (Gilbert, Scandella, Spurgeon, Brodin, Falk, Stoner) that never played in the playoffs before and a goalie in Josh Harding that never started in the playoffs before. That’s pretty difficult against a team like Chicago.
 
That’s why the Wild’s end-of-the-year trip was so painful.
 
Here are some quotes:
 
Matt Cullen: “It’s disappointing. It’s still very fresh. It’s extremely, extremely disappointing.”
 
On his future (last year of his contract): “You just don’t know in this game. For sure, I know that could have been my last game as a wild player. There’s lot of things that can happen. Never take it for granted. It’s been a lot of fun, but we’ll see what happens.”
 
On the team: “There’s a lot of good things in place. Obviously getting Zach and Suts has made a huge difference. The culture has started to change and expectations are rising, but we still have a ways to go.”
 
Zach Parise: “Just the lack of finish killed us. That’s the bottom line. You have to look at yourself first. You look back at some of the opportunities throughout the series that I had and didn’t put them in. That’s the frustrating part. That’s going to haunt you the whole summer.”
 
On the potential that Yeo could be in trouble: “That’s out of our control. Everyone’s got to look at themselves. You look at what you can do differently and why things happen. But that’s out of our control. There’s always changes. You don’t know. That’s the way this thing works.”
 
Mike Yeo
 
On the series: “Can’t seem to buy that first goal.”
 
On the Koivu missed chance in the first: “Last thing I want to do is sit up here and talk about puck luck or bounces. … I feel bad for Mikko. He did a lot of the right things … and just didn’t get rewarded.”
 
On the lack of finishers: “We’ll never stop trying to improve our team from a personnel standpoint. You always try to address your weaknesses. But we did improve in that area. We have to get better, there’s no question. … I hate to say it, sometimes it goes that way. Generate those chances and get those same people getting those chances, I like those odds in the long run.”
 
On not juggling lines in the series: “This was an important experience for me too. If anyone knows me, I’ll be the first one to look back and say, ‘I wish I could have done this and that.’”
 
On his job security: “I don’t know. I can’t answer that. If you want to look at it objectively, statistically, … properly, there’s been a lot of improvement in our organization and our team and I feel that we’re going in the right direction.”
 
Now big questions have to addressed this offseason, and … I will address that in Saturday’s paper.
 
One, obviously has to do with Yeo. GM Chuck Fletcher is safe, I believe. If Yeo isn’t safe, it would come from the GM, not the owner. And with Lindy Ruff and maybe even Dave Tippett dangling, this will be a lasting topic unless Fletcher publicly puts it to bed.
 
But Fletcher will have to evaluate everything, and that includes the job he is doing.
 
I still think the Wild’s future is bright, but the Wild isn’t big enough up front, isn’t fast enough and doesn’t have enough finishers. The blue line is an issue. It nThe Wild will have to find a way to accomplish this. If you don’t get to pick first or second overall or third overall or whatever, like Chicago did with Kane and Toews, and Pittsburgh did with Crosby and Malkin, it’s hard to replicate that route.
 
But bottom line: The Wild outchanced Chicago for large portions of this series. But as has been the trend all year with the team, it has to work excruciatingly hard to finish, while other teams seemingly don’t.
 
That’s a problem that must be addressed. I will get more into this in Saturday’s paper after I get a good night’s sleep and can put together a proper evaluation. I'll also probably re-enter this blog in the morning and freshen some things up and add some stuff.
 
But I have a very early flight. As I mentioned this morning though, I need to step away from the beat for the large part for the next little bit…I am heading out of town for a family emergency.
 
I hope you enjoyed the coverage again from the Star Tribune this season. Sadly, another season has come to an end.

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