Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Gm # 36: Wild 3, Sharks 2 (OT) (Updated)

Maybe, just maybe, calling a spade a spade actually does work once in a while. Ask the Minnesota Wild if you're unsure.

After having been called out by Minneapolis Star-Tribune hockey writer Michael Russo in Wednesday's editions, the Wild played their best hockey in nearly a month to defeat the Western Conference-leading San Jose Sharks 3-2 in overtime New Year's Eve at Xcel Energy Center.

Despite Devin Setoguchi scoring twice for the Sharks, the Wild won on a Brent Burns goal 1:37 into the OT when he ripped a quick wrister past Evgeni Nabokov for his fourth OT winner (which ties him with the absent-again Marian Gaborik in that category).

The 'Irish God of War', Owen Nolan, came off the injury list at his own insistence (hear that, Gaby?) after the morning skate and deflected a shot for the Wild first goal. Krys Kolanos scored the second Wild goal after referee Dan Marouelli had waved it off, saying that it hit the crossbar and did not go into the net, a view not shared by the Toronto 'War Room' folks. In the meantime, James Sheppard scored (again) but that goal was disallowed because the first one was actually good.

Trust me, Wild fans...if you're wondering where this team was all December, so was I.

We finally got the assembled multitude up, albeit hungover. Their thoughts:

Chicken Little: The Wild couldn't have hung on for 25 more seconds and not let this game go to OT? They have to stop playing the 'Hockey Prevent' defense in the last five minutes of games, for as we all know, all the prevent does is prevent you...from winning!

Pollyanna: That is the Wild team I know and want to see out there! Great team defense, a little offense, and even a power play goal against San Jose -- the first since Cliff Ronning did it in 2003. Can they keep this up vs. Detroit Saturday night?

Bottom Line: No one in the stands gave the Wild a snowball's chance in hell against the NHL's best team overall, the Sharks. They needed 'da boys' to play their best game vs. San Jose, and they did. If they want to be serious about a playoff spot, we Wild fans need to see more of this and less of what we saw most of the rest of December (4-9-1 overall in December, including losing all six road games for the month).

Stud: Lots of candidates here, for a change, but tonight it was indeed Brent Burns' night to shine. Second in Time on Ice, 1 goal, 2 assists, 5 shots. Good to see 'Burnzie' back patrolling the blue line.

Dud: Although this might be a bit misleading, is Erik Reitz the current occupant of Jacques Lemaire's 'Chateau Bow-Wow' ??

Next: vs.Detroit, Saturday, Jan. 3, 2009, 7:00 PM Central Time (TV: FSDetroit, KSTC-45 in HD (Minnesota feed only), XM Ch. 207)

Have a safe and Happy New Year!


Grilling Up Some Riseburgers

It's on.

The Wild has officially reached a Critical Moment in the hockey ops department for the first time in its history. As highlighted by the Star Tribune's Michael Russo in his biting, honest, no-holds-barred article today, GM Doug Risebrough appears to be the first executive in team history to be served up on the paying public's sacrificial altar.

Hey, this is pro sports gang. Slides like the one this team is on this season should be unacceptable. And, as Dad in Minnesota reminded me last night, there's a new Twins building, a new Gopher football building, the Vikings are in the playoffs, the Gopher bouncy-ball teams are stronger than they have been in some time, and there's still tons of other strong D1 and high school hockey all over the state. The point is that there are plenty of other options for Minnesotans looking to spend some of their (dwindling) entertainment dollar. So, Minnesotans sure don't have to pay Wild ticket/Xcel Energy Center dollars to see a subpar product - as the Wild seems to have become.

As Russo points out, the bareness of the cupboard is bad enough. But Risebrough's apparent unwillingness to make a trade/admit his mistakes just compounds that problem.

I have always said that I don't care who pulls on the jersey as long as they put out an honest effort.

Same goes for management.

Freshen up that CV, Mr. Risebrough - you may need it soon.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gm # 35: Wild 1, Flames 2

God damn moral victories.

Sure, they played better. No, they didn't visibly tire too much. Yes, they kept the big guns off the scoresheet. the context of a stronger record of late this game might not have been so underwhelming. And, while saying they are a victim of circumstances in that case is true, we should remember that THEY created those circumstances. At some point rhetoric like "we played better, we're not getting any bounces" in the face of all these losses should be translated to "we're not very good." I think we're pretty much at that point now.

Look, in a vacuum, this was an okay game. It was even fairly exciting. But the Wild has absolutely no margin for error anymore, and a late mistake at the blueline by Brent Burns lead to the GWG when Eric Nystrom made a strong move to Harding's glove side coming in on a breakaway, shorthanded. Once Kimmy had to go home and John Scott missed his connection to Calgary they had to play with five defensemen - never a good thing - and then Reitz got shut down for the third period (as per usual) and they were down to four. That's not an easy situation to overcome, granted. But, at the end of the day, it's still a loss.

The question for Wild fans is: are you okay with games like this, where it's exciting and close, but they ultimately lose? Because this is what this team looks like. This is Wild hockey, circa 2002.

More frustrating is that our General Manager doesn't seem willing or able to do anything to change the situation. (More on that later.)

Regardless, the Wild continues a very tough stretch Wednesday at home against the Sharks. God help us.

Chicken Little says: that cloud just hit me in the head.

Pollyanna says: All these goals for Veilleux are nice....right? No? Aw, nevermind.

Bottom Line: Regulation loss. Again. The Wild continues to meander down the western conference standings.

Stud: Harding was strong in the rare start. You really feel for our goalies in these times.

Dud: Are you kidding me?


Monday, December 29, 2008

Wild @ Flames Live Blog!

Gm # 34: Hawks 4, Wild 1

Minnesota Wild fans, you KNEW this was coming.

You'd seen it on the wall for weeks. You'd seen it in the blogs, on the schedule, in the media, virtually everywhere Wild fans turned, you saw this coming.

And now, it's started.

The Chicago Blackhawks administered the worst start-to-finish beating that the Wild have absorbed this season Sunday night, drubbing the Wild 4-1 at Xcel Energy Center. Roseau, Minn. -native Dustin Byfuglien scored twice and added two assists, getting involved on every Hawks' goal (Nice!) as the Wild exercised extreme futility with (and without) the puck throughout the game. It got so bad that at one point midway thru the second period, that Martin Skoula -- yes, THAT Skoula -- took a shot on goal from in front of the net.

Too bad the save had to be made by Niklas Backstrom, as it was the Wild goal that Skoula shot at.

It was that kind of night.

It was so bad that after the Wild pulled Backstrom, the Hawks then proceeded to force Wild defenseman Marek Zidlicky to play goalie for the majority of the game's last minute.

It was that kind of night.

It was so bad that James Sheppard -- considered the future of the franchise -- was a minus 3 for the evening, which makes him now a team-worst -16 for the season.

It was that kind of night.

It was so bad that Minneapolis Star-Tribune Wild beat writer Michael Russo -- a great friend of this blog -- was in the stands during the second period. In his own words:

"It was ugly downstairs. I tried to hide, but in the first 10 minutes, I was bombarded by disgruntled fans who wanted virtually everybody fired and/or traded.

Things only got uglier as there were boos and mock cheers, especially when Mikko Koivu took a harmless shot from inside the blue line late in the period. It was the Wild’s first shot in an eon.

One does have to wonder when/if there’s going to be some kind of shakeup from management. Nobody’s getting fired — after all, this is the Wild — but pressure is mounting because if you look at the schedule, there don’t seem to be a lot of wins there over the next few weeks (especially the way this team is playing)."

It really WAS that kind of night.

The only lone bright spot for the otherwise-hapless Wild was Cal Clutterbuck's fourth goal of the season, a wrister which beat Chicago goalie Cristobal Huet high glove side early in the third period. The loss left the Wild in 11th place, five points ahead of the last place St. Louis Blues, and if the Wild lose tonight in Calgary, they could be in 13th place, depending on tonight's final results.

God, how the Wild sucked last night.

The assembled multitude was found trying to hand Nordy, the reviled and hated Wild mascot, his walking papers:

Chicken Little: That effort was worse than pathetic. No one wanted to skate, no one wanted to shoot, no one wanted to hit (except Clutterbuck, of course), it's like no one came prepared to play hockey.

Pollyanna: Hey, we may do better against Calgary tonight. Then again...we are playing in the 'Dome, and they don't do well there.

Bottom Line: If this was any business, other than pro sports, you'd have called for a manager after this one. This game was, at best, putrid. When you have the arena staff wondering when the riot will start, you'd better do something -- fast. The Wild came totally unprepared to play vs. a Blackhawks team which won its' franchise record ninth in a row, and that win wasn't even close. The wheels have indeed come off the Wild bandwagon, and that means it's every fan for him (or, her)self. Until Doug Risebrough stops playing the role of Emperor in, 'The Emperor's New Clothes', and actually starts to improve the playing roster, this tailspin will continue.

Stud: Niklas Backstrom. Surprised he isn't in shellshock after this one. No help at all in front of him again last night, and then, there was...

Dud: Martin Skoula, he of the shot on HIS OWN GOAL and the two Byfuglien goals for which he was on the ice for. Dis-honorable mention of James (-16) Sheppard; to survive on the Wild roster, kid, you gotta play a little 'D' and win a faceoff now 'n' then.
Next: at Calgary, Monday, Dec. 29, 8:00 PM Central Time (7 PM Mountain Time). (TV: KSTC-45, Rogers SportsNet West (in HD --Calgary feed only): XM Ch. 204)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

HD Alert! (Don't say nobody told you)...

This afternoon's Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild game will be televised in HD on both Comcast SportsNet Chicago and FSNorth.

Starting time is 5:00 PM Central Time (that's 6 PM for those of you in Upstate New York.)


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Risebrough and the big 'C'

A story in the Christmas day edition of the St. Paul Pioneer Press which should pique your attention, especially if one in your family has fought cancer.

Here's the link:

Read it and cheer.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Gm #33: Wild 3, 'Canes 2

In the topsy-turvy world of the National Hockey League, one never knows who, what or when something really good may happen to a team. For the Minnesota Wild, that event occurred during the third period of Wednesday night's 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Or so says this blogger, at least.

With callup Krys Kolanos in the penalty box after a very dubious 4-minute high stick on the 'Canes Tuomo Ruutu, Antti Miettinen then went into the box on an equally suspect hooking call. From that point, for nearly the next 90 seconds, the Wild trio of Mikko Koivu, Brent Burns and Nick Schultz not only held off the 'Canes power play, but did not allow a cross-ice pass thru the triangle -- a feat not unnoticed by the Xcel Energy Center throng, as they gave the trio a standing ovation after they finally cleared the puck, and again when all the penalties were served. It reminded me of the famous 'The Kill' when a similar situation ocurred against Nashville in 2006. (They showed highlights of that for two seasons, folks.)

The Wild played with much more jump and emotion than they did during Saturday night's disaster in St. Louis, as the Wild won their second straight at home and improved their otherwise dismal December record to 3-7-1 overall, and 3-2-1 in the friendly confines of frosty St. Paul.

The Wild now face four of the top 10 teams in the a row, beginning Sunday afternoon with a 'twilight' game vs. the Chicago Blackhawks, followed by games at Calgary, San Jose at home (New Year's Eve), and then start 2009 vs. the Detroit Red Wings, a team the Wild have never in their history matched up well against.

We found the assembled multitude doing last minute shopping at the Hockey Lodge:

Chicken Little: The sky is falling! The sky is falling? Oh, wait, it's just the tree in Rice Park! Someone want to straighten up the tree?

Pollyanna: 9-1-1 vs. the Eastern Conference. Says a lot about how the Wild can do well when they skate. Now, let's see how they do against the West for a while.

Bottom Line: Good game for 'da Boys' to go out on the mandated Christmas break on. Good effort, and the SRV shorthanded goal was sweet. Now, let's get the act together against the better teams in the West, especially these next four games vs. potential playoff opponents.

Stud: Cal Clutterbuck, the hitting machine, now among the NHL leaders in overall hits, and leading all rookies in hits. The Wild found a diamond in the rough here. Now, keep him here.

Dud: Marek Zidlicky. If this keeps up, they'll call him '3-fer-2' for the number of penalties he manages to get game in, game out.

Next: vs. Chicago, Sunday, Dec. 28, 5:00 PM Central Time (TV: CSN-Chicago, FSNorth, both feeds in HD, NHL Network -- Canada: XM Ch. 208)

May you and yours have a safe, happy and joyous holiday season!


But Baby It's Cold Outside

If they can halt wars for the holidays, we can take a break from our hostilities with Queen MAB and Canucks fans.

While there is much uncertainty in the world right now, there is still a lot to be thankful for. Namely: family and friends.

I hope each of you has a safe and fun holiday season.

Enjoy the couple days off from the NHL. You've earned it.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Shrink Wrapped

'Tis the holiday season, and I'm playing sports psychologist. Pass the egg nog.

The question of whether or not the Wild is sufficiently-skilled as to be considered a playoff contender is frankly for another day. They are, barring a trade, what they are. But confidence really does end up being an issue with this team quite often. And it's getting ridiculous.

Look, I understand we're bringing the kids along and hoping the rising tide of mutually-gained experience lifts all ships equally, but Doug Risebrough's had several swats at the FA pinata and has yet to find, woo and bed players that end up working out in terms of filling the mensch role (I'd say Carney counted but it seems like he was specifically Burns' Crash Davis.)

And you've got Gunnery Sgt. Hartman from Full Metal Jacket as your coach ("I'll teach you everything you need to know about how to be a lethal killing maching/winning hockey player, but I'm not going to be your friend and in fact you're going to think I hate your guts in the process...") which only exacerbates the situation. I know they try not to put players in situations where they'll fail, but it's really not the most nurturing environment. And at some point all these mind Fs just end up making him appear aloof.

This would be fine, if the players were assuming the mantle of responsibility and ownership on their own (you know, being professionals,) but they're not. Maybe because they're afraid to, maybe because they're confused by what their coach is telling them, maybe because they're modern, entitlement-driven athletes, who knows.

What I do know is that if they don't make the playoffs and win even just one round this season I'm going to be very disappointed. And the person at whom I will direct my disappointment is Risebrough.

That's not a threat - what does DR care what I think? - but it is a promise.

We've seen this team score, and against some good goalies too. So I don't think it's a talent issue so much as a confidence and balls issue right now. Therefore, to me, not getting it done is unacceptable. At some point this has to be professional sports and these guys have to be treated like professional athletes. Get it done - from the front office to the fourth line - or lets go get someone who will.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Gm # 32: Blues 4, Wild 2

Like the old song, 'Limbo Rock', the question has to be asked of the Minnesota Wild:

'How low can you Go?'

After Saturday night's 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center, the answer may just be right to the basement...of the Western Conference.

Despite Nick Schultz's first goal since March (OK, it went off the skate of Roman Polak, but he made up for it 30 seconds later with the game-winning goal, Polak's actual first in the NHL) the Wild fell to 2-7-1 in a December many players on the team, and fans in the seats, would love to forget.

Bad breaks, bad timing, bad puck luck, you name it, it happened last night, as the Wild fell to 9th place in the West, as Nashville and Phoenix both recorded home victories Saturday night.

Not really much else to say about this stinker, except Cal Clutterbuck has a new dance partner in ex-Maple Leaf Carlo Colaiacovo after last night, when Cal caught Carlo at least twice for devastating hits. Carlo didn't like it, so he went after Cal, drawing a key penalty against the Blues in the latter moments of the third period, which the Wild managed to fritter away...again.

We caught the assembled multitude later drowning their collective sorrows:

Chicken Little: There's suck. Then, there's REALLY suck. And after all that, there's the Wild right now. No power play, no aggression whatsoever, and after Tuesday night, it's the Wild vs. four of the best 10 teams in the a row. Doesn't look good.

Pollyanna: A bounce here, a bounce there, a stick in the right place, and who knows?

Bottom Line: In all the Wild's December maladies, this game ranks right down there with the games the previous two Saturdays, as some of the worst hockey we've seen from 'da Boys' this season. Like last Saturday in Los Angeles, and two weeks ago in Nashville, the Wild faced teams who were reeling off fairly bad strings of losses...and failed to get a single point out of any of them.

Stud: Niklas Backstrom, if for no other reason but the lack of support he received most of the night from his defense and forwards. Nice way to back up your goalie, guys.

Dud: On a night when Dud-ism was flowing as free as Budweiser in St. Louis, our choice is Brent Burns, as he was involved in both the game-winning Blues goal and the give-away which led to the empty-netter at the end. Sorry, Burnsie, but no one escapes when Dud-ism overfloweth.

Next: vs. Carolina, Tuesday, Dec. 23, 7:00 PM Central Time (FSCarolina, KSTC-45, no HD: XM Ch. 236)


Friday, December 19, 2008

Gm # 31: Wild 4, Islanders 1

*UPDATE* Russo reporting that Queen MAB sustained a LBI, did not make the trip to St. Louis.

Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug.

Tonight, finally, the Wild was the windshield.

This was the most-complete game the Wild has played in a long time, and one of the two or three most-complete games they've played all season. They got scoring from basically each line, really controlled the play and only gave up a 5:3 goal (to former Wild Richard Park.) This was the rare game this season when the Wild didn't force Backstrom to be the difference, though he did his part just fine. Gaborik was more tentative than against the Flames, but maybe, just maybe, his presence (not to mention that goal and assist against Calgary) garnered him a smidge more attention from the Isles, which opened up more space for guys like Veilleux (first goal in forever) and PMB (weak for the first 30 minutes, much, much better in the second 30 minutes.) Also a great game from Cal Clutterbuck, who did exactly what we want him to do all night - hit anything in a non-Wild jersey and create chances.

The Wild carried the play and really didn't give the Isles many good chances at all. They deserved the win, and yet, with the second period set to expire they trailed 1-0 and it seemed like the kind of game where their recent lack of confidence and conviction would have lead to their demise if the Isles could have scored the insurance goal. But Veilleux scored to tie it, and they came back out of the room with a purpose and determination that Wild fans haven't seen much of lately.

No, it wasn't against the Sharks, but it's a win this team desperately needed (especially with Belanger illin') and they got it.

A very nice development for this Wild fan.

Chicken Little says: Do it against a real team and maybe I'll perk my ears up.

Pollyanna says: Nice to see them play like we know they can.

Bottom Line: A good, solid 2 points on home ice. Continued domination of the eastern conference.

Stud: I think scoring your first NHL goal is worthy of a Stud, Colton Gillies. Honorable mention to SRV, PMB and Shep.

Dud: Utterly forgettable game for Zidlicky.


Stop the indecision

So, the Mats Sundin saga is over. Finally. After months of waiting. Hundreds, thousands, of words written on the subject. Bytes, kilobytes, of internet space posted on the subject.

Our long, national, nightmare..

Is over!

I poke fun at the situation but there's something ridiculous going on in the NHL. The Sundin mess comes on the heels of Teemu Selanne and Scott Neidermayer hemhawing about retiring or returning to the Ducks and the annual Peter Forsberg conundrum.

By the way, there have been reports that Forsberg is looking to return for the playoffs. Raise your hand if you're surprised at that one.

Didn't think I'd see any hands in the air.

The NHL needs to step in and put a stop to this insanity. Set a deadline - if you haven't signed with an NHL organization by December 1, you cannot play in the NHL until the next season.

What the above four players have pulled is a sham. It holds teams hostage and makes the league look like a joke. It generates "discussion" but I'd wager a majority of fans long ago became sick of the talk of where Sundin would end up.

Did Sundin really need to take, what, 10 months to decide if he wanted to play more? Almost a full year? (Toronto's season last year ended pretty early, remember. Like in December.)

Make a decision, guys. If you really want to help a team win a Cup, join them earlier so you can actually PLAY DURING THE SEASON. If you want to keep the spotlight focused on you, then by all means, keep stirring the pot by waiting until St. Patrick's Day to sign with a team.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gm # 30: Wild 2, Flames 3 (OT)

He's back, ladies and gentlemen!

Tan, rested and ready, ersatz Wild speedster and aspiring sniper/multi-millionaire Marian Gaborik was finally able to shake off the devastating hacky sack injury that sidelined him for 27 of the team's first 29 games. Yes, he took some boos from the faithful early, but he persevered and ended up with a 1-1-2 effort - including the GTG that garnered the Wild their first point in the standings since the words "President-Elect" were allowed to precede Barak Obama's name.

Okay maybe that's a bit of hyperbole. But the bottom line is that Gaborik played, worked through some understandable rust, offered a solid demostration of pretty much his entire skillset.....and now hopefully is that much closer to being traded.

My cheek notwithstanding, it should be noted that Gaborik provided instant offense to a team that has been more like bad instant coffee of late in the offensive zone. While it would be tempting to reverse course and start pining for him to sign a new contract to stay here, I still don't think that's what he wants.

The rest of the team, however, is still discombobulated. There was some predictable misfires on breakouts as guys were looking for Gaby - who settled right into the Bure Office near the center red line - and that's okay. But breakouts were bad all night long, there were precious few clean breaks through the NZ, and crossing into the offensive zone seemed to be the impossible dream. Give credit to the Flames who played a good, solid, patient road game. But we've seen these trends from the Wild for several games now.

Getting the game to OT was a step in the right direction - a step made possible by the return of the Wild's most talented offensive threat. Getting a point is also a step in the right direction. But it appears the journey (to recovery) is far from over.

Chicken Little says: Good teams don't have to rely on one player to win games.

Pollyanna says: One point is better than the alternative.

Bottom Line: Better. Not good. But better.

Stud: Tempting to go with Mikko here, but I suppose I have to give it to Gaborik - for the GTG if nothing else.

Dud: As a defenseman, if you're not going to provide offense you better play solid defense. Last year that would have been directed at Skoula. This year it's being directed at Queen MAB and Zidlicky.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Brent Burns will return to defense for tonight's game against the Calgary Flames.

Oh, and some guy named Gaborik will also play.

(According to Russo)


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Perspective Part 2

The Wild is on the longest run of regulation losses in its history right now (5 games.) They are going through an epic drought on offense - even for them. But how bad is it really?

Through 29 games...

in 2008-09:

They have scored 76 goals (allowing 66)
They're averaging 2.62 GF/gm
They scored 26 goals in games #1-9 (6-2-1)
They scored 23 goals in games #10-19 (6-4-0)
They scored 27 goals in games #20-29 (3-7-0)

in 2007-08:

They scored 72 goals (allowing 74)
They averaged 2.48 GF/gm
They scored 23 goals in games #1-9 (7-1-1)
They scored 28 goals in games #10-19 (3-6-1)
They scored 21 goals in games #20-29 (6-4-0)

The bottom line is that this year's team - without Rolston, Demo, Parrish, blahblahblah - is still scoring more than last year's team (with those guys.)

There's no doubt that the team is hurting for offense right now, but lets try not to get carried away with the hyperbole. Do things need to improve? Hell yes. But we don't need to take a wrecking ball to the whole roster (just to one guy.)


Monday, December 15, 2008

Atlanta in Da House?

Russo is reporting that Atlanta GM Don Waddell and Risebrough have been seen chatting amongst themselves at least once recently out on the west coast.

That's interesting.

Looks like the Thrashers could take on Gaborik's salary in its entirety without giving up a dime from their current cap situation.

But could this also be a side move, to set up a Gaborik move? I'm not even sure how that would work out, to be honest with you.

Other than Kovalchuk (whom I think you can rest assured wouldn't be part of a deal for Gaborik as long as they have all that cap space), it's not really a very interesting roster. Maybe the Thrashers are offering up 1st round draft picks?

I am a little intrigued by Kari Lehtonen, which would give us an interesting all-Finn goaltending duo. But then you'd think Harding would be part of the trade as well.

I'm going to try really hard not to get into the rumor mongering, but this is the first tangible nugget of any activity along the "trade Gaby" front, other than his improving health, that we've had all season.


Gm # 29: Ducks 4, Wild 2

El Segundo, Calif. -- When is a loss not a loss?

According to the Minnesota Wild, when it is considered a 'moral' victory. Unfortunately for the Wild and their fans, the only victories that count are the ones on the scoreboard, and the Anaheim Ducks won where it counts on Sunday night, 4-2 at Honda Center, before an announced crowd of 16,577 'quacky' patrons.

The captaincy of Kim Johnsson took a decided downward turn in this back-and-forth contest, as the soon-to-be UFA was a -3 and a personal favorite for LW Chris Kunitz, as he took Johnsson to task as the Ducks scored twice in the first 6:23 of the game, well before many in the late-arriving crowd had taken their seats. The Wild did get one back as Marc-Andre Bergeron scored on the power play, helped out by the freakish sight of Derek Boogaard in front of Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere as MAB's shot sizzled past J.S.' s blocker to cut the Ducks' lead to 2-1.

The second period started like the first one ended, the Wild in control (for the first time on this 3-game Western swing) and it paid off as Eric Belanger took a pass from PMB and ripped it past Giguere at 2:32 of the second period. But, try as they might, the Wild were never to gain the lead as the Ducks put this one away with goals by both Brendan Morrison and Bobby Ryan, Morrison's comning on a nifty deflection of a Todd Marchant shot as Johnsson helplessly watched it go in.

The Wild set a franchise record for futility in this contest, as they lost their fifth consecutive game in regulation, and now stand only two points ahead of 13th-place Columbus in the NHL Western Conference. Their road record now stands at .500 (7-7), as the Wild come home for 5 of their remaining 7 games in December.

We caught the assembled multitude outside the arena hitching rides to LAX:

Chicken Little: They said it would be a cold day in hell when the Wild lost five in a row in regulation time. What's the temperature back home??

Pollyanna: Let's go home and get into the holiday roster freeze!!

Bottom Line: The Wild came out flat in the first six minutes. Take that away and you had a darn good hockey game, not to mention a 'Rock 'em, Sock em Robots' kind of fight between Eric Reitz and Anaheim's Travis Moen in the first period. Moral victory? Perhaps. but the Wild need real victories, not moral ones.

Stud: Benoit Pouliot, much maligned by Wild fans despite being only in his third pro season, with two assists on the evening. Benny, we hardly knew ye...

Dud: O Captain, my captain...Kim Johnsson, he of the -3 evening on the ice. Keep that up and we won't have to worry about him wearing anything other than a 'For Rent' sign come trade deadline time.

Next: vs. Calgary, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 7 PM Central Time (TV: FSNorth in HD, NHL Network-US, TSN in HD, XM Ch. 206)


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Un-Wild (aka F this S)

This is pretty bad right now.

If they're not even going to try to right the ship themselves then it doesn't matter who the coach or the GM is. If nothing else, who is out there without a job? Pat Burns? Peter Laviolette? Barry Melrose??? Please.

It always seems to come down to a question of leadership "in the room" IMO. Any coincidence Nolan didn't make the trip?? Wild fans got all bent out of shape when the C went from Mikko to Kimmy, but really, what difference does it make if NO ONE is willing to stand up and be counted? I seriously doubt Mikko's sulking in the corner saying "why should I have to speak up, I'm not the captain?!".

I am getting pretty close to being back on the "trade PMB for someone with half a sack while the little guy still might have some trade value" wagon, though. No one on this team has done less with (allegedly) more than him, as consistently as he has throughout his career IMO. His problems stem from a lack of willingness to pay the price to score goals the way they're being scored in the NHL now. You can't teach balls.

With every game that plays out like this, Backstrom's price tag just goes up and up. I find it hard to believe that Risebrough still thinks he's going to sign Gaborik. I find it just as hard to believe that Risebrough thinks he's going to get $7M worth of salaried player back for him in a trade. In other words, Riser's got an idea of how the cap room will settle ex-Gaborik, which appears to be what he's said he's waiting for before working on the Backstrom situation. (Apparently our beloved GM is the worst multi-tasker ever.) So, Doug, it's time to call up Backs and get this guy signed. Yes, we all know how afraid you are of pulling a trade ("DOUG-ie GIL-mour, clap, clap, clapclapclap") but shit or get off the pot, eh?

The 800 lb. gorilla in the room right now is the whole "they've stopped listening to the coach" story. Regardless his pedigree, Lemaire has been here for a long time. And, if they have stopped listening to him, then all those Rings don't mean squat. I have no idea if this is happening or not. But this team appears to be rudderless right now. And there's just not enough difference between "good" and "lottery" in the NHL for this to go on very much longer without ill-effect to the balance of the season.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Gm # 28: Kings 3, Wild 1

LOS ANGELES -- The Minnesota Wild currently seem like an old Western comedy movie, 'The Gang that couldn't Shoot Straight."

Unfortunately for Wild fans, perception is, sadly, 99 per cent of reality. The Los Angeles Kings moved to within one point of the hapless Wild with a 3-1 victory in front of 14,857 at STAPLES Center on a blustery Saturday afternoon in Southern California.

The primary reason is simply the lack of scoring from anyone -- first line star or fourth-line grinder -- this club currently has. No one really forced the play against the Kings, who won their second consecutive home game. At one point near the mid-way mark of the third period, the Wild were out-shot by 40-20. It was THAT kind of an afternoon.

It was an ugly way for this writer to start his road trip season, as now I am on a 3-game 'personal losing streak' of my own, with No. 4 staring me in the face for Sunday's twilight tilt at Honda Center vs. the Anaheim Ducks, who were roasted 2-0 by San Jose on Friday night in San Jose.

I can't wait for that Sleep Number bed...

Chicken Little: U-G-L-Y, Wild run out of alibis! Ugly! That game was ugly! WOO!!

Pollyanna: Gaborik comes back on the next homestand, then we'll see about the offense!

Bottom Line: Wild are on the precipice of record-breaking failure; if they lose tomorrow in Anaheim, in regulation, that will be the first time in franchise history that they will have lost 5 in a row in regulation time. they have to find it within each player themselves to get the ship righted and get going. Maybe looking up at playoff spots might just do that.

Stud: Yeah, right...

Dud: 'Zidlisky', as the arena announcer called him frequently; his two penalties led to LA's first and game winning goals.

Next: at Anaheim, Sunday, Dec. 14, 7:00 PM Central Time (5:00 PM Pacific), FSNorth (includes FSWisconsin), no HD; XM Ch. 204)

Friday, December 12, 2008


The Wild has scored two goals in its last three games. That's awful.

But it has happened before:

Games 61-63 last year.

@ Chicago (L 0-3)
vs. Calgary (L 1-2)
@ Washington (L 1-4, Chris Simon inaugural game, IIRC)

Prior instances of 2 GF in 3 consecutive GP:

2000-2001 gms 29-31, 43-45, 69-71
2001-2002 gms 54-56 (gm 57 they were SO as well)
2002-2003 n/a
2003-2004 gms 16-18, 62-64, 66-68
2005-2006 n/a
2006-2007 n/a


Get the MTS Centre ready, Winnipeg! They're Ba-a-ack?

John Shipley from the St. Paul Pioneer Press on the crowd, or the lack thereof, at Thursday night's Wild-Coyotes game at Arena in Glendale, Arizona:

And finally, there is talk here about the Coyotes getting out of their Arena lease and being relocated back to Winnipeg, and after seeing the crowd that showed up Thursday it’s not hard to believe.
The crowd was announced at 13,296, but that was considerably more people than were actually in seats. The lower bowl wasn’t half filled, and the upper deck wasn’t one-third full.
It doesn’t help that this place is part of an unappetizing development at the edge of the metropolitan area. Westgate City Center also includes the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium, but it’s essentially a real estate deal that appears ready to die, a couple of acres' worth of restaurants, bars and shops wrapped in billboards and noise.
You walk in and think, “It looks like Donald Trump threw up in here.” And on a night without a game, it isn’t exactly hopping -- like the set of a post-apocalyptic movie.

Having attended two Wild-Coyotes games here in 2006-07, I can agree with Shipley 100%. The Westgate project was risky when money was easy. Now, with the USA in a severe recession, and tens of thousands laid off from every major industry, this project sticks out like a sore thumb. (It did anyway: you can see it from 3-4 miles away, once you go past the junkyards.) There are finally -- four years after the Westgate project was started -- hotels near the stadium. The problem? There aren't enough of them. Only two so far. Same for pretty much everything else out there. The Valley of the Sun is so spread out, that it takes a LONG time to get anywhere of consequence. Public Transit? Yeah, right. The words 'Phoenix' and 'public transit' go together like oil and water. And never the twain shall meet...

The LA Dodgers and Chicago White Sox will move their spring training to Glendale in 2010. But that's six weeks out of 52. The Cardinals? Ten dates, plus the occasional Super Bowl and every-other-decade playoff appearance. Throw in concerts, trade shows, etc., you may get 80-90 days' use of that area. The rest of the year, every thing is still out there, drying up in the Arizona sun. The area is a bear to get into, and a bitch to get out of after events (especially the Cardinals' games). There is no direct way from Westgate to Downtown Phoenix, which means you drive some distance before to get to turn towards Mesa, Scottsdale, Apache Jct., in other words, where the REAL money is in Arizona.

How much would Winnipeg give the Coyotes to come back? They probably could name their terms. And, in hockey-crazed Manitoba, the thought of the Jets returning makes for excellent speculation. How fun would it be to have the Wild and Winnipeg in the same division? A rivalry game we could actually attend without a three-hour flight to the West Coast or the edge of the Arctic Circle?

The currently 13,769-seat MTS Centre, designed to be expanded when an NHL team came calling, is 'small' by the Bettman-esque NHL standards, but would be a very good fit for the Coyotes, who would be able to considerably cut their operating costs just by moving closer to the rest of the hockey world than in the middle of the Arizona desert. And, with a salary cap now in place, the question of 'cost certainty', which was one of the major stumbling blocks to keeping the Jets in Manitoba in the first place, would be eliminated.

What would be better for the Coyotes organization? To play in front of 1/3-to-1/2 full home crowds, mostly made up of ex-pats from your opponents' city? Or an arena full of your fans, from your area, in a much more hockey-conducive environment? Do the Coyotes want to continue to be 5th fiddle in the Phoenix market, or be the 'whale in the swimming pool' in a market where you don't have to explain the concept of 'icing' or the 'power play'?

I can't wait to go back to Winnipeg for NHL hockey again...

WRT (who attended Jets' games at the old Winnipeg Arena)

Game #27: Coyotes 3, Wild 1

There's an old prep school cheer that goes, 'California oranges, Arizona cactus, we play (opponent) just for practice!'

The Phoenix Coyotes did just that to the Minnesota Wild Thursday night in front of an announced crowd of 13,296 at Arena, as the 'Yotes turned two second period last-minute goals into a 3-1 victory, the second in as many nights for Phoenix, who won in Dallas on Wednesday night.

Marek Zidlicky showed again why he needs a bigger stick blade, as his frequent gaffes at the point (especially on the power play) cost the Wild again and again as the Wild lost their third straight game and fourth in their last five. Marc-Andre Bergeron did not help the cause either as his lost stick indirectly led to the first Phoenix goal, the second of the season for ex-Wild defenseman Zbynek Michalek. Olli Jokinen fired a wrist shot past Niklas Backstrom with 2 seconds left in the second period, Jokinen's third goal in two nights, and the punchless Wild went quietly into the dressing room down what seemed to be an insurmountable 2-0.

Antti 'Mittens' Miettinen scored for the Wild in the third period, but by that time what little offense the Wild could generate was basically stifled by the Coyotes defense, who would not allow the Wild time to set up in the offensive zone and forced defensive turnover after turnover.

The Wild now are tied for eighth place in the NHL Western Conference with the Nashville Predators, who lost 2-1 in a shootout last night to the Columbus Blue Jackets in Columbus. The Wild now move on to Southern California, where they will play an afternoon game on Saturday vs. the LA Kings at STAPLES Center, then head down I-5 for a Sunday 'twilight' game vs. Anaheim.

The assembled multitude speaks:

Chicken Little: Remember me? Sky is falling? No Offense to speak of? Nobody working the corners? No one keeping the puck in the offensive zone? This team needs help, quickly. And when is Gaborik coming back??

Pollyanna: Backstrom is still playing well. Can't be faulted for anything let in last night.

Stud: None.

Dud: On a night where Dud-ism was more plentiful than desert tortoises, two stood, well, down, as both Pouliot and PMB were -2 last night. Against the Phoenix Coyotes. O, the shame...

Next: at Los Angeles, Saturday, Dec. 13, 3:00 PM Central Time (1:00 PM Pacific Time), STAPLES Center (TV: FSNorth (includes FSWisconsin), FSWest, no HD feed; XM Ch. 207)

Personal note: My wife and I will be at both Southern California games this weekend. Stop by and say 'Hello' if you are at either game.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Shredded Wiener Returns Intact, Presumably

Marian "Shredded Wiener" Gaborik (one of my favorite Russoville-isms in a long time) participated in his first practice in a while today, according to Mike Russo. This opens up the possibility that they bring him along on their upcoming road trip, possibly leaving a dinged-up Owen Nolan back in St. Paul.

While I can't imagine him being in game shape for a while, and I really can't imagine they'll play him until he's 100% ready, it is the first piece of real news on Gaborik's recovery we've had in a long time, and is also the first step towards the reconciliation of his contract situation that we've had in an equally-long time.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Gm #26: Predators 1, Wild 0

Even 42 saves were not enough to pull the Minnesota Wild out of their offensive funk last night.

Josh Harding worked as hard as he could to backup an anemic, tired offense but the Nashville Predators worked just a mite bit harder as they defeated the Wild 1-0 at Nashville's Sommet Center in front of 14,408 fans Saturday night.

The Wild looked like they were at the end of their rope, last night being their 11th game in the last 19 nights. The Wild came home immediately after the game for three-plus days at home before heading off to the Valley of the Sun for a game on Thursday night vs. the Phoenix Coyotes, the start of a three-game, four-night trip which will end next Sunday in Anaheim.

Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne had 31 saves for the winning Preds, who even the season series 1-1 with the Wild.

Not much else to say, other than even the Derek Boogaard - Wade Belak fight in the first period wasn't much of a tussle, altho Boogaard went off afterwards for repairs and Belak sat in the penalty box, his hands cut up from hitting Boogaard's helmet.

Let's go right to the multitude:

Chicken Little: There weren't enough shots early on for the Wild to get going, and someone let Jordin Tootoo take another run at Josh Harding (Johnsson again?)

Pollyanna: Harding is ready for anything any other NHL team wants to throw at him. He'll probably play one of the two games in Southern California this coming weekend.

Bottom Line: It's too bad the Wild wasted an opportunity like this. But, 11 games in 19 days is really compressing a season. Now, we fans know what a shortened season would have been like had we had one in 2004-05 as was rumored during the lockout/strike. Good to have 'da boys' off for a few days before heading out West.

Stud: Harding, no question. 42 saves, and on the only goal he let in, he was screened by no less than 5 players.

Dud: Kim Johnsson for his dumb penalty which led to the Predators' goal (the goal was scored 3 seconds after the penalty ended).

Next: at Phoenix, Thursday, Dec. 11, 8 PM Central (7 PM Mountain), Arena, Glendale, Ariz. (TV: FSNorth (including FSWisconsin), FSArizona, all feeds IN HD; XM Radio, Ch. 239)

Friday, December 5, 2008

HPT Game of the Week Live Blog

Sean Avery's not nice?

Okay, I'm going to chime in on the Sean Avery suspension.

Maybe it was right, maybe it was wrong. John Rocker was suspended for some rather horrid remarks about New Yorkers years back and Don Imus was suspended then fired for double-dipping with racist AND sexist comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team.

When looking at it through that perspective, the NHL banning Avery certainly seems like the right decision.

At this point, let me say that Avery is, in technical terms, a "tool." He's an ape. A jerk. A buffoon. A nincompoop. Call him whatever you want, it fits the bill.

Also, his remarks were completely repulsive and so far over the line I think they crossed it twice. In no way do I support what he said. I didn't think he could get any lower on the totem pole until I heard what he said.

But here's my problem: With all the misdeeds and tribulations Avery has committed in his career, this is the first that Gary Bettman considered "detrimental to the league?" Really? It took this long?

Wasn't this the guy who wielded his stick in front of a player's face, forcing the league to immediately re-write the rulebook? Where was the suspension for that? Isn't that "detrimental to the league?"

Avery's remarks couldn't really be a surprise. The league knows what type of, well I hesitate to say person, that Avery is. And they let him, and others like him, get away with it. Well, until now.

And I'm sorry, but I found this quote from Dallas owner Tom Hicks humorous: "This organization will not tolerate such behavior, especially from a member of our hockey team. We hold our team to a higher standard and will continue to do so."

Um, excuse me, Mr. Hicks, but if you have such a high standard, then why did you sign Avery in the first place? Were you unaware that he's the most hated player in hockey, and revels in that title? You didn't think that might be a bad thing?

I don't think Avery deserves a place in the NHL and that was before his most recent comments. I won't say Avery does not deserve a suspension, but I think this is a situation caused, in part, by the league, who has done nothing at all to control types like Avery. Now it's come back to bite them and they scramble to put a band-aid over it.

Did you see Avery's face as he walked away from reporters? He knew exactly what he said and knew exactly how people would react. He was practically gloating in front of the cameras.

Hopefully the NHL is finally sick of it, and about time too. Maybe the higher-ups are learning that types like him aren't good for the game of hockey. Maybe now that they're looking out for when players cross the line off the ice, they start disciplining players for when they go too far on the ice.

That's another part of my problem. I mean, this is a game that really, it's not out of the realm of possibility that players can kill one another during a game, with a vicious whack to the head or a reckless charge from behind into the boards. In fact, at the rate the game is going, it's just a matter of time until that's what happens.

Avery's comments were horrific and merited punishment, but shouldn't the league care a little more about what's happening on the ice, not what some sideshow freak says off it?


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Gm # 24: Wild 4, Blues 0

Maybe the Minnesota Wild should be televising in HD every night. Or was it just that good to see the Wild team those of us 'in the know' knew was in them?

After a disasterous start to the week, the Wild overcame a somewhat slow start to shutout the St. Louis Blues 4-0 Wednesday night at Xcel Energy Center, their 15th win overall and 3rd in their last 4 games.

Seven different players (5 forwards and 2 defensemen) were involved in the scoring, as the Wild held the Blues to 22 shots on Niklas Backstrom, who recorded his 14th win of the campaign in 22 appearances.

Two Wild players recorded career milestone goals: Eric Belanger flipped his 100th goal in as a backhander over Blues backup goalie Chris Mason to open the game's scoring, then Andrew Brunette chalked up his 200th goal in a scramble in front of Mason early in the third. After Marek Zidlicky blistered a shot from the point past Mason during a Wild power play, Antti 'Mittens' Miettinen was awarded a goal in the final minute of the contest, when he was pulled down from behind heading for an empty St. Louis goal after Blues coach Andy Murray pulled Mason with just under 3 minutes remaining in the final period.

Let's see what the multitude thinks:

Chicken Little: Can we keep this up? Why doesn't PMB shoot more? Put Burns back on defense!

Pollyanna: This is the Wild team effort we've been waiting for! Keep it up on Friday vs. Vancouver, and the Wild lead the division again!

Bottom Line: After Monday night's disaster vs. Colorado, this is as about a 180 as you can possibly do. Jacques has always said 'defense first'. Tonight, the boys proved it. Good job by all!

Stud: Tough to pick here, so many good ones, but for argument's sake let's go with Brunette, especially after notching his 200th goal.

Dud: No one playing tonight was guilty of Dud-ism, so let's give the dud to the only Wild player that got booed tonight. Marian 'Uncle Moneybags' Gaborik, who was booed when his photo was put up on the scoreboard during the Chipotle second-intermission segment.

Next: vs. Vancouver, Friday, December 5th, 7:00 PM, Xcel Energy Center (TV: KSTC-45 (in HD), Rogers SportsNet Pacific)

Random Musings

First, please see WRT's programming note on tonight's Wild/Blues game.

*Sean Avery...ho-boy. I had a couple thoughts about him, but then I ran out of care. He's on "ignore."

*Sticking with the Stars - ex-Avery - little in hockey pleases this recovering North Stars fan more than seeing them struggle this season. While I'd have to admit that the thought of them winning the Tavares/Hedman sweepstakes is a tad galling, I'd still rather have them have to suffer first. Now all we have to do is to get the league to rescind their ill-gotten Cup for our vengeance to be complete...

*Wanna do a shot? Denis Potvin was on NHL Home Ice radio this morning talking about Todd McLellan and his success with the Sharks so far. Denis mentioned that one of the things he has noticed is how the Sharks and Red Wings (Coach McLellan's former team) are one-two in the league in shots-for. Being the stats junkie that I am, this intrigued me. Upon further analysis, however, the argument that more shots = more success was muted when I noticed that the team with the third-most shots-for per game is the Toronto Maple Leafs (the Rangers and Devils rounded out the top five.) Looking at those five teams, again, ranked 1-5 in the league in shots-for per game, through the filter of shooting percentage rank you get:

San Jose 1st (3.80%)
Detroit 2nd (3.42%)
Toronto 8th (3.00%)
NY Rangers 28th (2.44%)
New Jersey 16th (2.82%)

So now you can't really say that more shots equals more goals. But what about more shots equaling more wins - regardless of how many find twine?

Here's those five teams by league overall standing:

San Jose 1st
Detroit 3rd
Toronto 21st
NY Rangers 4th
New Jersey 13th

Obviously it doesn't hurt to shoot more. But I think it's clear that it's not just shooting more than counts. It's who is shooting, when they're shooting it and, maybe more importantly, who is crashing the net looking for rebounds. I think Denis' point is interesting, but I think it's really more a function of McLellan being a good coach of a good team.

*The Hurricanes have fired Peter Laviolette and brought back Paul Maurice, according to TSN.

*On a personal note, I am proud to report that I am a new correspondent over at I'll be primarily covering the Wild. You can see my first entry here. You may also be hearing more from me via HPT (not to be confused with HTP) in the near future.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Note about Wednesday's Blues-Wild game

Just a reminder to all you in the blogosphere who whine and cry about no HD of Wild games...

Wednesday's Blues vs. Wild game has both feeds (St. Louis with John Kelly and Bernie Federko, and Minnesota with Dan Terhaar and Mike Greenlay, a.k.a. 'Dumb and Dumber') in High Definition.

So please...No whining! Don't say nobody told you!


Moving On

As in, "moving on after that crazy-ass game last night..."

I suppose it's evidence that Lemaire has finally won that I'm sitting here thinking "Boy I hope we can get back to some good old defensive hockey Wednesday night..."

Anyway, Kevin Allen (USA Today) likes the Wild more, I think.

He says: "My sense is that teams enter a game against Minnesota confident, only to get beaten and left wondering why they couldn't win."

Good point. I think this has more or less been the case since day one.

Percent of Possible Points update

Again, this is the percentage of points a team has garnered divided by the total points they could have garnered (games played x 2).

1. SJ 85.42%
2t. DET 75.00%
2t. BOS 75.00%
4. PIT 67.39%
5. NYR 66.67%
6. MTL 65.22%
7. MIN 63.04%
8t. CGY 60.42%
8t. WAS 60.42%
10. VAN 60.00%
11. ANH 59.62%
12t. CHI 59.09%
12t. NJ 59.09%
14. PHI 58.70%
15. NAS 54.17%
16t. BUF 52.08%
16t. CBJ 52.08%
18. CAR 52.00%
19t. STL 50.00%
19t. LA 50.00%
19t. TOR 50.00%
19t. COL 50.00%
23t. EDM 47.83%
23t. PHX 47.83%
25. NYI 45.83%
26. FLA 45.65%
27. OTT 45.45%
28. DAL 43.48%
29t. ATL 41.30%
29t. TB 41.30%

And Paul Kukla brings Happy Hockey Day, 2008 full circle. Thanks again for a great idea Paul!


Monday, December 1, 2008

Gm # 23: Avalanche 6, Wild 5

Under normal circumstances, a game this high-scoring should have been an exciting, great exhibition of what hockey can be...and what other sports (soccer) is not.

Monday night's game at Xcel Energy Center was not a great hockey exhibition, unless of course your name is Paul Stastny, who's 2 goals led the Avs past the Wild to start off the month of December.

The new captain of the Wild did not fare very well, as Kim Johnsson, who was awarded the captaincy of the Wild after Monday's morning skate, had one of his worst games in a Wild sweater, winding up a -3 for the night as the Avs improved their record to .500 (12-12-0), while the Wild blew another chance of taking first place in the Northwest Division away from Vancouver, who lost 3-2 to the Blue Jackets in Columbus.

That wasn't 'Moose!' you were hearing on Versus or TSN2 tonight in the latter half of the second period. Those were boos, loud and long, from the 18,568 (well, those that weren't Avs fans) as the Wild displayed one of their most putrid periods EVER in their eight-season history, as the Avs scored 4 goals in 14 minutes (2 of those 1:20 apart) to turn a 3-2 Wild lead into a 6-3 Avs romp.

The Wild tried, mostly in vain, to make a game of it in the third period, but the Avs played the 'prevent' defense (the same one 'da boys' can't seem to handle) to perfection down the stretch as the Wild blew a golden opportunity to take advantage of a night where neither team was on their game.

Chicken Little: The weight of the Captain's 'C' was too much for Johnsson to handle. Give it back to the real leader of the Wild...Mikko Koivu. And quickly!

Pollyanna: Brent Burns scored his 100th point tonight, Bouchard had two goals, the Wild scored five...what more do you want?

Bottom Line: Jacques Lemaire said in his post-game presser that the first two periods were the worst two he had ever seen the Wild play. He'd probably get 18,568 people nodding in agreement. Tonight's game was an embarrassing display of hockey. You can't go on like this and expect not to be a big seller at the trade deadline. Something has to give -- soon -- or this team will backslide right out of the playoffs. You don't give away divisional games at home like this.

Stud: Only because we've all been on him for not shooting...PMB and his two goals.

Dud: Every other non-goalie on the lineup card, save for Boogaard, who almost -- almost -- scored tonight. He actually tried to play hockey. Wish the rest of the team felt that way tonight.

Next: Vs. St. Louis, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 7:00 PM Central Time (FSNorth, FSMidwest, both feeds in HD)


Happy Hockey Day!

Because most things Paul Kukla writes should be graven on stone tablets, I will gladly take up the banner for Happy Hockey Day.

Because, really, why not?

Because, to coin a phrase from Badger Bob, every day is a great day for hockey.

Because I can conjure up a visual and olfactory amalgamation of the sights, sounds and smells of the game at will.

Because ten NHL teams and countless international, junior, high school, youth and beer league teams will take to the ice tonight - all with the same goal: scoring more than the other team, and having a blast doing so.

Because of Alex Ovechkin. Hockey's a happier place with him in it, for sure.

Because of my not-quite-four-year-old daughter practically begging me to take her for her first skate of the year.

Because hockey promotes interesting, intellectual, non-partisan discussion and debate among it's fans moreso than any other sport.

Because it's a beautiful game.

Because I'm proud that part of my identity as a human and American is as a hockey fan. Can fans of other sports really say that?

So, yes, let Happy Hockey Day ring.

It's a great day for hockey.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bruins for real?

One of the surprises of the NHL season so far: the resurgence of the Boston Bruins.

A member of the Original Six, the Bruins have the Eastern Conference's best record (they're tied with the Rangers with 36 points but have three games in hand; thus they get the nod) behind only San Jose overall. Boston is winning games impressively, having downed preseason favorites Montreal twice this month (including a 6-1 win) and most recently Detroit, 4-1.

Boston has the fourth-ranked power play in the league, though its weak link at this point is the penalty killing, which is "only" 15th in the league.

Claude Julien preaches defense but it's the offense as much as anything spurring the Bruins to the top of the East. Only the Sharks, with their "shoot shoot shoot" style of offense and the Red Wings, with their stable of all-stars, have scored more goals per game than Boston, which has also allowed the fewest goals against per game.

Offensively, the surge is being led by Marc Savard, who with 30 points is tied for fourth in the NHL in scoring. Seven players have scored a half-dozen goals or more - led by Phil Kessel with 13. Scoring eight goals is Savard and Blake Wheeler, David Krejci has potted seven goals and a trio of players - the currently injured Marco Sturm, Dennis Wideman and Milan Lucic - each have netted six goals.

Zdeno Chara has four goals. Once his offensive game heats up, the Bruins will be more dangerous.

Eleven Bruins have 11 or more points, including Patrice Bergeron, who missed virtually the entire 2007-08 season after receiving a concussion from a check from behind by Philadelphia's Randy Jones. Bergeron, who played just 10 games last year, is having a very nice bounceback season.

Defensively, Chara, Wideman, Mark Stuart, Shane Hnidy, Aaron Ward and the currently injured Andrew Ference have done a solid job of protecting goaltenders Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez, both of whom are playing very well.

Thomas has a GAA of 1.88, third-best in the league, but with a caveat; the two goalies ahead of him are primarily backups in Florida's Craig Anderson and Pittsburgh's Dany Sabourin. Fernandez is in the top-15 with a 2.32 GAA, tied with Montreal's Carey Price. Both netminders are also in the top-15 in save percentage: Thomas is second (.948, behind Anderson) and Fernandez 15th again (.918).

The Bruins are a dangerous team. They have a very capable duo in goal (Thomas is the No. 1 but Julien won't hesitate to turn to Fernandez), fueled by an excellent offense that, apart from Savard, doesn't have a "name" player, though Kessel and Lucic are changing that. Lucic is drawing comparisons to Cam Neely. Maybe a lot of those guys are playing over their heads but they're demanding attention.

If Boston continues at this pace, no team will want to play them in the playoffs.


Gm # 22: Wild 6, Predators 2

The Wild was the beneficiary of some fortuitous calls early in the first period, turned them into five power play goals and more or less cruised to an easy win as the wheels came off the Preds' wagon. One suspects that having to battle the Wild AND the refs would do that to the best of teams.

But don't blame the Wild. Other than Weller's icing-call hit on Ryan Suter, the only thing the Wild could have been called last night was "opportunistic" as they just took what they were given and ran with it. The Preds would have done the same thing.

Embattled Pierre-Marc Bouchard shot the puck - and voila! - a 1-1-2 game. Weller got his first of the season. Mikko Koivu had a pair. And this was all without the services of Eric Belanger who missed the game with a leg injury (got nailed in the Bolts game.)

Jordin Tootoo was up to his usual tricks, running into Josh Harding (who played very well considering the rust you know he was fighting), an really doing more than any other Pred player to persevere despite the obstacles.

This game turned into a fight fest (at one point, back-to-back-to-back bouts in the second period) and there was definitely some acrimony there which sets up an exciting re-match next Saturday night, back in Nashville. After trying to force toughness into the roster (Boogey, Fridge and Simon, anyone?) it's nice to see the whole team man-up and stick up for each other, well, the whole team other than Johnsson, that is.*

Chicken Little says: Can't rely on the PP for a whole season. Still need to address inability to score 5:5.

Pollyanna says: Offense is offense - regardless of when it comes. They said the 3rd period against the Bolts was inspiration and then went out an proved it.

Bottom Line: Solid 2 points on the road - and without one of their better two-way players to boot (settle down, Marian, I'm not talking about you.)

Stud: Mikko was a force to be reckoned with all night. His sliding-on-the-stomach goal had touches of Ovechkin, and he was his usual rock-solid on defense too.

Dud: I know this isn't his game, but *Johnsson hopefully took some grief on the plane ride home for making Harding take care of his own business after Tootoo ran him.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Gm # 21: Wild 4, Lightning 2

Sometimes, it takes a pissed-off Finn to get things going. Nobody likes a p.o'ed Finn.

Just ask the Tampa Bay Lightning, especially after Mikko Koivu's 3rd-period goal while being summarily pushed to the ice in front of the Tampa goal. The sixth goal of the season for the man they call 'Franchise' turned out to be the game winner, as the Wild beat the 'Bolts 4-2 on 'Wes Walz Day' in front of the 337th straight sellout of 18,568 at Xcel Energy Center on Friday afternoon.

The Wild came out as lackluster as they have in the other four games of the now-completed 5-game in 9-night homestand, only getting off long-range shots against Tampa goalie Mike Smith, until the 'Irish God of War', Owen Nolan, beat Smith from close in just over 12 minutes into the contest.

After Tampa worked for nearly 30 minutes to take a 2-1 lead, James Sheppard started the comeback with a tip-in of a MAB shot from the point at 2:02. Koivu, while getting worked over in front of the 'Bolts goal by ex-Canuck Lukas Krajicek, rebounded Antti Miettinen's shot from the mid-slot at 6:10. After that, Tampa's big line -- Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Ryan Malone, the ex-Penguin -- worked feverishly to get the tying goal throughouot the latter stages of the third period.

But it was the rookie, Steven 'Don't call me Steve' Stamkos, who caused the greatest upset to the Wild, as he sold a high sticking call on Nick Schultz to the officials, who also whistled the Franchise off with 5:05 remaining. Stamkos' Avalanche-quality dive job -- along with Mikko's protesting -- not only sent Schultzie to the box for the stick work, but Koivu for unsportsmanlike conduct as well as a 10-minute misconduct, meaning that if the game went to OT, Minnesota's best offensive player would not be available.

The Wild, however, for once protected their slim lead, punctuating the afternoon's scoring with an Eric Belanger empty-net goal with 23 seconds left in the contest. Finally, as the Wild surrounded Belanger, a Black Friday game which did not turn out to be a ... turkey.

We found the assembled multitude after the game, chowing down on leftovers. Here's what they said between bites:

Chicken Little said: When are the Wild going to get decent officiating? Decent offense? Something for Gaborik? Gaborik himself off the IR? You can't depend on your defense forever, especially when your best defenseman is now a forward (Brent Burns). Pass the cranberries?

Pollyanna said: Mikko was great, Zidlicky came thru, even MAB, Shep and the IGoW joined the party. Maybe this is the game where they turn the corner and pull out of the funk.

Bottom Line: It was ugly, it was not pretty, but it's 2 more points in the books. And considering the Wild are at the exact same point this year for the month of November that they were at this date last season, that's not all that bad.

Leftovers: the Wild are now 5-2-1 all time on the Day after Thanksgiving.

Stud: we rip him for being a Dud enough. Marc-Andre Bergeron is the Stud today; 2 assists, and he came to play, folks. Honorable mention to James Sheppard (1 goal, 1 assist) and to Owen Nolan for his grit and determination on the ice. And, of course, the 'Franchise'...

Dud: The defense would be much better if we could put Brent Burns back on the blueline, where he really belongs. How long will the 'experiment' go on??

Next: at Nashville, Sommet Center, Saturday, Nov. 29, 7 PM Central Time, FSNorth (in HD!), XM Ch. 239, for 'Sci-Fi Night' (so bring your Lightsaber and Vulcan ears!)

Gm # 20: Wild 3, Stars 4

The Minnesota Wild is not a good offensive team. This is not a systems issue. This is a lack of overall skill level (comparable to other, more offensively gifted teams) which translates into trouble finishing, which translates into lack of goals-scored.

So, when they do manage to put a few behind a goalie, they absolutely must be able to parlay that outburst into a win.

Usually, they do this - which is going to make the next sentence seem trite.

Wednesday night they failed. Miserably.

This team is demonstrating a frustrating inability to hold a lead, or really even play with the lead. They have never really had a killer instinct, so, while it would be nice to have now, it can't be all that surprising that they don't. But this trend of late has been particularly vexing since they have been choking up these leads and games to teams that are coming into the X fairly banged up. Simply, the Wild is not better than any other team in the league by a wide enough margin to "play down" to their opponent on any given night - yet that is exactly what they've been doing.

And now, they've managed to piss away three games on this 7-of-8 at home stretch (the final game of which is today against Tampa Bay). True, they still have a healthy three games in hand on the Canucks and Flames (both of which they currently trail in the NW), but that doesn't mean losses against the Blues last week and the Stars on Wednesday are any less costly.

It seems like the Wild has a stretch like this every season. Where their fervent belief in/zeal for Lemaireian hockey yields to the reality that they really have a very small margin for error and they flop around for a few games trying to get back to stasis.

But, while history may contextualize it, this was a crucial stretch of games considering how March looms in the windshield like a tornado churning right towards you.

Chicken Little says: This was a dejecting loss for fans. Aberration? Maybe. But it better not take us long to find out.

Pollyanna says: But for a couple bad breaks the Wild win this one going away...or do they?

Bottom line: The bottom line is that they walked away with zero points from a game in which they lead 3-1 with 2:20 left in the second period.

Stud: Begrudgingly, because I don't really want to say anyone was a stud, I'm going to say Belanger. He has really replaced Walz in terms of on-ice contributions.

Dud: This Butch nonsense has to stop. I don't care who you miss. Figure out a way to start contributing or lets figure out a way to get a player in place of you who can.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Foster's Rehab Continues

Thanks to Mike Russo for an encouraging update on Kurtis Foster's continued rehabilitation.

Russo points out that it doesn't mean as much physically as it does mentally, but it still had to feel amazing for Foster to take that next step.

He won't be a top four guy on this team, and probably not a top PP unit guy anymore either.

But here's hoping he is able to make a full recovery and get back to the NHL again as soon as possible.


PS: Someone needs to show the Wild docs how to make better projections about injury recovery time frames. They continue to get it wrong, and it makes them look like the local weather man.

Quarter-pole Check-Up

The Minnesota Wild has completed 19 games of the 08-09 season. They have a record of 12-6-1, 25 points, and sit in second place in the tight Northwest division, fifth place in the Western Conference.

Here's a comparison of the Wild's performance through 19 games this season to their performance through the same number of games last season, using the stats from the Wild Super Stats Pack (plus a couple extras).

Overall Record
07-08 10-7-2
08-09 12-6-1

Home Record
07-08 6-2-0
08-09 6-3-1

Away Record
07-08 4-5-2
08-09 6-3-0

Record vs. Western Conference
07-08 10-6-2
08-09 6-5-0

Record vs. Eastern Conference
07-08 0-1-0
08-09 6-1-1

Goals Differential
07-08 51-49 (+2)
08-09 49-39 (+10)

1st Period
07-08 15-13 (+2)
08-09 13-12 (+1)

2nd Period
07-08 20-22 (-2)
08-09 19-11 (+8)

3rd Period
07-08 16-12 (+4)
08-09 14-15 (-1)

07-08 0-2 (-2)
08-09 3-1 (+2)

Record when...

MIN Scores 1st
07-08 9-2-1
08-09 9-4-0

Opp Scores 1st
07-08 1-5-1
08-09 3-2-1

MIN Lead After 1
07-08 4-2-0
08-09 5-0-0

MIN Trail After 1
07-08 1-3-1
08-09 1-2-1

Tied After 1
07-08 5-2-1
08-09 6-4-0

MIN Lead After 2
07-08 7-0-0
08-09 7-0-1

MIN Trail After 2
07-08 2-5-1
08-09 0-4-0

Tied After 2
07-08 1-2-1
08-09 5-2-0

MIN Lead in 3rd
07-08 10-1-0
08-09 10-0-1

Tied Anytime 3rd
07-08 3-4-2
08-09 5-2-1

MIN Lead Anytime
07-08 10-3-1
08-09 11-4-1

MIN Trail Anytime
07-08 2-7-2
08-09 3-6-1

Blown Lead (can be more than once per game)
07-08 4-3-2
08-09 5-5-1

*Of interest to me are the better road record overall (though one has to consider that includes a romp through the Southeast division), the better goal differential in the second period versus last season, the ability to put a game away in the third period combined with an inability to come back in the third period, and the higher number of blown leads.


Old Home Week

The Wild is hosting its own version of "Old Home Week" this Thanksgiving. First up, a return of native sons Mark Parrish, Toby Petersen and Matt Niskanen when the Stars roll into town tonight. The Stars in general, and Niskanen in particular of late, seem to have their way with the Wild with some regularity. Hopefully the Wild will not be so hospitable, the spirit of the holiday notwithstanding.

Then on Friday night, former captain, mensch and lump of clay Wes Walz returns to the X, though as an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning. There is no doubt Wes did great things for and with the Wild. He was often the largest source of on-ice inspiration in the expansion years and several of the Big Moments in Wild History to-date were authored by him. But I feel like we should turn that page now. Wes is gone. Whether or not you liked the way he left, he ain't Wild property no mo. I don't sit around pining for Willie Mitchell or Manny Fernandez, so I don't see why I should do so for Wes.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What is it with Gaborik?

What really IS the matter with Wild forward Marian Gaborik?

Is it:
A player who refuses to go get treatment for his ‘undisclosed condition’ from the same specialists who returned him from the same condition - TWICE? And who is getting paid $7.5M this season to basically sit on his heine, while his team struggles thru what is the easiest part of their season’s schedule?

A management whose blatant stubborness borders on the absurd, whose sole goal is to become more secret than the former Soviet KGB when it comes to their players? Who thinks that the public (and the media, especially those media assigned to follow the team) should be a group of trained ’sheeple’ who should just accept what they say as almighty gospel, without a single shred of evidence to back up what they say?

Is it an ownership whose obsession with the almighty dollar is so strong, as to not do anything — AT ALL — to upset the apple cart when it comes to this team’s premier player? Including (but not limited to) negotiating by not talking to him? Or his agent? At all?

And then, the team accuses the media of stirring the pot, as it were, by asking questions about that player’s availability.

Just my opinion: The Wild and Gaborik are engaged in an NFL-style, 'pay me-or-trade me' stalemate. Gaborik refuses to play unless he is traded, which the Wild refuse to do, or paid what his agent, Ron Salcer, thinks he's worth, estimated to be $10M/year. So, both sides dig in and become obstinate, stubborn and the losers? Wild fans everywhere, who are stuck with a malcontented, surly, disgruntled player and a equally distrusting, obstinate, and hostile management whose 'siege' mentality belies the fact that the Hockey Operations department doesn't know what they can do.

Neither one wants the other. But without the other, neither Gaborik nor the Wild get what they REALLY want.

Rid of each other.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Gm # 19: Wild 4, Caps 3 ...aftermath...

No need to do much tonight. The Live Blog (which I have yet to totally figure out, folks) pretty much says it all...but we revived the assembled multitude and asked for a few chosen words of, well, you know...

Chicken Little: Four goals against JT60 (Theodore) and they STILL almost lose in the last 5 minutes!! My God, when will they stop going to the 'prevent' defense??

Pollyanna: Ms. Conduct owes Cal Clutterbuck a Key Lime pie when she makes her visit up north later this season after that performance tonight! What a coming-out party!! And on national TV, too!

Bottom Line: It was a great game...for 55 minutes. It looked like the previous two games the last 5. (Even Jacques said so in his post-game presser.) We need 60 minute efforts every night. Having said that, I'll take the 2 points, thanks.

Stud: as AC/DC would say, Washington was..."Clutterbucked"...need I say more?

Dud: Not having a good night was Nick Schultz, who looked out of place a lot tonight. He was on the ice for both Caps even-strength goals. Not good for Nick.

Next Game: vs. Dallas, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 7:00 PM Central Time (TV: KSTC-45, FSSW; XM Channel 239)

Wild vs. Caps LIVE BLOG!

All-Snooze Game

I'll state right off the bat what some know - I'm a Penguins fan. That means I have a hard time finding anything positive to say about the city of Washington, D.C. (on a variety of levels, but that's a different story) or the Capitals.

Not the case this time.

This is a little less than a week old, but it's a brief though humorous blog entry by Caps owner Ted Leonsis.

He posted a link to an article by a Canadian writer stating - sarcastically or not - what a joy it was that the Canadiens supporters had each of their six All-Star Game nominees leading the voting, which would lead to a starting lineup of all Montreal players in the city of Montreal.

Mr. Leonsis said, "What if the All-Star Game was in Nashville?" Implying a starting cast of all Predators, if the writer would be singing the same tune. I enjoyed the post.

I'm not going to rag about the voting process. Any All-Star Game is a popularity contest. I won't accuse anything shady going on with the voting to date. I think everyone who's been around the NHL knows how passionate Habs fans are. In fact, it doesn't surprise me at all that the Montreal players are leading. (As it stands now, there will almost be a lineup of Habs vs. Wings; Detroit players lead the forwards, Lidstrom and Rafalski are 1-3 in defensemen and Osgood, who is not having a good year at all, is second in goalies, but behind Luongo.)

Want to hear something fishy? Penguins defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney are on the ballot. That shouldn't be. Gonchar won't be back until well after the game and Whitney won't return until a few weeks before. (By the way, Gonchar's fourth and Whitney's sixth.)

No, what I'm saying is - do away with the All-Star Game.

Yes, you heard me. Get rid of it.

The game serves no purpose. It doesn't even have much entertainment value. Sorry, but goals every five seconds, no defense, no checking, no penalties, just isn't that exciting for me. No one remembers who wins or the score, or the MVP. It leads to "controversies" like this year - "Are the Habs fans doctoring the voting?" It leads to constant talk about who got snubbed and who's unworthy. It leads to Rory Fitzpatrick situations. It might provide something to talk about, but really, it seems like something people get far too worked up about when it really is rather meaningless.

Granted there have been some outstanding memories from the game - Google or Youtube ones in particular if you want, I won't name specifics. But I think the Skills competition the night before is much more fun and interesting. That's what I try to catch every year, not the game.

The only two highlights, for me, from last year's game were these: The announcers talking to East starter Rick DiPietro at the faceoff, then Rick Nash coming down and scoring just seconds into the contest during the chat between the goalie and the booth; and Manny Legace's comment when Gary Bettman discussed shrinking goalie equipment because goalies are getting bigger. Legace said, and I can't remember the exact quote, but it went something like, "What?! I'm 5-9!"

Don't know who won. Was last year when Eric Staal had a hat trick?

One year I completely missed the game. I can't remember if I was out of town for work or what, but All-Star Weekend came and went for me. All I thought was, "Oh well."

Plus, it's not an All-Star roster. It's a first-half All-Star team, sometimes not even based on merit. (Niklas Backstrom is fifth in voting among Western goalies. Fifth! Only Tim Thomas has better numbers among regular starters in the league than Backstrom.)

If the NHL wants to keep the idea of All Stars around, fine. Name the "teams" at the end of the season when we see how players fare throughout the grind. Don't name them after a couple of months and don't have them actually suit up for a game.

In the game's defense, I like the camaraderie and togetherness the players display. One example is Jeremy Roenick razzing Dany Heatley about his missing teeth in 2003. But again, I remember that more than Heatley's four goals (five if you want to count the shootout one).

I'd love to see the skills competition remain. But if we do away with the game, we'd have to do away with the competition or find a replacement for the game. It doesn't make much sense getting the players together for one day. I'm not sure what we'd replace the game with though - any ideas or suggestions, feel free to post away. The writer in the above linked article said the All-Star team used to play the defending Cup champion. Well, as the results stand, that will essentially happen (never mind that one of the would-be starters wasn't actually on the Cup-winning team). But I'm not really sure I like that idea either. I guess I'm against the whole idea of having an exhibition game in the middle of the season.

I'd almost rather see a two-day skills event than a game. That won't happen of course. The league will continue to have the all-star game and people will continue to not watch.

This isn't NHL-specific either. Baseball's all-star game is much the same, I'd imagine the NBA's is as well (not something I follow), and the NFL Pro Bowl is quite possibly the lamest sporting event ever created.

I only watch the all-star game to see how the local team's players fare. If the game meant something - as baseball attempted to do with its all-star game - that would raise the stakes. Except what could it mean? You can't put home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup finals on the line. Hand out a trophy for bragging rights? Extra money to the winner?

I think that last one would get teams to play hard. What better motivator than money? Yet at the same time, how depressing would it be if that's what it might take to get a real game out of the event?

So just get rid of it. Give the players the weekend off, don't make them play a pointless exhibition where they risk injury on each play (just look at how innocent-looking a play resulted in a possibly serious injury to Luongo.) Name them All-Stars at the end of the season to see who's actually deserving.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gm # 18: Blues 2, Wild 1

The Minnesota Wild 'November Nadir' has arrived, right on schedule.

Saturday night, Brad Boyes tallied both St. Louis goals to lead the Blues to their second victory in as many nights, with a 2-1 victory over the now-haplessly offensive-anemic Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild, with Brent Burns at wing instead of 'Uncle Moneybags' Marian Gaborik (supposedly still nursing yet another groin injury, hence another nickname: 'Groinorik') just couldn't put it together despite having three back-to back power play chances in the first period, when they actually outshot the then-hapless Blues 11-4.

The second period was the Brad Boyes show, as he scored twice, the second of which came after Martin Skoula actually made the RIGHT play (for a change) and went down in an attempt to block Boyes' laser from the edge of the face-off circle to the right of Niklas Backstrom, who waved as it caught the inside of the post then nothing but net.

Boyes' first marker came less than one minute after Stephane Veilleux started the scoring for the Wild with a quick snap shot which fooled Blues' backup goalie Chris Mason, who gave the Wild fits frequently when he was Tomas Vokoun's backup in Nashville. (Vokoun has since moved on to the Florida Panthers.)

A somewhat furious last three minutes of regulation time was punctuated when Bloomington-native David Backes tried to install Brent Burns into the frame of the boards just behind the Blues' goal, earning him an early quit and a 5-minute major for boarding. The Wild, however, true to recent form couldn't put the biscuit in the basket as Mason stopped everything thrown at him.

Overall, this was a game not to be remembered, as this thing stank from the 'Let's Play Hockey' opening (when the wrong name was at first flashed up on the scoreboard) to the final futive efforts of Koivu, Brunette, et al to put one thru the Blues defense.

It wasn't hard to assemble the multitude after this one:

Chicken Little said: Can anything break this Wild team out of its' funk? It was as lackluster an effort as has been put out for a home game since...last game vs. Vancouver!

Pollyanna said: At last, Veilleux scored! See? Someone else besides Koivu can score on this team! (Well, sometimes.)

Stud: Very little to choose from here, but Cal Clutterbuck continues to impress. Someone get his car out of hock at Bush Intercontinental in Houston, will you?

Dud: On a night when Dud-ism overfloweth, there is the lowest of the low. After being called out Saturday in both Twin Cities newspapers for not shooting, Pierre Marc-Bouchard continues to act like he has the only Yo-Yo in the neighborhood, and he wants no one else to play with it. PMB: SHOOT THE DAMN PUCK, WILL YOU PLEASE?

Next Game: Wild vs. Washington, Monday, November 24, 7:00 PM Central Time (TV: Versus, TSN2-Canada, XM 208)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gm # 17: Wild 2, Canucks 3

Well that was....not...satisfying.

The Wild had a glorious opportunity last night, playing a divisional rival that had played the night before and whose star goalie got a night off.

Instead, Minnesota looked the tired, unfocused team while Vancouver played the opportunistic road team to a regulation victory.

The Wild is desperate for offense right now. That "One Good Line" from the start of the season having been figured out and disassembled as a result. Even a two-goal effort from Mikko Koivu wasn't enough to overcome a general lack of chances-created all game long, much less a late third period goal that left Wild fans facing the grim reality that there just was no chance they would be able to come back.

More disturbing, though, is this team's recent penchant for giving up leads. I count five leads (all one-goal) attained and given up over the last three games. Last night, as with the BJs game last Saturday, the Wild took and pissed away 1-0 and 2-1 leads. Now, their record when scoring first this season is 8-3-0, so it's not a critical issue quite yet, but it's not a good thing either.

This was a game where the Wild definitely missed a healthy Gaborik. *sigh*

The Canucks' first two goals went in off tips by or off of Wild players - which has to both frustrate and, oddly, comfort Backstrom who didn't play poorly, but just couldn't turn water into wine for us last night.

Chicken Little says:'s one thing to be great defensively, but if you can't even hope to win a game 1-0 you've got problems.

Pollyanna says: least they get four more at home...?

Bottom line: they lost. And a division rival gets a net two points on us.

Stud: Mikko was the best of the group last night. An even strength goal and a shorty.

Dud: Butch is failing this team when it needs him the most.