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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Wild loses again, and its position in the standings becoming a big problem

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: December 27, 2013 - 11:44 PM

This season is disintegrating right in front of our eyes. The Wild better find a gargantuan Band-Aid or tourniquet for that matter and stop the bleeding ASAP.

The Wild fell to 5-10-1 in the past 16 (so, it has accumulated 11 of a possible 32 points in the past 16 games) since the last time the team came to Winnipeg.

It looks like it’s ninth in the standings with 45 points. It’s not. It is in deep, deep trouble.

The Wild is four points behind seventh-place Colorado, which got clobbered tonight in Chicago. It is one point behind eighth-place Phoenix and creeping up from the rear is Dallas, which is one point behind.

All three of those teams have played three fewer games than the Wild. As we know in this league, because of the loser point, once you get behind in the second half, it is almost impossible to catch up.

And the Wild is lower in the standings than it actually appears by virtue of the games played category.

The team, after tonight’s 6-4 loss at Winnipeg, has now lost nine of its last 10 on the road and now face a critical four-game homestand against the Islanders, Blues, Caps and Sabres.

Since the Wild has proven to be incapable of winning on the road, it has put itself in the unenviable position of having to be perfect at home. 5 out of 8 points, even 6 out of 8 points is just not good enough these days.

The Wild has gone eight consecutive games without a regulation win and none on the road since Nov. 20.

Hours after Mike Yeo said the Wild needed to get back to its defensive foundation, the Wild gave up six goals and 38 shots. It’s now 348 shots and 32 goals in the past 10 games. Remember, this is a Wild team that spent much of the first two months as the best defensive team in the NHL.

The byproduct of the three days off was evident for both teams, especially in the first period when it was end-to-end action and sloppy with oodles of scoring chances. That of course made for some downright entertaining hockey.

The Wild and Jets scored five times in the first 7:04, with the Wild – the same team that had nine goals in the previous nine road games, scoring three times on goals by Dany Heatley, Justin Fontaine and Stephane Veilleux. Fontaine and Veilleux – of all players – scored 10 seconds apart to break a team road record for fastest two goals by a second (Mattias Weinhandl/Wes Walz; remember Weinhandl????).

But then the Wild gave up two goals in three minutes to trail 4-3 going into the second. Niklas Backstrom, who has given up three or more goals in his past six starts and 17 in four starts in place of Josh Harding, settled down in the second and third and actually made some huge saves to keep the game tied. But in the third, after an awful shift in which the Wild couldn’t get the puck out, Blake Wheeler pounced on a loose puck after Bryan Little’s between-the-circles shot and score the eventual winner.

The Wild was outmuscled all night (massive hits by future stud Jacob Trouba and Anthony Peluso), especially in front of the Jets net. Anytime the Wild got near Al Montoya after Ondrej Pavelec was chased, the Jets crushed the Wild to the ice. The same couldn’t be said at all by the Jets who got near Backstrom, and that played a huge part in the losing goal.

Just a frustrating game because the Wild did settle down after sloppiness in the first two periods. Guys like Charlie Coyle were flying in front of shots. Guys were taking hits to make plays. But there were clear signs, especially early and with guys like Ryan Suter (minus-3, 2-on-1 rush on Evander Kane’s shortie) and Mikael Granlund (minus-3) and Keith Ballard (shift on Wheeler’s winner), that the team wasn’t on the ice for three days. Timing was off, coverages were off, etc.

But, as Yeo said, “We don’t have the luxury of finding reasons for things not being OK. We’re in a position where we have to make things right.”

“Our focus is not directed the right way right now,” Yeo said later. “There’s been too much losing going on and because of that, we’ve got a lot of things clouding our focus of how we’re supposed to play the game. We’ve got to find it.”

Mikko Koivu, whom I thought played well for the first part, passes up a shot twice on the first power play that led to Kane’s goal. He is the franchise leader in power-play points but finally got his first power-play goal since 2012. He made so many good defensive plays tonight, and then at the end, he’s minus-3.

So, this team has lost its way right now and I’ve got no clue how it gets changed. Things have really unraveled these past four games particularly, so going home better prove to be the tonic or the road ahead will be ugly.

Oh, and Zach Parise's hurt. And Josh Harding's return won't cure all because this team isn't playing nearly as well anymore in front of its goalie (regardless of the fact that Backstrom has struggled). Speaking of which, I've been asked 1,000 times on Twitter the past week if the Wild may use its second compliance buyout on Backstrom next summer. No, it is not allowed. He was signed in June under this collective bargaining agreement. To use a compliance buyout, your contract had to be consummated under the last CBA.

Talk to you after practice Saturday.


Tennessee 13 FINAL
Jacksonville 21
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
New York 97 FINAL
Chicago 103
New Orleans 99 FINAL
Houston 90
Milwaukee 108 FINAL
Sacramento 107
Oklahoma City 109 FINAL
Golden State 114
Florida 2 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 1
Colorado 0 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 1 FINAL
Carolina 4
Washington 5 FINAL(OT)
Columbus 4
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Montreal 1
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Los Angeles 6
Edmonton 3 FINAL
San Jose 4
St Thomas (TX) 61 FINAL
Rice 72
Stony Brook 59 FINAL
Canisius 60
Temple 82 FINAL
Delaware 62
Long Island 69
Lehigh 65 FINAL
Quinnipiac 80
South Alabama 54 FINAL
Richmond 65
Seton Hall 89 FINAL
South Florida 69
Ga Southern 76 FINAL
Stetson 67
Yale 57 FINAL
Vermont 56
Cleveland State 54 FINAL
Virginia 70
Wright State 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 56
Nicholls 54 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 79
Morgan State 48 FINAL
Rider 62
Idaho State 72 FINAL
South Dakota St 75
Oakland City 52 FINAL
Austin Peay 76
Eureka 38 FINAL
Bradley 80
Appalachian St 65 FINAL
Charlotte 75
Connecticut 56 FINAL
Duke 66
Southern Miss 46 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Coastal Carolina 68 FINAL
Ole Miss 71
Montana State 53 FINAL
South Dakota 55
UAB 70
Ohio 69 FINAL
Evansville 81
CS-Dominguez 50 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 72
Walla Walla 39 FINAL
Idaho 86
DePaul 59 FINAL
Oregon State 90
Nevada 65 FINAL
Pacific 69
Portland State 40 FINAL
San Francisco 77
CS-Bakersfield 56 FINAL
Utah State 57
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Niagara 76 FINAL
Cleveland State 58
High Point 59 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 81
Towson 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 74
Presbyterian 50 FINAL
Charlotte 66
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Bradley 59
Northwestern Coll 58 FINAL
Drake 102
Vanderbilt 67 FINAL
Marquette 80
Temple 78 FINAL
Howard 48
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Ole Miss 68
Rider 67
Miami-Florida 74 FINAL
St Mary-KS 51 FINAL
South Dakota 115
William & Mary 71 FINAL
Wofford 51
Troy 82 FINAL
Evansville 94
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
USC 96
St Francis-PA 52 FINAL
Duquesne 92
Indiana-Southeast 45 FINAL
Delaware State 52 FINAL
Detroit 74
Tenn Temple 48 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 68
West Virginia St 58 FINAL
Radford 52
Fairfield 47 FINAL
Seton Hall 79
Dartmouth 44 FINAL
New Hampshire 60
Ball State 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 59
Jacksonville 61 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Trine 45 FINAL
Western Mich 81
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Lipscomb 72
Samford 56 FINAL
Tulane 57
New Orleans 55 FINAL
Tulsa 78
Incarnate Word 61 FINAL
TX-Pan American 65
Ark-Little Rock 42 FINAL
South Dakota St 67
CS-Northridge 77 FINAL
Northern Ariz 71
Santa Clara 88 FINAL
Oregon 92
(19) Oklahoma St 55 FINAL
Weber State 49
Washington 69 FINAL
San Diego State 48
Cal Poly 68 FINAL
New Mexico 84
(10) Louisville 65 FINAL
Grand Canyon 51
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