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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Lack of scoring, penalties doom Wild in Chicago

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: February 16, 2011 - 11:30 PM

Evening from the United Center, where a legit 21,535 stuffed this massive venue tonight to watch the Blackhawks beat the Wild, 3-1.

You've got to hand it to the arena workers here. The game ended not even 90 minutes ago and look what's already down!

 

 

I won't give you the "we deserve a better fate" stuff for a second straight night. I just don't think you can stomach it. It was a frustrating, aggravating night here for the Wild, which for the second straight game put together a solid effort, generated tons of chances and still lost.

Now, they're in 10th place, three back of eighth. It doesn't take much to freefall, which is why the Wild must stop the bleeding now.

Here's the problem though. This team just has to work so, so hard to score a darn goal, while others, not so much.

How frustrating was it to watch the Wild just pepper the Blackhawks the first 10 minutes of the first, outshoot em 11-2, then 13-4 and watch Chicago get one power play and score? It was the same story in the third period against Vancouver, although I think the Wild had much better looks at the net against Chicago.

The trade deadline is Feb. 28. This team needs some offensive help. The question is can Chuck Fletcher accomplish that? The problem is the free-agent-to-be's probably can't bring that in and I believe him when he says he's not about to "mortgage the future" and trade his first-round pick or his top 2010 picks for potential help that might not even work out with getting the Wild into the playoffs or on a postseason run anyway.

That's a risky proposition for a team that still is trying to stack the cupboards. Yes, I think he'd consider trading youngsters like Colton Gillies or Tyler Cuma, but that's one other big reason why Cuma's torn ACL was a killer.

But to me, they need more scoring. I think Antti Miettinen gets way too much criticism from the fans, but he is what he is. He shouldn't be a first-liner. He's not just unlucky these past few games. There's a reason why he's had 52 chances and hasn't scored. Chuck Kobasew is also someone that's brought zero offense the past eight games and tonight was missing the net or whiffing on shots in prime scoring areas.

I still like this team's chances if they can keep playing this way. They're defending well, getting good goaltending and generating more than enough chances to score goals and win games. But if you're going to generate this many chances, it should be easier to score, which is why somebody else to chip in would be nice before the deadline.

I just wonder if they have the pieces to acquire that offensive help, and frankly, if you look at the free-agent rentals available, it's yuck to say the least.

 

Richards says he believes this team has enough finish to make the playoffs and they're just in a two-game funk. Fair enough. But we're 57 games in and the Wild's been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league all year. And in reality, the Wild's actually scored one goal or fewer in four of eight games since the All-Star break, but it's been masked by great goaltending, defense and W's.

So we'll see.

Penalties did the Wild in tonight. The Wild had all the momentum, then took four straight in the second. Jose Theodore kept the deficit 1-0, but the Wild spent the entire period defending. 

Then in the third, the Wild finally tie it on a beautiful Matt Cullen goal after he slips behind Duncan Keith, Jared Spurgeon slips him a puck between Keith and Brian Campbell and Cullen drove Corey Crawford, taking the puck backhand to forehand through the crease for the awesome goal.

But 23 seconds later, Chuck Kobasew was called for interference when he broke his stick and, by rule, had to drop it to get a new one. The refs felt he threw it into the path of Michael Frolik and whistled him down. The Wild felt it was a discretionary, ticky-tack call and that Kobasew had no intention of interfering.

Nonetheless, 11 seconds later after Keith stopped John Madden's clear at the blue line, Greg Zanon accidentally banked Troy Brouwer's goalmouth pass for Marian Hossa past Theodore.

Just a brutal, brutal turn of events. Now suddently the Wild had to work to tie it again, and we know how easy that is for them -- well, except, in St. Louis a few days ago where they did rally from a goal deficit four times.

Anyway, now they've got an uphill climb again with red-hot Anaheim and Detroit next up at the X.

That's it for me. Early flight home. The Wild won't practice Thursday, so barring news, you'll hear from me next Friday from the morning skates.

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