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.