Friday, November 30, 2007

SBP Update

I forgot to mention yesterday, but I bet three games last night:

Nashville (@ Ottawa) - WIN
Boston (@ Florida) - WIN
Detroit (vs. Tampa Bay) - WIN

Season record: 17-13
Winning %: 0.567
Last 10: 8-2 (W5)

For the weekend:


Sabres (vs. Hurricanes)
Flyers (vs. Stars)
Panthers (vs. Capitals)
Red Wings (vs. Coyotes)
*Your choice on Kings (vs Avalanche), Maple Leafs (vs. Penguins), Predators (@ Habs)

Devils (vs. Thrashers)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Gm # 24: Wild vs. Coyotes

It's fitting that the Wild played the Coyotes last night since they've been wandering around in their own little desert for a month or so now. And while I'm not going to make too big a deal out of this one win, it was a much better, more Wild-like effort than we've seen in quite some time.

To the extent that means it was a boring, quiet game punctuated by opportunistic offensive moments, so be it.

But the Wild got a 3-1 win via hard work, attention to detail, stingy defense and good goaltending. Sound familiar?

The kids continue to earn their ice time. Last night JL had Sheppard, Voros and Veilleux/Parrish on a line together, and they were consistently the most energetic line on the ice. SRV got his fourth of the season, Shep got his second and added a helper, and Voros had two (first) assists.

Gaby scored on a breakaway which means he had a defender on him (as opposed to the SO when he doesn't score because no one's chasing him).

Backstrom played well again. Hill, Fedoruk and Voros all displayed a nasty edge (sorely needed with this team) and managed to get under the skin of the 'Yotes at times.

Johnsson had a strong game in all zones.

I'd still like to see the BBR line (Butch, Belanger and Rolston) get it going. They're allowed a little more creative flair (ie drop passes) than our other lines, and when that works it's great, but when it doesn't it just creates chances against. Rolston, in particular, continues to look anemic - though his laser off the crossbar in the waning seconds hopefully portends better things from him.

CHICKEN LITTLE SAYS: We're still only one line deep, and it's the wrong line.

POLLYANNA SAYS: Shep, Voros, SRV...the future looks great!

BOTTOM LINE: Good, solid two points against a conference rival.

STUD: Shep showed Wild fans a glimpse of a future top line power forward type. Seven helpers now for the kid.

DUD: Gotta call out Rolston. He just looks tired. I know he doesn't like playing center, but we need him to be a bigger part of the game than he has been lately.

***NEW TO HTP***
Check out the Wild Super Stats Pack on the right column.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ouch Town Population You, Bro!

Here's the infirmary report for the Wild tonight against the 'Yotes:

Josh Harding - IR (head)
Petteri Nummelin - IR (head)
Nolan Schaefer still backing up Nik Backstrom, who starts tonight
Pavol Demitra activated off IR, will play tonight
Matt Foy - healthy scratch tonight (had goal, assist in last game)
Derek Boogaard - healthy scratch tonight
Kurtis Foster - scratch tonight (facial fracture)


Backstrom has four wins (2 SO) against the Coyotes, all-time

(thanks to Russo and for the 411)


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Random Musings

*Our deepest condolences to the Risebrough family on the passing of Doug's mother Marie, of complications with cancer. Hockey is nothing as compared to the health of one's family.

*The League absolutely must hold the Philadelphia organEYEzation responsible for the conduct of its players after Scott Hartnell's unconscionable hit on Andrew Alberts last night. That's three incidents in this quarter-season by the same team. I don't think anyone who isn't in the dressing room with them on a daily basis can say whether or not this is a systemic thing within the organization or just a string of horrid coincidences. But the problem is that it just keeps on happening with the Flyers. A punishment is both a correction to the behavior of the malefactor and a detriment to similar would-be malefactors. Clearly the Flyers players need a stronger detriment, and perhaps taking away a draft pick or suspending the coach of fining Ed Snider would do the trick. But if the league doesn't do something about this right now, then the league is saying they condone this type of behavior from an entire team.

Hartnell gets 2 games. No word on whether or not the Flyers got anything, so I assume they didn't. This is an ugly day for the NHL, and it's their own doing.

*Huge kudos to the 6,000 or so Edmonton Oilers season ticket holders who gave up their seats to Canadian service men and women on Saturday night. Al Cimaglia, who covers the Blackhawks for Hockeybuzz wrote a nice piece on it.

*Maybe moving Brett Hull into the front office was exactly what the Dallas Stars needed? With their OT win on Long Island last night, the Stars have now reeled off six in a row, and sit atop the Pacific.

*The scene at the end of "Return of the Jedi" after Darth Vader has tossed the Emporer down the chute of death but has taken the mortal hits from the Emporer's lightning finger thingamajigs and lies, dying, at Luke's feet and then begs Luke to help him take off his helmet so he can see his son with his own eyes once before he dies is A) awesome and B) what I thought of when I heard that Brian Burke moved Ilya Bryzgalov because he had promised him that he'd either start this season or else Burke would find him a new home where he could. Maybe I take this game a little too seriously. But Bryz's, er, Phoenix-like rise with the Coyotes (four game winning streak since he got there) is a good thing to see.

*The Devils continue to get it done, winners of four straight, and only four points behind Philly and the Rangers in the Atlantic. Congrats to Marty Brodeur on passing 500 victories.

*Don't look now, but the Sabres are gelling. They've won five in a row, knocking off the Caps last night, and Miller's starting to play like he did basically all of last season.

*Toronto is a mess right now. It doesn't help that they've got an endless string of rabid media types dissecting every chunk of crap that gets dropped in the bathrooms at the ACC to see who had corn with their pre-game meal last night. It would appear as though Fergie might not be so Fergalicious, and both he and "He Who Speaks of the Pompitous of Love" might both be looking for work soon. It would also help if Bryan McCabe could avoid taking a dump in his breezers every time he gets the puck in his own zone.

*Dost mine own eye deceive me, or are the Panthers sitting in second place in the Southeast?!

*...Meanwhile, across the continent in Calgary, Keenan's NEW club continues to languish in mediocrity and inconsistency.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Gm # 23: Wild @ Predators

It's a time-tested hockey cliche that getting out on the road can be a tonic for tight play at home. The Minnesota Wild certainly needed a dose of that after some horrible play at the X against the Canucks and BJs. They did play better in their 4-3 win over Nashville, and better might be good enough for right now, but it wasn't an awe-inspiring effort. At the end of the day, two points is two points (and in regulation!) so Wild fans should just take it and turn the page.

The Voros, Foy, Sheppard line was the best line all night, scoring two goals. We watched the Fowl's "Kid Line" hurt us over and over again in the playoffs last spring with an overwhelming forecheck and timely goals. This line is starting to produce the same kind of result. JL has talked about Sheppard playing more than he'd like him to, but as long as the kid puts out (and injuries dictate) he's going to keep getting ice time.

Backstrom allowed three goals, but turned aside 40 shots, and generally looked much more Backstrom-like than he has the past few weeks.

Parrish, so beaten up in the BJs game, showed his testicular fortitude by playing, and earning an assist on Gaby's goal.

Even Dominic Moore, who has not done anything to impress me, chipped in with two helpers.

Foster took a puck to the forehead and is out for a few days.

Radio, whose job is thought to be in jeopardy as signaled by the signing of Fedoruk, responded to his first healthy scratch as a Wild player with a stronger effort, and the GWG.

The Wild have a few days off to prepare before four-straight at home - where they'd better get it going.

Demo should be back on Wednesday, according to Russo.

CHICKEN LITTLE SAYS: Forty-three shots against is not a good way to go about winning games.

POLLYANNA SAYS: Winning on the second night of back-to-backs is always tough!

BOTTOM LINE: Two points, in regulation, on the road, against a direct competitor in the Western Conference standings.

STUD: Radio did a great job answering the critics in this he just needs to do it next game, and the game after that, and the game after that....

DUD: Fedoruk did nothing positive, got out-played by the guys whose jobs he's competing for, and was a team-low minus-two.


Gm # 22: Wild vs. BJs

Coming off a listless, uninspired, head-scratching loss to the Canucks, after which the team attempted to send a message to it's underperforming group of players in the form of a waiver wire signing of Todd Fedoruk, one would have thought the Wild would have had plenty of motivation to come out and whip the BJs. One would have been wrong.

The Wild played another inimaginably ugly game, losing 4-0. True, there was an element of bad luck, but sometimes you have to make your own luck - and the Wild aren't making anything positive on the ice lately.

Maybe Lemaire is losing his ability to get through to the troops, but, whatever the reason, it's ugly.

CHICKEN LITTLE SAYS: What's this "NBA" I've heard about?


BOTTOM LINE: Wild drops a winnable game at home, falls out of the top 8 in the west.

STUD: Voros didn't produce on the scoresheet, but he's been one of the very few Wild players putting out a consistent effort. And his jack-in-the-box hit on Jiri Novotny was a thing of beauty.

DUD: The Wild needs Gaborik to produce in all games if they're going to have a shot at winning. He didn't (-2 for the game) and they didn't.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Gm # 21: Wild vs. Canucks

The Wild couldn't stand the heat, so they got out of the kitchen on Thanksgiving eve as the much-ballyhooed rematch with Satan and his Spawn, I mean the Vancouver Canucks, went to the Canucks in a 4-2 final.

First, the game.

The Wild came out amped to start, as you thought they would after the insane build up to the game. They got to running around a bit and the Nuks took advantage as only a poised, well-coached team will and were up 2-0 early. Marian Gaborik, showing some flashes of dominance, single-handedly tried to keep the Wild in the game with two goals to tie it, and one of the sickest displays of good-groin seen in the X in a long time when he sort of side stepped around not one but two Canucks players just inside the Nuk blueline and got a shot off in the second. The Wild, though, let the Canucks hang around, Hards got bopped in the noggin, Skoula and Burns both made stupid pinches and didn't recover, and Markus Naslund worked a hatter as Vancouver got out of town with a perfectly played road game victory.

Sean Hill finally got into a game after completing his 20-game suspension. Actually, I would have said he was one of the Wild's best players. He brought a very simple game and stuck to it for the most part. He even got a couple shots on goal.

Voros was the only Wild player to fight (Burrows), and continued to show that he wants to stay with the big club.

CHICKEN LITTLE SAYS: I hate to say "I told you so, but..."

POLLYANNA SAYS: Gaby didn't hurt himself.

BOTTOM LINE: You get the feeling this season hangs in the balance over the next couple weeks. Five of six at home, we need to find our game right now.

STUD: Gaby potted two and undressed 40% of a Canucks' line on one play in the second. Groinerific!

DUD: Skoula made a horrendous pinch and then half-assed it back as the Canucks scored the winner.

Now, the reax.

This team is playing like shit.

There is no clear leadership on the ice. There is no obvious willingness to follow through on style of play or game plan. Gone is the cult-like adherence to the team-wide suffocating brand of defense. They've always been baby's butt soft. They're not skating, they're not hitting, they're not creating, they're not thinking.... Compounding this is that, in the absence of strong team-wide defensive play, the goalies are looking mortal. They're a rudderless team right now.

And it needs to change if they're going to continue on the trajectory that DR has promised us since day one. If we, as fans, are going to be patient as they build themselves into a perennial Cup challenger, then part of the deal is that there are no set backs. That once they achieve the next rung in the ladder they do not look back. Last year the rung they reached was of a playoff team. With no significant changes to the roster since then, the fair conclusion to be drawn is that that prior result (making the playoffs) is a given, and they believed they had the right guys in place to take the next step (maybe winning a series or two).

They will get no reprieve from me if they do not deliver on that forecast. This is not meteorology where it's okay to be wrong 95% of the time. This is big league professional sports.

And if that means that players' jobs, or coaches' jobs, are threatened to achieve those goals, then so be it. The Wild is not Marian Gaborik, or Niklas Backstrom, or Wes Walz, or Jacques Lemaire. The team will exist long after those guys are out of the game (I hope). So, if a player isn't getting it done, or if a cattle prod needs to be rammed up the team's collective butt to get them going - then do it.

And if a coach's message is falling on deaf ears - as happens with all coaches, regardless of how brilliant or pedigreed they are, eventually - then it's time to find a new coach.

Fallout Boy

Apparently DR has a very ill mother, and is tending to her. Obviously we wish Doug and his family the very best, and hope for a quick and full recovery for his mother.

But he and Tom Lynn were apparently fairly busy from the end of the Nuks game through the Thanksgiving holiday (DR's Canadian so I guess it's okay if he works on the U.S. T-day; I don't know where Lynn's from).

The big signing? Todd Fedoruk...???

They claimed him off re-entry waivers from Dallas. While this means we only have to pay half his remaining salary (and his salary cap hit as well, I believe), that would appear to be about the only positive. All I know about this guy is that he's an ersatz enforcer who's one good knock to the melon away from a lifetime of art therapy and Scooby-Doo lunchboxes. The primary cause of this situation is none other than our very own Derek Boogaard who crushed everything in Todd's face other than his will in a fight a couple years back. Apparently he's got more game than that, and is not just a fighter (no shit, Sherlock!) though to what extent I have no idea. One gets the feeling this is not the last move, especially considering Petteri Nummelin and Josh Harding both incurred injuries in the Canucks game, and Demitra is still only day-to-day.

With the BJs in town for the Hmong New Year today, the boys have a chance to come out and prove that they're not going to lay down this season, and hopefully start to get things back on track.

But it's certainly interesting times in Wild land right now.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

X Marks the Spot

Hmm...Thanksgiving Eve. What to do in the sleepy Twin Cities, well, other than take my tryptophan blockers, that is? Maybe see if there are any late tickets available for "The Lion King"? What's playing at the Lagoon?

Maybe trot on down to the Mall of Amer.....what's that? There's a professional ice hockey game tonight? In St. Paul, no less? Really? I wonder why I hadn't heard a thing about it?

Judging by the verbal vomiting the press has been afflicted with since the Canucks finished off their ass-kicking of the Wild last Friday night you'd think the Wild were playing Hitler and the Nazis tonight with a One-Time Only chance to avenge the Holocaust. Sorry to disappoint, but it's only the Vancouver Canucks and their roving band of chickenshit hockey players.

To recap the precipitating events:

1. The Canucks spanked the Wild all over the ice on Friday, ultimately winning 6-2, though it might as well have been 10-0 for as wide a discrepancy as there was between the on-ice performance of the two teams.

2. Towards the end of the game, Gaborik threw a nasty elbow at Ryan Kesler (who had shadowed and shut down Gaby quite effectively all night), Boogey tussled with Willie Mitchell and got tossed, PMB tussled with Alex Burrows, Koivu got his elbow up in Mattias Ohlund's face to which Ohlund responded with a slash that broke a bone in Mikko's leg, and SRV mistook Mike Weaver's melon for a clay pigeon at the final buzzer.

3. Mikko's on crutches and off the ice and Ohlund drew a four-game suspension from the league.

4. Boogaard, Markus Naslund, Kesler, Burrows, PMB and Gaby have all been running their mouths to varying degrees.

5. The Nuks called up AHL goon Mike Brown as an "insurance policy".

6. The league called the respective GMs and told them to keep their players under control.

7. Mick McGeough is all paid up on his Thespian Society dues and is ready to ref the game.

8. Fans on both sides are "putting on the foil" in anticipation of a game that will almost surely NOT match the hype.

So all eyes will be on the X tonight for just a little regular season game in November.

I, for one, think Gaby needs to "drop the purse" (thanks Brent Burns!) with Kesler.

I don't think Boogey will get too much action since he's about six inches taller and 60 points heavier than the average of the Nuks' two "tough guys" (Cowan and Brown). He's also drawn the watchful eye of the League with his incendiary rhetoric (his line about Naslund and the Sedin twins being "Pink and the Brain twins" is classic).

Hopefully the Wild remember that they truly got their collective butt handed to them by the Nuks where it counts the most - on the scoreboard - last game and need to step up and win the game mroe than the physical battle.

A repeat of the first Fowl game this year would be ideal.



Monday, November 19, 2007

Gm # 19: Wild @ Canucks (1/8)

Worst game the Wild have played in several seasons. Utterly incompetent in their own zone, minimal interest shown in the offensive zone. Props to the 'Nuks for shutting us down and generally dominating us. Like the Foys of the world, when given a chance to play Harding must come out stronger than that.

The BS at the end with Gaby/Kesler and obviously Mikko/Ohlund sets an interesting stage for Wednesday's rematch. If the refs don't toss Boogey so quickly I don't think any of that happens with Mikko.

CHICKEN LITTLE SAYS: Don't say I didn't warn you.

POLLYANNA SAYS: Um.....oh fuck it, that was pretty bad.

BOTTOM LINE: Ditto Pollyanna.

STUD: Voros played in front of the home town peeps, got his first goal.

DUD: Harding. Gotta be better than that, kid.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Stat Corner

Since the recap was so vacuous, I thought I'd try to find something of interest to write today.

Here are some numbers about the Wild so far:

*Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting
Season-to-date record by day:
Sunday 2-2
Monday 1-0
Tuesday 0-2-1
Wednesday 1-1
Thursday 2-1-1
Friday 0-0
Saturday 4-0

*Central Casting
Record by time zone:
Pacific 1-0-1
Mountain 2-4-1
Central 7-2-0

*What If?
What's the Wild's record when:
The Wild score first? 9-2-1
The opponent scores first? 1-4-1
The Wild lead after 1 period? 4-2-0
The Wild trail after 1 period? 1-2-1
The game is tied after 1 period? 5-2-1
The Wild lead after 2 periods? 7-0-0
The WIld trail after 2 periods? 2-4-1
The game is tied after 2 periods? 1-2-1
The Wild have a lead at any point in the 3rd period? 10-1-0
The Wild have a lead at any point in the game? 10-3-1
The Wild trail at any point in the game? 2-6-2

*Odd Is Good
The Wild's goals for/against by period:
First: 14 GF 9 GA (+5)
Second: 20 GF 21 GA (-1)
Third: 15 GF 11 GA (+4)
OT/SO: 0 GF 2 GA (-2)

Gm # 18: Wild @ Oilers (4/8)

I did not see the game again, so I can offer no editorial.

The Wild are 3-0-1 against the Grease so far this year, and 1-0-1 in Edmonton.

Big game tonight in the 'Couv.

*** *** ***


I took the Pens, Flyers and Wild last night - going 2-1 (stupid Rangers).

Season record: 14-13
Winning %: 0.519
Last 10: 7-3

For Friday I have the Devils (vs. Islanders), Habs (@ Sabres), Bolts (vs. Caps) and Canucks (vs. Wild).

For Saturday I like the Bruins, Flyers, Predators and I'm on the fence about taking the Panthers.

For Sunday I like the BJs and the Flames.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

SBP Update

With the help of a 3-1 weekend, I got back to 0.500 for the season!

I had the Canucks on Friday, and lost.

I took the Bruins, Hurricanes and Predators on Saturday and won all of them.

Season record: 12-12
Winning %: 0.500
Last 10: 6-4

The next picks are on Thursday the 15th.


Gm # 17: Wild @ Flames (3/8)

Back in, oh, 2002, the Wild were a plucky young team, outmatched in essentially every skill department by virtually every team. So they relied on a tight-fisted defensive game to stay competitive game in and game out. At that point, it was said by the coaching/management staff that it was the best way to stay competitive. Many of us swallowed that whole.

Over the years since then, as the players have matured and the overall skill level theoretically increased, the coaching/management staff has pontificated that they no longer HAD to rely on the harsh, cult-like adherence to a strict defensive code to win games, and even loosened the reigns on our more offensively-gifted players. As well, the coaching staff in particular has been talking about how nice it is to be a three-line-deep team on offense.

Then the WonderGroin Twins (thanks to the residents of Russoville for that one) go down and we're exposed as a stunningly thin team up front, with virtually no speed, much less finishing skill.

Last night might as well have been "Throwback Night" in Calgary considering how the Wild played. It was a page right out of the 2002-2003 yearbook. The Flames outlasted the Wild in a 3-2 win, with four of the five goals scored in the third period. It was, in a word, boring.

The Wild had zero jump whatsoever - against a team coming in at a low point in confidence amidst a five-game losing streak. The slightest bit of a killer instinct and the Wild could have taken control of this game early. Sadly, the only thing the Wild killed was it's fans' buzzes.

I understand we don't have our entire top line, #1 PP unit and #1 PK unit. That's a major bummer. But are we now forced to realize that we simply don't have the depth to overcome that? We do not have enough guys to restock those units? If we don't, we don't. But then the coaches and management waxing noxious about how deep we are rings pretty hollow.

I don't need sunshine blown up my butt to make me feel good about the team. I need effort, if not wins.

Now we have a tough back-to-back in Edmonton and then Vancouver starting Thursday night. We could very easily come out of this four-game road trip with zero points, and sitting somewhere in the middle of the NW division. If salvation is on the trainer's table getting his groin iced (or sitting in a hot tub back in St. Paul, sipping energy shakes and watching the games on TV) then we're in serious trouble.

If salvation is in the locker room, we'd better see it and soon.

CHICKEN LITTLE SAYS: How you can't get up for a division game is beyond me. Pathetic effort by a team with no margin for error, apparently.

POLLYANNA SAYS: Voros played well again!

BOTTOM LINE: In the words of Dudley Moore's "Emory Leeson" in the movie "Crazy People": "First a mental institution, now rain?"

STUD: Koivu is a stud. He was the best player on the ice for us all night. That "A" looks really, really good on him.

DUD: I can only choose one? Ohhh...Skoula almost scored on Backstrom and generally didn't help the cause. It's always fun to put Skoula in this space, so why not?


Gm # 16: Wild @ Avs (3/8)

I didn't see this game, which the Avs won 3-2, but other than a couple PPGs it didn't sound like the most inspiring Wild game ever.

From JL's comments it sounded like the most important players didn't step up at all, though the Aaron Voroses of the world apparently did play pretty well.

CHICKEN LITTLE SAYS: Looks like another ugly November for the Wild.

POLLYANNA SAYS: At least the Gophers swept!

BOTTOM LINE: The Wild has now pissed away all the mojo from their "hot start".

STUD: Didn't see it, can't comment.

DUD: Ditto Stud.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Random Musings, etc

*Nashville's fall from playoff grace continues. They are arguably the worst team in a division that, for the last five years, wore the hairshirt distinction of being the worst in the NHL. More problematic is that three of their divisional foes (St. Louis, Chicago and Columbus) are rife with young talent - while the Preds are not. The team and league cite the lack of corporate sponsorship locally as a major roadblock to fiscal progress for them. But are we surprised that Piggly Wiggly isn't falling all over themself to sponsor the team down there?

*Speaking of the Central...before the season there was talk about whether or not we could see a single division send four teams to the playoffs. It was thought that the Northwest has four teams WORTHY of the playoffs. But no one figured it would be the Central that might be able to pull off the feat.

*The Rangers have no excuse for their season-long inability to score. And now guess what?! Jagr's unhappy! I'll bet Coach Renney is taking delivery of a case of Tums daily right now.

*Tough time to be a defenseman in the Northwest division. Vancouver (Salo), Calgary (Phaneuf), Edmonton (Souray, Pitkanen, Green, Roy) and Colorado (Leopold) all have or have just had injury trouble on the blueline.

*The Penguins have disappointed so far, and there are two major reasons why. 1) Fleury has been all stinkeroo and 2) other than El Cito, Geno and Sykora they have had zero secondary scoring.

*Not only did the Devils survive their 9-game road trip to start the season, but they've been playing pretty well in their new digs too. Yes, they're in last place in the division, but they're only 4 points behind Philly. Oh yeah, and Brodeur is starting to play like, well, Brodeur. Coincidence? I think not.

*So let me get this straight: Sheldon Souray leaves Montreal and signs with Edmonton, but has been hurt for a month and the Grease stink. Meanwhile, the Habs' power play is nearly automatic? Crazy game, this hockey.

*The Caps got off to a quick start but have since cooled dramatically. Kolzig, who looked so good the first couple games, just looks old and slow now.

*Eric Lindros retired. So much promise, and he was undoubtedly the Shaquille O'Neal of the NHL for a few seasons. But the concussions absolutely robbed him of a chance to fully realize that potential.

*The Hockey Hall of Fame induction weekend starts today. And what a class for 2007: Mark Messier, Al MacInnis, Ron Francis and Scott Stevens are the players. Perusing a profile page on, I count:
2 Harts
3 Lady Byngs
1 Selke
1 Olympic Gold medal
1 Norris
2 Pearsons
3 Conn Smythes
47 All-Star Game appearances
17 NHL All-Star Team selections (first or second team)
12 Stanley Cup rings
6538 games played
1779 goals
4088 assists
5867 points
0.897 career points per game (two of these guys are DEFENSEMEN!!)

*HTP completed the second reader poll. The question was: should the organEYEzation be held responsible (ie financially) when a player does something stupid/injures another player?

Among the 20 votes, 8 (40%) said yes, 3 (15%) said no and 9 (45%) said that it depends on the situation. For the record, I say that it depends on the situation, but that it should absolutely be a possibility. Thanks for voting!

*** *** ***

SBP Update

I took a week off to tweak the system, and came back last night with three games. I took the Devils, Canadiens and Hurricanes - and decided NOT to take the Rangers at the last minute. I went 2-1 - though the 'Canes sandbagged me.

Season record: 9-11
Winning %: 0.450
Last 10: 4-6

For this weekend, I like the Avs on the road tonight against the Canucks. Saturday I like the Hurricanes on the road in Atlanta and maybe the Predators at home against the BJs.

I'm holding off on the Bruins and Coyotes on Saturday - which means both will win and I'll feel dumb.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Gm # 15: Wild vs. Oilers (3/8)

The Wild, not without their own injuries (Gaby/Demo) took advantage of a more-injured (and thinner to begin with) Grease team on Monday in a 5-2 win.

It's not nice to pick on someone when they're down - and the Grease are most definitely down right now - so I'm not going to rehash the whole game.

There were some positives though:

*4 power play goals! And in a variety of flavors, no less. And without Gaby/Demo?! A very good sign.

*Foster finally breaks through. Getting him to start putting the puck in the net is certainly not the worst thing in the world for the Wild.

*Nummy on the wing was a breath of fresh air. Especially with Hill coming off suspension soon, I suspect we haven't seen the last of Nummy as a forward.

CHICKEN LITTLE SAYS: Anyone can beat the Grease right now. Prove it against a real team.

POLLYANNA SAYS: Way to salvage the homestand with back-to-back wins. And without the Slovakian contingency at full strength? Great!

BOTTOM LINE: Two regulation points against a division opponent. No more injuries. All good news heading back on the road.

STUD: Parrish, with two PPGs, is playing like the net-crashing ugly goal-specialist we need him to be. He is, quietly, a HUGE piece of the puzzle for us.

DUD: Pouliot. The first game, sure, I'll give him a pass to adjust to the speed of the NHL. But you have to know you don't have many games to show us what you're worth. He was a non-factor, and largely invisible. Back to Houston.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Gm # 14: Wild vs. Flames (2/8)

Second chances are one of the best things the sports world offers to players and fans alike. Redemption is both sweet and generally readily available. Conversely, playing a team soon after vanquishing them gives you an opportunity to really make a statement.

Such was the stage as the Wild faced off against the NW division rival Flames on Saturday night. Recall that it was the same Flames - with a solid history of beating up on the Wild - who ended the Wild's undefeated start to the season, and with a stunning, resounding, come-from-behind victory no-less, a mere 10 days prior.

Since then the Wild have been losing games and giving up ground to the Flames and the Avalanche in the division. Indeed, Saturday's game offered Calgary a chance to take the lead in the division with a regualtion win.

In the last game, the Wild dominated the first period (ultimately building a 3-0 lead) only to see it crumble away for an eventual 5-3 loss.

In Saturday's game, the Wild got off to a similar start. But this time the Wild were able to hold the lead, and ended up finishing off the Flames in a strong 4-1 effort.

Stevie Ray Veilleux had another strong game at both ends of the rink, and nearly set up Radio off the opening face off. Radio, who can't finish to save his life, worked his tail off too, and was rewarded at the end of the game with an empty-netter. The third member of that line was Mikko Koivu, who apparently can do anything Lemaire asks of him - and do it well. Koivu continues to impress me as the most complete player on the team. Those guys were primarily tasked with shutting down noted Wild-killer Jarome Iginla - and they did, save for an amazing tip in at the end of the second period.

In other news, Gaby's back! He scored twice, and had a couple other very nice moves. As a bonus, his first goal was on a breakaway - where he has some well-documented issues. His second goal was equally promising in that it was A) on the power play and B) a result of him being, and going to work, in the front of the net.

Finally, Backstrom redeemed himself after his brutal outing against the Flames last time out. He stopped several redirections, and made key saves all game long. The Flames were not without chances, and Backstrom was the answer more-than often enough to be a difference in the game.

Young Shep continues to show that he's not afraid of the Show and has the game to contribute. He did not look out of place on his shifts with Gaby and Demo.

...Although Demo did leave the game in the second period with a "leg injury". Coming so soon after his previous groiner, there is certainly some concern there.

Boogey had a long fight with Godard (one of the very few with a legit chance at beating Boogey in a fight) and did not return after with an injured hand.

Carney earned his paycheck with one brilliant play, breaking up a rush and setting up Sheppard's outlet pass to a cherry-picking Gaborik for the breakaway goal. JL has been saying that Carney's play had not fallen off from last year, but it was just a numbers game. I don't care what game it is, Carney has to be in the lineup. The whole defense is calmer and steadier when he's in.

I know he let in three goals and took the loss, but Kipper was very good in that game. He made that sick initial save on Radio, was screened on the Rolston goal, maybe would have liked the Gaby breakaway back, and was left all alone with two Wild players on Gaby's PPG. He made as many big saves as Backstrom did. All-in-all, it was another solid Finnish Goalie Battle Royale.

CHICKEN LITTLE SAYS: Better. Though now with Demo out we'll see if Gaby puts out or pouts.

POLLYANNA SAYS: There was the 60-minute effort we've been looking for!

BOTTOM LINE: Redemption Song. Evened the season series with Calgary, and put down the mutiny.

STUD: Gaby. 2-1-3 and a very strong game overall. Proved that he is absolutely still our most deadly offensive threat.

DUD: Foster. Got a raw deal on a big shot that hit the post, but otherwise was the worst defender on the ice. Still won't hit (even when he's in a fight - nice take down, Sally!) and is a worse finisher than Radio.

UP NEXT: Edmonton, Monday.

Also, Russo's reporting that Walz is contemplating retirement.


Friday, November 2, 2007

Brian Burke Wants To Hug

Mr. Burke is never one to mince words, and he has a unique offshoot of the Randy Jones hit on Patrice Bergeron, as reported by Kevin Allen of USA Today here.

Burke is saying that one way to prevent against the kind of legal, but potentially dangerous hit that Jones laid on Bergeron, AS WELL as reduce the impact of players turning their back into the hit (something that I still don't think Bergeron did on that play, but readily acknowledge happens all-too frequently) and ending up compounding the potential for harm from an otherwise-legit hockey play without malicious intent is to allow defensemen to go back to being allowed to place their hands on/around the player they're trying to check/control.

Rules changed after the lockout created a penalty situation when a defenseman takes his hands off his stick and places them on their opponent. This was an attempt to reduce the clutch and grab type of play that was thought to be clogging up the game to quadruple bypass levels.

I think Burke has an interesting point, and a potentially legitimate workaround.

My first reaction, though, is "where do you draw the line" and "do you really want to put more gray area into the refs' job"? Obstruction is such a subjective call, and NHL refs have a hard enough job as it is. The good thing about the way the rule is now is that, theoretically, as soon as the defender takes his hands off his stick and places them on the opposing player it's a penalty. Doesn't always get called like that, but that's the rule nonetheless.

If Burke's rule was graven on stone tablets and brought to fruition, at what point does it become obstruction? When the opposing player tries to move away from the exact spot that the hit was made? Within one stick length of that spot?

Hard to say, and I'm glad I don't have to try to quantify this.

But it's an interesting point, nonetheless - and anything that we can do to reduce these awful images of a player going head-first into the boards and lying unconscious on the ice is good.

Gm # 13: Wild vs. Blues (2/4)

The Wild got Demitra and Gaborik back last night, but not their killer instinct, and dropped a 3-2 game at home to the Blues. Carney also returned to the lineup (Johnsson out with thigh contusion) and, while his calming influence may have helped a bit, the game as a whole was still marked by some frustrating mental errors and poor decisions.

Gaborik doubled his goal total for the season in the first period on a nice little chop shot off a floater from Demitra got deflected up in the air. Gaby is a notoriously streaky scorer so hopefully this is the start of a hot stretch.

Pouliot got to play and was a non-factor.

I noticed Radio a bit more than usual.

Unlike the Penguins game, I thought Parrish was lost/wasted on the Boogaard line.

And speaking of Boogaard, it was his stupid roughing penalty in the second that turned the tide in the game. The Blues scored on the ensuing power play, and the Wild never mounted much of a serious effort from that part on. We're trying to prove to the world that you're not just a mush head goon, DB. Your help in that campaign would be appreciated.

0-4-1 in their last five, and now our hot start is completely nullified.

And with the Flames in town Saturday night...the boys better figure this thing out very quickly.

CHICKEN LITTLE SAYS: The sky is falling!

POLLYANNA SAYS: Ummm....Pats vs. Colts on Sunday?!

BOTTOM LINE: Back with the rest of the pack, it's time to wake up and smell the coffee.

STUD: Gaborik had a nice goal and looked speedy after his siesta. Lets hope that continues.

DUD: Boogaard has arguably the slimmest margin of error in the league. But he just didn't get it done last night.

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