Souhan: Playoffs are turning Granlund into a steely veteran

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 7, 2014 - 1:23 PM

As a prospect, Mikael Granlund became known internationally for his lacrosse-style, behind-the-net, stuff-in for a goal.

In the last series, he became known for skating through three Avalanche defenders, launching himself horizontally, and somehow stuffing the puck in for an overtime game-winner in Game 3.

Late Tuesday night, Granlund no longer looked like the baby-faced kid who seeks a starring role on YouTube. Stitches jutted out of a red gash on his chin. “Last game,’’ he said, dismissively, when asked about it.

He was still dripping sweat, his mullet-quality hair flopped in all directions, and he wore the red bar of courage on his forehead – the mark left by the helmet when the player wearing the helmet is involved in contact.

He even spoke like a veteran, rejecting questions about his goals. “I will enjoy this game and then move on,’’ he said.

The face of the future is now the face of the present. Granlund scored two goals as the Wild beat the Blackhawks, 4-0, at Xcel Energy Center, and his buddy Erik Haula, another fresh-faced Finnish finisher, scored the first.

Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville and Matt Moulson on Tuesday went another game against the Blackhawks without a goal. Zach Parise scored with 2:35 remaining on the power play, to end the suspense.

The veterans’ scoring was not needed, and while Haula and Granlund dominated the scoring column, fellow youngsters Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle and Justin Fontaine, battled all over the ice.

The Wild’s empty-net goal came on passes from Coyle to Niederreiter and then Granlund, a glimpse of the future present.

“Uh, well, obviously we have a lot of young guys, we have our roles, and obviously we need to step up,’’ Granlund said. “Every player on this team needs to play at a high level.’’

Granlund speaks a lot like former North Star Neal Broten, whose sentences always contained the words, “Uh, well, ya, well.’’ Like Broten, Granlund seems drawn to the big moment.

The Wild’s rebuilding plan was two-pronged: Sign name players to jump-start the team, and develop a quality group of young players. Defenseman Jonas Brodin was the first Wild youngster to emerge as a standout, last year. This season, and especially in these playoffs, the team’s young forwards have surpassed his contributions.

Niederreiter won Game 7 of the first round at Colorado with an overtime slap shot. Granlund won Game 3 of that series with his gravity-dismissing goal. Haula, with his speed and intelligence, has temped as the Wild’s best player for stretches of these playoffs. Coyle has scored three playoff goals. And Fontaine, a grinder, announced his presence on Tuesday with a saucer pass for an assist and plenty of checking.

The victory means the series will shift to Chicago for Game 5 on Sunday.

Whenever the series does end, Wild coach Mike Yeo might want to rent himself out as a motivational speaker. So many of his moves during the playoffs have paid off, whether shuffling lines and spurring clutch performances out of everyone from Dany Heatley to Haula, or striking the right tone in his press conferences.

One important reason the Wild beat Colorado is that Yeo did not complain about missed calls that might have cost his team’s games, even when those calls threatened to end his season. His team responded.

In Round 2, Yeo has been peppered with questions about his starting goalie, Ilya Bryzgalov, and with questions about who will inevitably replaced Bryzgalov after a breakdown. “This is the guy,’’ Yeo said on Sunday after the Game 2 loss.

Tuesday, Bryzgalov earned a shutout.

  • related content

  • Souhan blog: Takeaways from Game 3

    Tuesday May 6, 2014

    Lots of hockey heros

  • Wild climbs back into series with four-goal 3rd period burst

    Wednesday May 7, 2014

    Ignited by the ‘Flying Finns’ Erik Haula and Mikael Granlund, the Wild rolled during the third period to cut Chicago's lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1.

  • Wild notes: Ballard cracks lineup in place of Prosser

    Wednesday May 7, 2014

    Despite having not played since sustaining a groin injury March 17, Keith Ballard dived headfirst into the second round of the playoffs Tuesday night as the Wild won 4-0.

  • Photo gallery: Game 3: Wild 4, Chicago 0

    Wednesday May 7, 2014

    Wild shutout the Blackhawks on home ice 4-0 to go into Game 4 down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

  • Minnesota Wild center Mikael Granlund celebrated after he scored a goal in the third period of Game 3.

  • The Wild’s Charlie Coyle tried to steal the puck from Chicago’s Patrick Kane during the first period Tuesday night.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tampa 6 FINAL
Philadelphia 2
LA Clippers 96 FINAL
Chicago 86
Cleveland 103 FINAL
Houston 105
Golden State 106 FINAL
Boston 101
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
Indiana 94
Portland 110 FINAL
Sacramento 99
Charlotte 98 FINAL
Orlando 83
Oklahoma City 108 FINAL
LA Lakers 101
New Orleans 99 FINAL
Denver 92
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
Winnipeg 5
Tampa Bay 3 FINAL
Florida 4
Columbus 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 5
Toronto 0 FINAL
Washington 4
Anaheim 3 FINAL
Dallas 1
St. Louis 5 FINAL(SO)
Vancouver 6
SMU 73 FINAL
Connecticut 81
Quinnipiac 65 FINAL
Manhattan 69
Fairfield 56 FINAL
Niagara 57
Marist 49 FINAL
Rider 59
Iona 60 FINAL
Saint Peters 68
Oregon State 56 FINAL
California 73
South Florida 55 FINAL
Houston 72
Marquette 66 FINAL
Providence 77
Michigan State 61 FINAL
Wisconsin 68
Siena 57 FINAL
Monmouth 63
Pittsburgh 66 FINAL
Wake Forest 69
Oregon 73 FINAL
Stanford 70
Purdue 61 FINAL
Ohio State 65
Arizona State 81 FINAL
Colorado 87
Washington St 67 FINAL
UCLA 72
Georgetown 66 FINAL
Providence 81
Binghamton 50 FINAL
UMBC 73
Elon 65 FINAL
Hofstra 58
Virginia Tech 47 FINAL
Boston College 49
(8) Louisville 59 FINAL
Virginia 75
Texas 69 FINAL
West Virginia 76
Creighton 53 FINAL
Villanova 61
Seton Hall 85 FINAL
Butler 76
UNC-Wilmington 76 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 65
(5) Maryland 69 FINAL
(25) Northwestern 48
Saint Josephs 67 FINAL
La Salle 55
Louisiana Tech 53 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 60
Rhode Island 70 FINAL
Massachusetts 78
Richmond 55 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 49
Davidson 46 FINAL
Fordham 54
St Bonaventure 43 FINAL
Duquesne 51
George Mason 45 FINAL
(22) George Washington 80
Indiana 60 FINAL
(20) Rutgers 71
(12) Texas A&M 63 FINAL
LSU 80
Ole Miss 47 FINAL
(11) Miss State 55
Clemson 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 61
Maine 47 FINAL
New Hampshire 61
Vermont 48 FINAL
Albany 76
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Monmouth 48
Saint Peters 47 FINAL
Siena 64
(4) Notre Dame 67 FINAL
NC State 60
Wisconsin 62 FINAL
Penn State 56
Stony Brook 49 FINAL
Hartford 56
Northeastern 47 FINAL
William & Mary 62
St Johns 61 FINAL
Xavier 74
James Madison 74 FINAL
Delaware 71
Towson 45 FINAL
Drexel 50
Illinois State 50 FINAL
Bradley 60
Southern Ill 74 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 70
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Wichita State 66
Minnesota 76 FINAL
(17) Iowa 92
(15) North Carolina 80 FINAL
(16) Duke 81
Alabama 73 FINAL
Auburn 80
(9) Florida State 69 FINAL
Miami-Florida 55
Arkansas 41 FINAL
Missouri 57
Georgia 52 FINAL
Florida 45
Dayton 95 FINAL
Saint Louis 68
Drake 57 FINAL
Missouri State 86
Colorado 46 FINAL
(10) Arizona State 59
(19) Stanford 55 FINAL
Oregon 62
Marquette 82 FINAL
DePaul 99
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 60
Vanderbilt 49 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 79
(2) South Carolina 56 FINAL
(13) Kentucky 67
Utah 41 FINAL
Arizona 64
Ohio State 78 FINAL
Nebraska 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which is your favorite 'return' by a Minnesota athlete?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close