Wild @ Phoenix
The Wild had no business winning this one. Maybe they were looking ahead to the Fowl or whatever, but they sure looked disinterested for 50 minutes before somehow working out a 3-2 win. That being said, you kind of have to ask Phoenix why they couldn't put the game away. Nice to see Gaby, Koivu and our power play get on the board, Nik looked average in the first and then found himself in the second and third. Hard to complain about a guy with 4-0-0, 1.00, 0.959 stats, though.
And we learned that an angry Belanger is a dangerous Belanger. His personification of the age-old adage "Don't get mad, get even" in scoring the game-winning goal (a shorty, no less!) shows the kind of intestinal fortitude that this team needs.
BOTTOM LINE: Good teams find ways to win this kind of game, and the Wild did just that.
STUD: Belanger's going to make his dentist a rich man. But as long as he continues to show up on the scoresheets...
DUD: Radio was a waste of space out there. All these kids vying for fourth line time, I just don't see how they can not put out a huge effort to try to earn more ice time. Unless they can't, in which case I still think we should ship them out and start easing the Pouliots of the world into the NHL.
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Wild @ Fowl
Wild fans, possibly jonesing for any kind of fix to stave off the worst cravings from the rivalry salad days of the North Stars (vs. Blackhawks, Red Wings, Blues, etc), have tried very hard to make a rivalry mountain out of a molehill since the birth of the team.
Oooh! Thirty games a season and one playoff series against the Nuks! RIVALRY!
By in large, fans of these respective teams have yawned or laughed at this feeble attempt to fabricate something that needs to be grown organically.
About the only team we could potentially claim a budding rivalry with is the Anaheim Fowl. We've faced them twice in the playoffs, and they've summarily dumped us on our collective butt both times. We've won one of nine games against them in two series. Last year they beat us into submission and overwhelmed us with gritty blue collar offense over the balance of five games, rarely needing to shift out of first gear in the process.
But there was a little nastiness in game four (the one game we did manage to win). Brad May - who should know better - chose to sucker punch team pacificst Kim Johnsson amidst some other squirmishes, and it certainly escalated the vitriol and the machismo for the rest of the series.
In a day in age when "We'll get them next time" rhetoric is grounds for a "premeditation" claim if rough play comes to pass somewhere down the road, there wasn't a ton of hyperbole tossed around before this game (at least not by the players). The Wild, at least, were also preoccupied with that little season-opening four-game winning streak thingy.
The Wild have never been confused with the more rough-and-tumble type teams in the league, and one gets the feeling that, under the current administration, they never will. So it was refreshing to see them sack up for this one, get the pugilistic stuff out of the way and then "Belanger" the Fowl on the scoreboard in their 2-0 win.
Boogaard did his job, passing on Parros early, then fighting May, and then fighting Parros. I wouldn't say DB "won" either of his fights, but he did what he had to do. You have to respect May, by the way, for answering the bell and adhering to the code. Something the Cookes and Jarkko Ruutus of the world never do. Even Nick Schultz, the new daddy, got in on the action, wrasslin' with Ryan Getzlaf.
More impressively, after all the fireworks, they were able to focus on their game and scratch out a solid win. Rolston fired up the laser beam again and Parrish put the cherry on top of a nifty little tic-tac-toe play with Koivu setting up Radio, who set up Parrish for the finish.
That they gave the Fowl 8 man advantage situations was a little concerning, but that they killed them ALL off was both a relief and hopefully something they can build on.
Harding got the start, looked shaky for the first few minutes and then settled in to a very strong, very busy night.
At this point, I see nothing to be gained from further retributive activities - as there's nothing to seek retribution for. Hopefully we can continue to see hard-fought, edgy hockey when the Wild and Fowl get together, and if that leads to some fisticuffs so be it.
BOTTOM LINE: Best performance of the five games for the Wild by a long shot.
STUD: Harding was poised, positioned and solid. No one should have any reservations when Josh gets a start over Nik. Very possibly the best 1-2 tandem in the NHL.
DUD: It's hard to say anyone really played poorly, but it was not the best game of Burns' career. Flubbed a couple clearing attempts. Not a dud per se, more that he had the least-great game.
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Rough weekend. I picked four games and went 1-3. On Saturday I won on the Sabres, but lost on the Sharks and Predators. On Sunday, I lost on the Fowl.
Next pick is not until Thursday this week.
Season record: 5-6
Season winning %: 0.455
Last 10: 4-6 (0.400)
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Upsets, zaniness and a few early-season statements were made this weekend in college pucks. In mostly non-conference tournament play, there were several big story lines.
*Defending NCAA Champion Michigan State was blanked by North Dakota 6-0. The Fighting Bigots didn't seem to have any trouble defending their pre-season #1 ranking - even without TJ Oshie who missed the majority of the game after getting a fiver and a gamer for checking from behind (no truth to the rumors that the Flyers immediately called the Blues about trading for him after his penalty).
*The Gophers hung on to beat the Wolverines in the Ice Breaker championship game. Jeff Frazee was giving out rebounds like it was his job, but Blake Wheeler looks like a stud, and could very well be challenging for Hobey if he can continue to play like he did this weekend.
*BU, in the biggest upset of the weekend, lost to Robert Morris University up in Alaska. In fact, the Terriers flew back from Anchorage with only a tie to show for their whole weekend.
*Ohio State beat Wisconsin to win the Lefty McFadden Tournament.