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!