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Michael Russo gives you complete coverage of the Minnesota Wild and the NHL

Yeo on state of the Wild: “I hate the word, I’ve never been swept"

So, I’m packing up at the arena to meet some of the Blackhawks ink-stained wretches and national scribes for dinner, and it suddenly dawns on me I never blogged after availability earlier Wednesday.

Apologies for the late blog, but I got going on the stories for the paper and it slipped my mind.

No news today in terms of the lineup for Game 4 Thursday night as the Wild tries to stave off elimination and live for another day.

Remember, with an 8:45 puck drop, the morning skates are 11 a.m. and noon, so we won’t know the lineups until at least then. And I say, “at least,” because coach Mike Yeo kept us guessing until warmups Tuesday night. That’s when we learned the lines and confirmed that Ryan Carter was in for Erik Haula.

No injury updates on whether or not Chris Stewart or Justin Fontaine are available for Thursday’s Game 4.

Both teams didn’t skate today. The Blackhawks had availability at their Minneapolis hotel. The news of the day there is Brent Seabrook wore hotel slippers to the presser. The Wild held availability here.

The common theme from everybody around the Wild today is staring at an 0-3 hole as a whole is too overwhelming a task, so start small, take Thursday’s game and then hopefully do it all again Saturday.

Only four of 180 teams in NHL history has rallied to win a series down 0-3. It has never happened in the NBA and happened only once in Major League Baseball. My colleague from ESPN Boston, Joe McDonald, talked to Big Papi, among others who have accomplished that feat, today and his story will be on later on tonight. He’ll probably tweet it out at @ESPNJoeyMac.

“I think you try to avoid looking at it as we’re down 3-0 and just try to worry about one thing, and that’s tomorrow’s game,” Kyle Brodziak said. “You don’t want to look at the big picture at this time right now. I think it’s important for us to come to the rink tomorrow to try to win one hockey game. I think when you look at the big picture it might seem a little daunting, but I think the only way to go about it is take it one game at a time. Tomorrow night’s the first game, and we’ve got to try to come out with our best and try to get a win and go from thereafter.”

Yeo said, “I hate the word, I’ve never been swept, and I don’t think our players have. That’s pretty motivating in itself. We wouldn’t even be here if we didn’t have that kind of pride. How we approach it right now is what matters most. For me, I’m just doing everything I can to make sure that our guys are ready. I’m ready to coach the best game that I can tomorrow.”

Matt Cooke said it’s been tough around the team the past day.

“It’s not the situation we drew up, it’s not the situation we wanted,” Cooke said. “With that being said, we need to focus on tomorrow. That’s plain and simple. As frustrating as it’s been, we’ve faced adversity before. The picture’s tomorrow. It’s not any larger than that. It doesn’t matter further than that. It doesn’t matter. The focus is tomorrow.”

The Wild has scored four goals in the series – the same amount as Patrick Kane.

The Blackhawks have this way of ripping out your soul. The Wild has given up the first goal in all three games, has been outscored 10-3 in the first period. Even Tuesday, the Wild trailed 1-0 at the 14:06 mark, but yet despite having so many chances in the second and third periods, it just felt like the deficit was 2-, 3-, 4-0.

Everybody looks at the Blackhawks as this offensive juggernaut, and obviously they have the finishers. But this team defends so well and if you think about it, the Wild has never been hemmed in its zone for flurries on end. All its goals have come off rushes with the Blackhawks waiting for the Wild to mess up and then pouncing.

So Cooke said it’s important for the Wild to get back to not panicking if things don’t go right Thursday initially.

“It’s not that we need to change our system, it’s not that we need to go out and run around like there’s not a puck on the ice,” the veteran forward said. “We need to go out and play the way that we can – tight, fast, physical game for 60 minutes.”

There’ll be plenty of time for postmortem stuff if the Wild is eliminated, but I crunched the numbers today and there are some bigtime playoff indictments.

You can read all that in the main story in Thursday’s paper, but the numbers by Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek and Ryan Suter the past three playoffs have to be concerning to Wild brass.

Like I said, I’ll get more into it after the season if the season indeed ends this round, but the go-to guys don’t produce in the playoffs. That is a fact and the Wild will need to face that fact and figure out why or how to fix it.

Yeo is also going to have to find a way to get through to Vanek. I watched the game again this morning. I counted six times he stopped inside the blue line, five where he turned the puck over and once where he basically did because his pass didn’t connect with Charlie Coyle when Coyle drove the net.

This is absolutely not the way the Wild is supposed to play. This is absolutely not the way Vanek said umpteen times he’s supposed to play just one day before.

The Wild’s gameplan is to get pucks behind Chicago’s defense and try to wear the Blackhawks out. The one time it has done that in this series, it was successful. That is how it rallied from three goals down in the first half of the second period of Game 1.

The problem with playing deep in the offensive zone is it requires hard work. It requires hard work to score and it requires hard work to retreat if the puck is turned over.

Perhaps that why Vanek is seemingly unwilling to follow the gameplan. These turnovers just feed into the Blackhawks’ counterattack game.

Yeo bemoaned the offensive blue-line turnovers by the team today. As you know, Yeo rarely publicly criticizes the vets and he wouldn’t discuss Vanek specifically today when I asked about Vanek contradicting himself and the Wild’s gameplan.

“He is part of it,” Yeo said. “Our whole team was part of it. Again, if you’re going to create offense it’s pretty tough if you’re backchecking. So, with the way that they’re playing you have to be stronger against that. If you’re forcing plays that aren’t there then again you’re going to be playing in your own zone, and we’re not going to score from our own zone. Right now it’s a matter of instead of forcing what isn’t there, it’s taking what they’re giving you. Obviously, if there’s a chance off the rush we have to be quick. We have to be sharp. We have to take advantage of it, but if it’s not there we have to try to force them to make mistakes by playing on the forecheck and playing in the offensive zone.” 

This is not new. This is how the Wild has played all year.

Zach Parise said, “I don’t think we’ve got to sit here and change anything, change our system, change things. I don’t think that’s the solution. We’ve got to be better. I think it’s just about being better in different areas and doing a little more in the offensive zone and try to break through.”

I’ll be on KFAN from 10:15-11 a.m. Thursday and the NHL Network Arena Cam at 5:45 p.m. I hate to tell you this: I’m fairly sure the Wild’s record is like 0-100 all-time when I’m on the Bald Spot Cam.

OK, that’s it for me. I should leave the rink. It’s dark and spooky. Talk Thursday.

Postgame: With season on the brink Wild faces one mighty tall task

Here’s what the Wild’s up against:

This is the 181th time a team has trailed 3-0 in a playoff series. Only four times has a team come back from 0-3 to win a series; 111 of the previous series have ended in a sweep.

Only nine times has a team rallied to get to Game 7 when down 3-0 (winning four, losing five).

The four teams who have rallied to win series are Toronto in the 1942 Finals against Detroit, the Islanders in the 1975 quarterfinals against Pittsburgh, the Flyers in the 2010 Eastern Conference Final against Boston, and Los Angeles last season against San Jose in the Western Conference quarterfinals.

Think the Wild will beat the Blackhawks four straight?

I guess we’ll see if the Blackhawks execute the meltdown of the century.

“Obviously, we know what we’re up against right now,” coach Mike Yeo said after tonight’s 1-0 loss to the Blackhawks.

“Disappointed because we put what, in a lot of ways, we needed to in this game. We fell a little bit short but I thought our guys did a lot of good things. We didn’t get the result that I think we deserved tonight.

“We know what we’re up against, so I’m not going to get up here right now and give a big rah-rah speech. We’ve got to win a game. It’s as simple as that. In all honestly, I’ve never been here before. It’s kind of unfamiliar territory. I guess what you do is try to draw upon previous experiences even though it’s not the same. The only thing I can say is we came back from the dead once before this season, and the only way we did that was with character and belief. That’s what we need right now. The other part of that equation, the reason why we were able to make the playoffs when we weren’t supposed make the playoffs is we were able to look at it one game at a time and that’s obviously what we have to do here, too.”

The Wild has been down 0-3 twice before and swept in one of those. The Blackhawks have been up 3-0 once in the Kane-Toews era and swept the Sharks in that 2010 series.

How do the Wild brush away the frustration and the dejection and all the negative thoughts?

“That’s what we’ll ponder tonight and get ready for [Wednesday],” Yeo said. “I know there’s a lot of character in this room. We’re up against something very tough. It’s not like we’re [down] 3-0 against not a very good hockey team and I know what to expect from them, but like I said, two things, character and belief. There will be no feeling sorry for ourselves. Obviously we’re disappointed to be in this spot, but we’ve got to find a way.”

Corey Crawford did it to the Wild again.

Early in tonight’s game, the Wild had a good start offensively but were turning pucks over again and forcing Devan Dubnyk to make great saves off chances that were way too quality.

Then, Jared Spurgeon was called for tripping Bryan Bickell. On the power-play breakout, Patrick Kane said he yelled for the puck from Patrick Sharp. Sharp’s pass deflected off Matt Cooke’s stick and the puck went to Andrew Shaw on the entry. Matt Dumba way overcommitted to his left, so when Shaw pass to Kane, he was all alone with Dubnyk and shot right between the wickets for his 102nd career playoff point in 102 games.

From there, the Blackhawks pretty much played defense the rest of the night. The third period looked like a 20-minute penalty kill. Crawford stopped 20 shots through two periods and 10 in the third. Pucks missed the net, pucks were blocked, pucks slid just wide.

“I think that was definitely our best game of the series,” said Nino Niederreiter, denied three times. “I feel like we had enough chances to win this hockey game. We played a great game today, just didn’t get the bounces the way we wanted them.”

Jason Pominville, who had that puck roll on him with an empty net at the end of Game 1, again was point-blank with Crawford tonight and missed the net in the second. This after a rush in which he didn’t fire and missed a pass. Crawford is 11-3 against the Wild the past three years.

It certainly seems he’s in our head.

“Crawford, he’s a star against us,” Yeo said. “He’s Brodeur. He’s Roy. He’s everybody against, so we’ve got to find a way to solve that.”

Players were dejected beyond belief in the locker room. As Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said, this was a “goalie win.”

No moral victories this time of year, and one has to wonder what the heck the Wild has to do to beat the Blackhawks because Kane and Jonathan Toews, they’re going nowhere. They’re just entering their prime, as scary as that might be to read as a Wild fan.

Zach Parise barely uttered words in his postgame scrum after this one, ending things by sarcastically saying when asked to identify what the Wild needs to do better: “Shoot where he isn’t and maybe they’ll go in.”

As so often happens in the playoffs, it’s easy to point fingers when teams lose a playoff round, not win. And the finger-pointing has begun.

Mikko Koivu has no goals in three playoff rounds now against Chicago. Same thing with Ryan Suter. Pominville is not scoring when they need him most. Thomas Vanek, after saying yesterday over and over that the Wild has to play its game and get pucks deep and go to work, did none of that. He stopped just inside the blue line at least a half-dozen times, either turning the puck over each time or missing Charlie Coyle on a drive-and-tap-in attempt.

He has no goals this postseason.

Yeo has lived and died with the vets all year and the same veteran power-play unit most of the year. Tonight, those vets couldn’t get into the offensive zone with the net empty, couldn’t score on a power play, twice with the game having a chance to be tied.

If the Wild goes down, there better be some pretty good self-evaluation this offseason on this strategy.

There was so much dejection and frustration in the locker room – something I sensed Monday – because this team is in this position again and so quickly, one really does have to wonder if the team has it in it to muster the work that will be needed to pull off a win Thursday.

“We have to make sure we play our heart out next game and make sure we get some goals,” Niederreiter said. “That’s the biggest thing, we can’t win if we don’t score and that’s exactly what happened tonight. It’s frustrating but we have to make sure we give it all out.”

Said Yeo, “There’s no feeling sorry for ourselves right now. It’s disappointing where we’re at, but we’ve got one job to do and that’s win a game. Obviously, playing on home ice, as a proud group we want to make sure that we win that game in front of our home crowd and we want to make sure that’s we’re bringing our best game. That’s the only thing we’re thinking about right now.”

Other than winning faceoffs – the Wild got scorched, losing 37 of 59 (Koivu 17 of 28 and awfully big ones to Toews late), the Wild did enough to win other than score.

“The puck possession, the shot attempts were heavily in our favor,” Yeo said. “The scoring chances, we generated a lot of scoring chances. Again, I’m not saying we couldn’t have played better. Against that team there’s a big difference when they score first, it gives them the ability to sit back and defend a little bit more and forces us to, not open up, but it’s a little more difficult in terms of creating some situations.”

Here’s some other excerpts from some press scrums:


Down 3-0- “It’s obviously not going to be easy, not the position we want to be in. If you look at the game, we created a lot. We just got to find a way to put one in. We had some good looks, weren’t able to find a way to put one in and they miss a play, get a bounce and end up scoring a goal. That’s the difference. We just got to find a way to put one in and lately we haven’t been getting those bounces go our way.”

Your chance all alone on Crawford- “I didn’t see a replay. You come in, you shoot. You try to score, I guess and I just missed. It was one of our chances that we generated. I thought in the second period we had a lot of looks, a lot of good looks and did a lot of good things; just weren’t able to find a way. That’s the difference in the game.”

Feel good getting looks- “You miss chances, you’re not sitting there feeling happy about missing a chance. It’s obviously frustrating. It’s not fun. But you’re getting opportunities, it’s usually good signs. I think as a team, every line had some looks and again we weren’t able to put one in. You’re not going to win games when you don’t.”

Looking top corner on your chance- “The play happened quick. It’s a shot I like, for sure, and just wasn’t able to pick the corner.”

Crawford shutting off lower part- “Most goalies do, yeah. Most goalies are so good at covering the low part. You’ve got to try to get it up. He’s obviously a big goalie, does a good job at covering the lower part. We got to find a way to put one in. That’s all it is.”

Not able to set up with extra skater at the end- “I think we would have been in, I think there was offsides there and ended up pulling it down and putting it back on our blue line. And at that point, it was kind of tough to get back in. We obviously would have liked to. We had an O-zone draw to try to get possession and keep it in there and get something going. But we weren’t able to do that at that point.”

Generate enough- “Well, I feel like we did. I feel Every line had some looks, every line had some Grade-A scoring chances. We got to find a way to put one in and we weren’t able to do that tonight. Whether its us, or their goalie doing a good job, I don’t know. But if we keep creating like that, we’ll have a better chance to win and tonight just wasn’t one of those nights we were able to find a way.”

Does it become mental against them- “We know that they’re obviously an elite team in the league and they got a lot of firepower. They defend well. They’re good off the rush and you can’t get caught into that run and gun. If you do, they’ll find ways to put it in. But I thought tonight we did a pretty good job. We didn’t hand them many opportunities. Again, they got a bounce and they were able to find a way. There’s not much we could have done different on that play. I guess just kind of a tough break, I guess.”


“Do or die now.”

How tough is this? It [stinks] coming home. Like you said, we had our chances and we were unable to get one by him. They played good, but I thought we definitely improved from the first game and definitely from the second game.

Can you believe you’re in this spot? “Things were rolling for us. We were scoring goals, we were keeping pucks out of the back of our net. Everyone was playing well and now we’re down 3-0. Now we have nothing to lose. We’re going to go out and play as hard as we can.”

0 for 3 power play, including two with a chance to tie? “We’ve been moving it well and getting good looks. We had a couple chances and couldn’t capitalize. It cost us the game.”

Generate enough? “I thought in the second and third we did. First period we were skating good but we were kind of working against ourselves. We turned the puck over a lot and we’d have to come back hard. And that wears on guys. The second period, we stared to play more of an offensive, puck possession type game.”

You’ve been in tough spots before? “We’ve always seemed to make it harder on us than we need to. Maybe this is a good thing for us.”


Could see frustration on the bench, what are the feelings right now:

“Frustration that we couldn’t score. That’s about it.”

Felt like you couldn’t buy a goal. Do you feel like you did enough:

“Well, we didn’t score one so I don’t think we did enough. There’s gotta be something more we can do.”

Change anything in the third period:

“No, same.”

Where do you go from here:

“Win the fourth game. That’s about it.”

Is Crawford that on, standing on his head? Or are you not getting the shots:

“He’s playing well, he’s making good saves.”

Put into words being in this situation after the season you’ve had:

“It’s tough, we’re in a hole. But like I said, just try and get that fourth one and go from there.”

Seen downtimes during the regular season, you draw on that to turn it around:

“We all know what we’ve been through and overcome, but... like I said, we’re in a hole. We gotta reset and try and get that next one.”

Can you identify what you need to do to score more:

“Shoot where he isn’t and maybe they’ll go in.”


 Last TV timeout you looked like you were praying for a goal: “Yeah. I thought we were working pretty good to get one. I was just trying to stay in the game and expect to get a goal and be ready to keep going. Unfortunately we couldn’t get one tonight. But I thought we played a pretty good game. We got some good chances and Crawford played real well.”

Crawford: Play in this league and you’re always going to be playing against a great goalie on the other end who’s capable of having a good game. When you see the game progressing the way it is, you just want to try to make sure they don’t get the second one and keep it at one shot away. … We worked hard to get some chances tonight and unfortunate it didn’t go.”

How dejected is this room: “It’s disappointing. We’re not going to stand here and say we’re happy to be in this situation by any means. We feel we could have had one tonight and it didn’t go our way. All we can do now is go win a hockey game. nobody wants to be down 3-0, but that’s the situation we’re in and we have to win on Thursday.”

Goal against, what happened: “Well, he shot it through my legs. That is what happened.”

That’s it for me. It’s late. Trampled By Turtles’ Midnight on the Interstate is on Pandora. That’s a sign at 12:30 a.m. to pack up and leave, I think.

Talk to you after Wednesday’s availability.

Local Schedule

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  • Oakland at Twins

    12:10pm on 96.3-FM

  • Chicago at Wild

    8:30pm on NBCSN, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers baseball at Iowa


  • Twins at Cleveland

    6:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Gophers baseball at Iowa


  • Twins at Cleveland

    3:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Atlanta at Minnesota United FC


  • Twins at Cleveland

    12:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Gophers baseball at Iowa


  • Twins at Detroit

    6:08pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Twins at Detroit

    6:08pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

Today's Scoreboard

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