Saturday, December 5, 2009

Wild 5 Predators 3: 5 in a Row, UMD Beats UND

Who would have ever predicted 5 wins in a row for this team? Tonight the Wild take it to Nashville, winning easily save for a couple late goals for the Preds. I can’t remember the last time a Wild team scored goals at this kind of a pace. I’m trying hard to temper myself…but I’m excited that it’s exciting to watch Wild hockey again. I actually looked at the standings tonight. I’m not yet ready to talk about it here, but it’s not too bad!

Josh Harding got the win in net, and the goals came from Ebbett, Sheppard, Miettenin, Brunette, and Belanger. The Ebbett and Miettenin goals were of the pretty passing play kind, Ebbett deflecting an airborne pass from Havlat and Miettinen taking a beauty pass from Brunette from behind the net. Speaking of Havlat, he had 2 assists tonight to remind us he’s still on the team.

But the best part of tonight’s game was that we were able to listen to Nashville’s Tim McGraw goal song without being stupendously annoyed by it. When the Wild are on the losing end at Nashville nothing makes me grumpier than “I like it, I love it, I want some more of it…” as documented here.

On a WCHA side note, the UMD Bulldogs rallied to beat the UND Fighting Sioux tonight at the DECC in overtime…scoring the tying goal with 33 seconds left in regulation and netting the game winner 12 seconds into overtime. They salvaged a split in the weekend series, and staved off my own humiliation of wearing Sioux garb in public. The “friendly wager” between my wife and me is a push until February when the Dogs play the Sioux at REA in Grand Forks. B-U – L-L – D-O – G-S YEA BULLDOGS!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Wild 5 Ducks 4 SO: What’s this? Exciting NHL Hockey?

Just a great game @ the X tonight. Wild come back from 2 goals down not once, but twice, tie it up with a minute left in the game, take it to the shootout sudden death round, and get their 4th win in a row, 5th in the last 6 games, and have at least a point in their last 6.

The #1 line was just excellent tonight. Koivu 2 goals, Miettenin 2 goals (plus a SO goal), Brunette 3 assists. That’s exactly what the Wild need in order to contend.

Now I’m not going to get all gushy and predict Stanley Cup here, so here is the question…is the team’s recent play the real deal? They’re scoring more. They’re winning faceoffs like crazy. The ridiculous defensive lapses have all but vanished.

Could our Wild squad have a shot at the playoffs?

Ok, calm down. Gotta keep it rolling. They’ve shown flashes a couple times this season, and have gone into the tank only to lose 3 in a row. And they’re going to have to win in regulation eventually. But right now I’m not going to be picky. 2 weeks ago I made no time to watch the Wild. Now there’s reason to pay attention.

Props to Todd Richards for hanging in there, and to Chuck Fletcher for making some moves that seem to have sparked the squad. Shout out to tonight’s crowd at the X, representing with a loud ovation for Mikko’s individual effort to kill the Duck’s PP in OT, for standing for most of the OT and SO, and for being a force again.

Perhaps this winter won’t be as cold as we had expected.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Return to the X

Hello old friend. Great to see you again.

Tonight I was in the house at Xcel Energy Center for my first Wild hockey game in a year and a half. Yes, the Wild View from Section 216 has been a view from the couch for that long. I did see the UMD Bulldogs crush the UND Fighting Sioux there last year, but from a Wild perspective, it’s been a long time.

I don’t know why, but over the time I’ve been away from my friend, “The X” as I call it because we’re tight, I didn’t feel like I’d missed it. Too much going on over the last year and a half. Adjusting to parenthood, crackdown in the wallet, a product on the ice that wasn’t compelling enough to make the extra effort. But tonight, walking up to the building I felt a bit of excitement and it all started to come back to me. First game in the 2000 preseason v. Blackhawks. Inaugural game v. Flyers. Exorcising Minnesota’s hockey demons v. Stars. On-the-Glass seats, row 2 birthday seats, hat tricks, “Who needs Gaborik” chants, playoff games, sneaking-by-the-club-level-security-guards-to-see-the-band nights. We’ve been through a lot in 9 years. Tonight I felt like a part of the Team of 18,000 again. Wild jerseys all over the place. Loud fans. Great hockey conversation with the stranger in the seat next to me (including an NHL2Night reference). Good luck to the Dartmouth women’s hockey team.

I’ve re-caught the bug. I will see you again X. I’ll bring my wife by to see you next, and introduce you to our daughter soon. We will hang out often – our family has alot of catching up to do with you.

Wild 3 Rangers 2
Oh by the way, the Wild played their best game of the season so far, beating the NY Rangers 3-2. They scored first, built a 2-goal lead, and played solid D to hang on. Petr Sykora returned to the lineup after his benching and had a goal and an assist. They won in regulation even. It’s a pretty important win in gaining a little confidence in this rebuilding year. Antti Miettinen and Eric Belanger also scored, Niklas Backstrom gets the win in net.

Shoutout to Ticket King
So tonight was the first time I’ve ever actually used Ticket King. I gotta say, it was pretty slick. I paid $30 per seat – face value was $38. No doubt this below-face pricing was the result of a poor start and no Marian Gaborik in the Ranger lineup, but it worked out beauty for me. Picked up the tix just across the street from the X and was in and out of their office in about a minute. They even bumped us to row 2 when the tix we selected were row 9. I was impressed and will with out a doubt be using them again.

Wild @ Pittsburgh Penguins Sat Oct 31 6PM CST FSN HD

We’ll see if this win builds a little momentum against the Stanley Cup champion Penguins. No Evgeni Malkin, so that’ll help. Still a tough task to get a W. I just want to see consistent improvement. Don’t follow this nice win up with a dud.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Predators 4 Wild 3: 2 Minutes and 18 Seconds of Good Hockey

Guess we won’t be making the playoffs by going 41-0 at home.

Tonight the Wild lost their first game of the season at Xcel Energy Center, dropping their home record to 3-1. Lump that in with their 0-8 record on the road and the Wild have a Western Conference-worst 6 points. 12 games into the season, the Wild are ahead of only the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers in the entire NHL.

Tonight’s game wasn’t exactly entertaining. The Wild were down 1-0 early and 2-0 at the end of the 1st period. Things were looking sweet at the start of the 2nd, as surprisingly the Wild scored 3 goals in the first 2:18 – Burns on the PP, Clutterbuck from the right circle in transition, and Nolan on a weird cross-ice play that had Preds G Dan Ellis going the wrong direction. But that 3-2 lead lasted about as long as the Twins postseason, and the Preds soon had a 4-3 lead. That was that. My head was buried in my laptop for most of the 3rd. Figuring out what is new in Windows 7 was more interesting, and that’s sad commentary.

There’s alot of things not going well for this team. Obviously offensive flow is a big one. But another that’s becoming apparent is poor defensive play. I don’t know if it’s lack of talent on the blueline or trying to implement a activating D system with D that can’t play that style, but it’s difficult to watch. And Marek Zidlicky is the new Martin Skoula.

Speaking of that offensive flow, I don’t get why Petr Sykora would be a healthy scratch after playing only 2 games since coming back from injury. This team doesn’t have alot of offensive talent, and scratching Sykora takes out a major piece of that talent. Don’t you need to play your best players and allow them to work on that offensive flow?

Oh yeah, and the boo birds were out tonight at the X. Oh hey, the T-Wolves won tonight. How long before the discerning Minnesota sports fan chooses to spend his or her hard-earned money in Minneapolis instead of St. Paul? Just sayin…

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Blues 3 Wild 1: At Least it was Fun to Listen to Panger

Mostly more of the same from the Wizzy tonight. A very poor start…Down 1-0 in the first 2 minutes. Outshot 8-0 before they got their first shot. Gave up a 2 on 1 shorthanded goal. It all added up to the Blues’ first win at home and yet another Wild road loss.

If you couldn’t see this game, you didn’t miss a whole lot. Here’s a couple things…

  • Newly acquired F Chuck Kobasew scored his first goal in a Wild sweater.
  • Brent Burns continues to look like he’s lost something. He’s certainly not the guy we were ready to anoint the next Chris Chelios. Actually, I wonder how Cheli is doing with the Chicago Wolves…
  • The Wizzy played better in the 2nd and 3rd and closed the shot margin to 26-20 by the end of the game.
  • Still waiting to see this “offensive” style of hockey kick in. Mostly I see chickens with their heads cut off.
  • Wild D Kim Johnsson left the game in the 1st period with some sort of injury and didn’t return.
  • The loss wrecks the Wild’s perfect record with their new third sweater. Sure, it was only 1-0, but there hasn’t been much else to get excited about. Now that’s gone too.
  • Has Marty Havlat played in a game yet? Maybe I should tweet him and ask.
  • I’ve seen alot of commentary on Benoit Pouliot’s game looking alot better so far this season, so I decided to pay attention tonight. I have to say, I was impressed. At the risk of saying this again and looking stupid, might he have finally figured it out?
  • I love listening to Darren Pang do color commentary. How does a guy like him wind up in St. Louis, and we have to listen to who we have to listen to? Also, there was no obnoxious “Face Off” bit in the intermission. Good on ya Fox Sports Midwest.

Next: Hurricanes @ Wild Saturday 7PM FSN (HD)
The Wild will put their perfect home record on the line tomorrow against Carolina. The ‘Canes only have 2 wins as well, so it should be riveting hockey. You would like to see the Wizzy win this one, and hopefully in regulation.

All 30 teams will be in action tomorrow as well. These are fun nights if you have the Center Ice package. 

Friday, October 23, 2009

Catch Wild v. Blues on Center Ice

Just a quick update on the TV situation for tonight's Wild @ Blues game. It's not on MSP local, but if you are getting the NHL Center Ice free preview from your cable or satellite provider (DirecTV, Dish, Comcast, etc.) you can catch the St. Louis broadcast.

It's always fun to hear the out of towners prattle about your team, so check it out if you can.

UPDATE: Via Russo's Twitter feed, the Wild will be wearing their third jerseys in St. Louis tonight, so there's another reason to watch. Apparently they will wear them tonight, tomorrow @ the X and Monday in Chicago. Interesting that they're wearing them on the road.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wild 3 Avalanche 2 (SO): Improvement and a Win

Tonight the Wild looked a liiiiitle bit better than they have over the last couple weeks. They got to practice the powerplay alot as well, and that certainly helped. The Wild had 8 powerplay opportunities while Colorado had 3, and both regulation Wild goals came on the powerplay .They scored the lone goal in the shootout to get the extra point and just like that we’ve doubled our win total for the season! We’re comin!

Mikko Koivu
Mikko Koivu, in his first game as the first real Wild captain, had a very strong game. He scored the tying goal in the 3rd on a redirected puck in front of the net, and he scored the game winner in the shootout. However, I will not call him “Captain Koivu” as FSN play-by-play guy Dan Terhaar chose to do. Ugh.

Niklas Backstrom
Backy was great again, making 35 saves plus 3 in the shootout. He is the constant on this team, again not flashy but there when you need him.

2nd Period Still Ugly
The Wild dominated the 1st period with the help of Avalanche penalties. But in the 2nd they reverted to the team we saw on the west coast. The Avs outshot the Wild 18-4 in the 2nd when we saw sloppy defensive play, poor breakouts, and an inability to clear for long stretches. Wild D Brent Burns looked especially lost as he ineffectively tried to clear the puck, regained it, then turned it over inside the defensive zone, which led directly to the Avs go ahead goal. Gotta tighten that up.

Busted Glass
It seemed the loudest cheer of the night from the “Team of 18,000” came when an Avalance player knocked Wild D Nick Schultz into the glass at the scorers table just before the end of regulation and the glass shattered into at least 1,394,238 pieces. It was a little comical to see the official timekeeper shield himself from the wreckage while stopping the clock. Good work sir.

Third Jersey
I really like the new sweaters. It was awesome to see the boys in green again, and I think the script lettering on the front is striking. Also, I like that they are 1-0 in them.

Wild hop a plane for a quick rodie to St. Louis on Friday, 7PM No TV (FSN FAIL) The Blues look improved over last season, but they don’t exactly instill fear into my heart.The Wild should show some pride, play a “good road game” and get their first road win of the year.

Congrats to the Philadelphia Phillies for putting away the Dodgers tonight to advance to the World Series. Assuming it’s Phillies v. Yankees, I’m all about a Phils repeat.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Time for Renewal

It's been a long couple weeks since the Wild have played at Xcel Energy Center. A long west coast road trip resulted in a no wins and 5 losses, giving the Wild a depressing record of 1-6. It sucks being a fan of that team. I'm not going to rehash that 0-5 trip - that's been done at nauseum. Let's look at why things will turn around soon for our favorite hockey team.

Back Home
Gotta start somewhere, and the X is the last (only) place they won a game. It's only for one game and they're back out to St. Louis, but then they come back here Saturday. The long road trip is over and at least they get some familiarity with their surroundings. Should impart a better state of mind.

Third Jersey Debut
The Wild will wear their new green third jersey for the first time tonight. Some teams rack up wins in their alternate jerseys and this is obviously purely coincidence, but if it makes the day feel like a special occasion and amps the team up a bit more I'll bite.

More Work on the System
Veteran Wild F Andrew Brunette was on KFAN with Lavelle E. Neil this morning, and they talked a bit about learning the new system. Bruno is always pretty candid in media interviews and he sounded sincere in speaking to the difficulty in going to a new system that is pretty much the exact opposite of what most of the team is used to playing. He said it in a way that makes me believe it's more than just an excuse, that there truly are growing pains of learning Todd Richards' system. He said he feels like each day they get a bit better, and if it's working well they will be a hard forechecking team. It's gotta click eventually.

Another factor Bruno touched on was injuries. Not so much that the injuries have resulted in the losses, but that they've contributed to the learning curve on the new system. A good portion of the team (including Bruno and Koivu) missed most of the preseason with injuries, and now you have Havlat and Sykora missing games. Havlat may play tonight and Sykora sounds close, and out of nowhere Cal Clutterbuck skated with the team today, so things are looking up.

On a downside to the injury thing, Pierre Marc Bouchard was placed on extended injury reserve or some goofy thing. He has concussion symptoms that won't go away. Some people have speculated that his career could be in question. That would be sad - PMB is a good kid.

Chuck Kobasew
Wild GM Chuck Fletcher made a deal with Boston for Chuck Kobasew, a tough winger. He might not be the key to making this team competitive, but he has scored 20+ goals the last two seasons, and the Wild need goal scorers. Fletch gave up a good prospect, but you gotta give up something to get something. Would Doug Reisbrough have made that trade?

The Official Face of the Franchise
Finally, the Wild have a permanent captain. They gave F Mikko Koivu the C for good, even though it has been unofficially his team for the last year or so. Mikko was the fan choice. Richards said he exibits all the characteristics of a good leader. During the presser announcing the move he spoke to the media in a way I haven't ever really heard him speak. You could hear the responsibility in his tone. He said the important thing was that "the older guys" supported him in that role and that he wouldn't change how he plays or how he acts in the clubhouse, but I envision him taking the role and running with it. Some people step up more when others give you more responsibility and I think Mikko, typically thought of as a quiet leader, will excell in this spot.

It's going to get better folks.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ducks 3 Wild 2: So Not that Close

It’s been a long 2 weeks since the season started.

It’s going to seem even longer as the season wears on.

Tonight the Wild lose 3-2 to the Anaheim Ducks, and it wasn’t that close. Corey Perry had two goals for the Ducks less than 9 minutes into the game. It was 3-0 before Eric Belanger scored to give the Wild a little (a very little) life. In the third period, there wasn’t much to get a Wild fan excited. Andrew Brunette did score his 4th goal of the year, but it came too little too late with only 9 seconds to play.

Again the Wild looked incohesive throughout this game. They The first Duck goal was a direct result of a bad Wild line change and Wild D Shane Hnidy taking a feeble swipe at the puck before sending Perry on a semi-breakaway. Perry scored his 2nd goal at even strength as well, though it sure looked like a Ducks powerplay. And that was about all she wrote.

I counted 4 odd-man rushes given up by the Wild, and I was only paying loose attention. The Wild didn’t sustain any pressure, even on the power play. There isn’t much reason to watch right now. I missed part of the game for Blackhawks v. Oilers.

Oh, and to top all that off, Wild F Martin Havlat left the game in the 3rd period, with an “undisclosed injury.” Russo is hearing it’s a groin pull. Havlat is as injury prone as Marian Gaborik, so this could be more bad news for a hurting Wild team.

The Wild start the season 1-4. How long with this ugliness last? Is it the new coach factor? Is it a learning the system thing? Or just a bad team? Are we looking at a lottery pick in June?

Next: Wild @ Edmonton – Friday October 16th 8PM KSTC
I don’t foresee much change in time for our first NW divisional matchup of the season. These games in Canada are typically a tough watch. Something always goes wrong for the Wild. And I expect Sioux v. Gophers will be on our TV this weekend, so I’ll be in and out of this one.

Can’t wait until the Wild are must-see TV again.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wild 4 Ducks 3: EPIC

So I've adopted a new word. Picked it up mostly from the Twitter, and I know I'm late to this party, but that's pretty standard for me. I've hesitated to use it but if I'm ever going to use it, it's going to be now.

In case you've been checked out on some exotic island the last few days, you know that Minnesota has been the center of the sports universe over the last 5 days or so. A couple months ago, it looked like a pretty sweet weekend. Gophers v. Badgers at TCF Bank Stadium Saturday, Twins final series at Metrodome the whole weekend culminating with a celebration after the final game Sunday, Vikings v. Packers on Monday Night Football at Metrodome, and the Wild home opener at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday. 5 great days of Minnesota sporting events in the Twin Cities.

Then the stretch became huge.

Brett Favre signed with the Vikings and the matchup with the Packers at Metrodomebecame huge. The Twins were two games back of the Tigers in the Central division entering play on Friday. We all know what happened there - the Twins swept Kansas City, tied the Tigers, and forced a playoff game at Metrodome. That game was scheduled for Tuesday, and the Wild opener suddenly became the forgotten.

And then the stretch became EPIC.

Favre, Jared Allen, and the Vikings dominated the Packers on Monday and 60,000 Vikings fans left Metrodome elated. On Tuesday, Twins v. Tigers was a nail-biting, stomach-churning affair for both sides. The Twins battled back from 3-0, took a 4-3 lead, got down 5-4, went to extra innings, eeked out of numerous jams, and somehow, someway, walked off as Central Division Champions in the 12th inning. 54,000 Twins fans at Metrodome went banana sandwich. Metrodome is not yet ready to give this team to Target Field.

All that was left was the Wild, just hanging out over in St. Paul, in front of the team of 18,000 (barely), opening their home season with a new coach and new identity. Time to switch gears.

Don't Forget About Us!
I flipped the Wild game on after I'd had my fill of watching Twins players jumping (I mean dancing), spraying champagne, and otherwise adding to their hangover that will make it tough to play well against the Yankees tomorrow. It was the start of the 2nd period, where it was 0-0, and what I saw did not look good at all. The Wild looked out of sorts again, similar to the season opener v. the Blue Jackets. The lack of flow turned quickly into a 3-0 Duck lead. The Duck goals included one from Saku Koivu, which had to drive a bit of a dagger into Mikko and the Wild.

Then EPIC intervened. The 3rd period was a complete reversal of the 2nd. Suddenly the Wild were attacking, sustaining pressure, and getting the puck on Duck G JS Giguere. Mikko Koivu broke through with a powerplay goal from Martin Havlat and Andrew Brunette 6 minutes in. Petr Sykora fired a pretty snap shot past Giguere 6 minutes later, from Havlat and Eric Belanger to make it 3-2. With just over 2 minutes left in regulation, Belanger tied the game, beating Giguere 5-hole from the left circle on the PP, assisted by Havlat again and Brent Burns. And in the overtime, Andrew Brunette cleaned up a loose puck for the game winner - once again on the PP, assisted by Belanger and Kim Johnsson.

The Wild completed the most EPIC 5-day stretch in MN sports history with an equally EPIC comeback. One that we likely would never have seen under the old regime. Andrew Brunette said after the game that they wouldn't let the Twins out do them tonight, and the Team of 18,000 went home as elated as everyone else did over the EPIC stretch of MN sports.

Twins v. Yankees from Yankee Stadium on Wednesday 5 PM TBS...Oh yeah...this is a Wild blog.

The Wild travel to the LA Kings (Thursday 9:30 PM FSNorth HD). The Kings are 1-1 after beating the Sharks tonight and Kings are scoring a few goals in this early season, so the Wild defense will be challenged to continue fine-tuning their offensive system while keeping the Kings scoring chances down. I still think it will take some time, Kings 4 Wild 2.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Blue Jackets 2 Wild 1: Clearly a Work in Progress

Man, what a day. Just finished watching the Wild’s season opener because I had other things on my mind today. Like my last baseball game at Metrodome, the Twins trying to run down the Tigers, becoming a temporary White Sox fan, and…well I guess that’s it.

I watched tonight’s 2009-2010 Wild opener on the DVR, and while it was a bit non-descript, one thing is clear: This is a new brand of hockey.

New Style
This a different kind of hockey from the Jacques Lemaire style that we saw for the first 8 years of the Wild’s existence. It just had a different feel. Actually, JL would probably have keeled over if his Wild played this sloppy. But sloppy is as sloppy does…we will likely see alot of this type of play throughout the season as new coach Todd Richards instills his brand of hockey. There weren’t a ton of great scoring chances in either direction, but it just felt so much looser than a typical Wild hockey game. It’s clear we’re in a new era of Wild hockey.

Andrew Brunette scored the lone goal for the Wild, and it was a pretty goal, set up by Mikko Koivu and Martin Havlat, as he deked Mason and slid it in short side conjuring memories of his goal that ended Patrick Roy’s career in the 2003 playoffs.

Other than that, the Wild didn’t sustain much pressure tonight. They were outshot 39-33, and it didn’t feel like they had that many shots.

That’s about all I’ve got for tonight; I’ve got Twins on the brain. I still believe the franchise is better for this change. It will pay off eventually.

An Aside
Wow…as I finish up this post, the Calgary Flames just beat the Edmonton Oilers on a misplay by Nikolai Khabibulin with 40 seconds to go. Bad bad way to lose a season opener in your home arena.

Home opener Tuesday v. the Anaheim Ducks. Too early to throw out predictions really, but the Ducks lost their opener to San Jose 4-1. This game may be even more difficult to pay attention to…if the Twins and Tigers end in tie after tomorrow’s 162nd game, they will play game 163 at Metrodome on Tuesday.

How bout instead, Twins win, Tigers lose on Sunday…

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Faceoffs a Key to Wild Success

Tonight on my long drive home from work I listened to the Wild PONDcast (yeah, “PONDcast” is cheezy…but I dig it) and it was Todd Richards’ addressing the media after this morning’s skate. One of the things he spoke about was faceoffs…and it was compelling. If you like, you can listen here.

The Wild have never been a good faceoff team. There have been many games where I’ve summed it up with, “It’d be nice if we could win a faceoff…” Winning faceoffs can be so key. In the offensive zone, it gives you an opportunity to score. In the defensive zone, it keeps the other team from getting high-quality scoring chances and sets up an opportunity to get the puck out of the zone and go on the offensive. A winning team wins more of draws than they lose.

Let’s look at some historical stats for the Wild skaters who took the most faceoffs last season:

Mikko Koivu: 1625 faceoffs taken - 857 faceoffs won - 52.7%
Eric Belanger: 1205 faceoffs taken – 626 faceoffs won – 52.0%
James Sheppard: 870 faceoffs taken – 361 faceoffs won – 41.5%

Compare that with the top centers for the Western Conference champ Red Wings last season:

Henrik Zetterberg: 1189 faceoffs taken – 644 faceoffs won – 53.3%
Pavel Datsyuk: 1135 faceoffs taken – 636 faceoffs won – 56.0%
Kris Draper: 1000 faceoffs taken – 603 faceoffs won – 60.3% <—that’s right, 60 percent!
Valtteri Fippula: 784 faceoffs taken – 409 faceoffs won – 52.1%

The Wings top centers averaged  55.8%. Wild top centers averaged 49.8%. Do the math…that’s a difference of 6%. The Wings scored 289 goals last season, the Wild scored 214. I admit some of that can be attributed to goal-scoring talent, but winning faceoffs gives a grinding team a chance to set up the cycle and run offensive plays. The Wild will need to get better at faceoffs in order to compete for a playoff spot.

Back to Todd Richards in the PONDcast today, he mentioned that while in San Jose he worked with Mike Ricci, who was a career faceoff stud. He got them thinking about faceoffs as the first battle of the game or the first battle of the shift. It’s one of the first philisophical elements of Coach Richards that I’ve taken a liking to, and I hope it helps this season.

Look for faceoff stats and their correlation to goals scored to be a theme here on Wild View from Section 216 throughout the season.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Captaincy in the New Era of Wild Hockey

The Strib’s Wild beat writer Mike Russo wrote an article about the Wild captaincy today. So this post may feel like I’m piggybacking…but the planning for this post started a couple weeks ago. One of the first things that popped into my scattered brain when Todd Richards was named coach was the captaincy. Finally, it seemed we may abolish Jacques Lemaire’s rotating captaincy. So, I set out to take the pulse of the Wild fans in my life. Here are the questions I asked and the results:

Should the Wild go with 1 captain all season?
The answer to this question was a unanimous “Yes.” The rotating captaincy has run it’s course.

Who Should Start the Season as Captain?
Almost unanimously, Mikko Koivu is the fan’s choice captain the Wild in this year of transition. Nick Schultz got one vote. Pavol Demitra also received a vote, but that was after a few beers and it was later determined that this voter meant Mikko Koivu.

Outcry for Koivu to be named permanent captain started last season, so this is no surprise. Wild fans have handed the “face of the franchise” tag over to Koivu. Women want him. Men want to be him. He’s on the brink of superstardom in Minny.

Who should be the Alternates?
There was a little more variety on the alternates. A very little. By the numbers, it’s Brent Burns and Nick Schultz with Andrew Brunette on standby for injury purposes.

The Official Word
Here are the Wild 2009-2010 captains based on the fan vote:

C: Mikko Koivu

A: Brent Burns

A: Nick Schultz

Do you agree with this captaincy group? How would you change it up? Do you think Todd Richards will go this route? Post your thoughts in the comments!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mediocre to...Something Else Step 4: Finally Release an Alternate Jersey

The Wild have been one of only a few teams without a third jersey for two seasons now. A variant of the current home red jersey was the alternate a few years ago, when the now-retired original green jersey was their home sweater. When news first broke that the Wild would be unveiling a new third jersey at the MN State Fair, it seemed most Wild fans hoped they would simply bring that original green sweater back into the mix. It holds a certain nostolgia; as much as a 9 year old franchise can have. There were rumors from blog writers and beat columnists and even Wild Twitter accounts that the jersey would be a new design, with the word "Minnesota" in script or block letters across the front.

Then, someone apparently flipped a switch too soon over at and the official jersey was leaked all over the interwebs. The redesigned website was only up for a short time before the mistake was rectified, but hockey jersey blog Icethetics let us all know what the new jersey looks like.

Naturally the Wild went ahead with their big unveiling event at the State Fair, with Derek Boogaard and Brent Burns modeling the jersey. From what I can tell, fan reaction is mixed. Alot of people really want that original green, and I would've been ok with that too since my jersey is the original green and it would have been relevant again.

I really like the new sweater though. Green base with the "harvest wheat" lettering and numbering Minnesota spelled out in script accross the chest with Wild in red in the underlining tail. The striking element to me is the star dotting the i and crossing the t in Minnesota is the same star that is present in the main animal head logo. It makes the uni very dramatic. When I first heard script, I was worried it may look like some of the U of M Gopher jerseys they've rolled out in recent history, and we'll just say I would not have been happy with that.

The squad now sports three completly different jersey desings: White roadies with the main logo, pretty much the standard when you think Wild hockey. Red homes with a smaller main logo encircled, and the new alternate, which will be worn a handful of times at home. I will withhold my ranking until I see the new sweater in person. The Wild will first wear their new jersey October 21st v. Colorado.

What do YOU think about the new sweater?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mediocre to…Something Else Step 3 – Replace the Checked Out Prima Dona

Marian Gaborik checked the rest of the way out of Minnesota on the first day of free agency, ultimately signing not with Vancouver as rumors persisted, but with the New York Rangers – the team he had his 5-goal game against. Yeah, good luck with that. MSG is where overpaid individual stars go to get injured and underachieve.

But this left Chuck Fletcher with a big hole. With all of his injury and attitude issues, obviously Gabby was the biggest talent. What would Doug Reisbrough have done? Likely nothing. But the new guy looking to make a name found someone interested in playing in Minnesota. Someone who needed a place to play after his team signed Marian Hossa. A guy who is a frequent Twitterer (@martinhavlat). Marty Havlat was probably the Hawk’s most talented player until the new kids arrived in the last couple years. He scores in pretty ways. He now has needed playoff experience, reaching the West Finals last season with the Hawks and scoring 5 goals during their run. And the biggest thing that makes him better than Gaborik in my eyes…he wants to be in “Minny.”

He may not have the same speed or talent, but I believe a team attitude will be so much more valuable to the Wild in this season and even more in the next few seasons. On a line with Mikko Koivu – there’s a lot of potential. I gotta believe he’s a 30-goal scorer if he stays healthy (yes, there’s injury baggage here too).

The Wild also went hard at Mikko Koivu’s older brother Saku. He did not sign with them, instead signing with the Anaheim Ducks. Sounds like the biggest reason he didn’t sign was he didn’t want to interfere with what Mikko has going on here. Mikko has turned into the #1 leader on this team and Saku apparently wanted to stay out of the limelight – allow Mikko to run the team. Pretty noble thing, but unfortunately it leaves the Wild a little short at center (pun intended, if Pierre-Marc Bouchard sees alot of time at the position). We will need to watch how that plays out.

Overall the team is improved personnel-wise over last season. It’ll take some time for them to gel, and possibly one more signing next summer, but I like the direction so far.

Coming next: Step 4 – Finally Roll Out an Alternate Jersey

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mediocre to…Something Else Step 2 – Hire a Coach and Answer Questions about the Checked out Prima Dona

Actually Chuck Fletcher’s first task as new Wild GM turned out to be the 2009 Entry Draft, but during this time he was also inundated with questions about Marian Gaborik. People seemed to think that with Reisbrough gone and the possibility of a more offensive style, Gabby would be more interested in re-signing with the Wild. Fletcher answered each time that he would be in touch with Gaborik, that he is a very talented player that anyone would want on their team. But it never felt like there was anymore possibility now than there was last season during #10’s long injury break.

At the same time Fletcher was also looking for his coach. This search turned out to be very similar to the GM process…there were a few big names interested in the job (Pat Quinn again, Peter Laviolette), others from within the Wild organization (Mike Ramsay, Kevin Constantine), and a few others, including a current assistant in San Jose with ties to Minnesota and to Chuck Fletcher (Todd Richards). I was interested in Laviolette. He won the Stanley Cup with Carolina a few years ago and has an offensive mind. Seemed to be a good fit. Again, there was media speculation that it would likely be Todd Richards, and that is ultimately who Fletcher hired.

Richards shares Fletcher’s vision of “up tempo” hockey, giving the talented D-men the green light to join the rush regularly. He comes in with a player’s coach reputation, so we will see how it translates to on-the-ice performance. The Minnesota Boy Comes Home bit is a nice story, so you want to root for the guy. It will likely take a couple years, but I have hopes for entertaining hockey. The big question…do the Wild have the players to win with the new style? It seems our old coach new New Jersey Devils coach Jacques Lemaire does not think so.

The Wild also have a new assistant coach in Dave Barr, who joins Mike Ramsey behind the bench. Mario Tremblay will not be back with the team as he and the new regime “mutually” decided to part ways. Assistant GM Tom Lynn also was let go. This is truly a new beginning for Wild hockey.

Coming next: Step 3 – Replace the Checked-Out Prima Dona

Single Game Thievery

We interrupt this belated recap of the Wild offseason for a bit of a rant on the single game ticket pricing strategy being employed by the Wizzy. Single game tickets go on sale this Saturday, andiIn case you haven't seen the plan, two things have me all worked up: select games that are more expensive than the rest (codename: premium games), and forcing those interested in seeing Gaborik's return or the Cup champs to purchase another game (codename: companion games).

These are both strategies that the Vikings have been ripped for, at least by me, and I couldn't be more disappointed the Wild are using it. They are not fan-friendly options at a time when not many have extra money in their pockets and I just don't get it. To me it wreaks of arrogance on the organization's part. They expect us to pay whatever crazy amount they ask. Premium games are $5-$20 more expensive depending on the section. In the case of the companion games, we can not even choose the game - they are predetermined middle-of-the-week games that aren't exactly sexy matchups. And if the team is losing...expect even more fan angst.

The sellout streak will die this season.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mediocre to…Something Else Step 1 – Get a New General Manager

Back in April after Wild owner Craig Leipold fired Doug Reisbrough, he now had a team without a GM, without a head coach, and possibly a team without an identity. So the first order of business was to find a new GM. Leipold had a host of names to choose from. A few of the names I remember floating around were Pat Quinn, Pierre McGuire, and this Chuck Fletcher guy, who honestly I had never heard of before (sorry I didn't know the Asst GM for Pitt). I liked the possibility of Quinn and McGuire, mostly because I know who they are – they're big names in the hockey world. I still believe Quinn is a great hockey mind and it would have been excellent to have him here. As for McGuire, he talks a lot on NHL broadcasts. Some people I know living north in Canada absolutely ripped the guy, so I guess it's good it didn't wind up being him. But the sentiment in the media was always that it would be Fletcher, and that made sense to me. He is extremely well respected in the hockey world and regarded the "next big thing" in the GM role, also because this is still a Minnesota team, and we don't go big.

Chuck Fletcher was hired in May, and he came in talking about a change – about up-tempo hockey. We didn't know how he was going to do it, but it was the first we heard of a change in philosophy to an offensive style from the defensive clog-fest we've come to love when it gets us into the playoffs but hate when we miss the playoffs by 3 points. He said all the right things, he didn't insult DR (although no one would have been too upset if he did) and he breathed a little bit of life back into the Wild fan base.

Stay tuned for Step 2 – Hire a Coach and Answer Questions about the Checked out Prima Dona.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

So Much on My Mind

Remember? I have a blog!!!

Let’s see, since my last post in April, the Wild have a new General Manager, Head Coach, Assistant Coach, marquee player, third jersey, website…what else am I missing? While all this was going on I was extremely busy with work and family, but we’re now less than two weeks out from training camp, and I’m getting the fever. I’m really looking forward to watching the team this year. I will be writing short posts over the next two weeks covering each of the big offseason changes. New blood – new beginning – new hope.

But what really got me revved up and back into Wild coverage mode was my family’s trip to the MN State Fair. Last summer I blogged shortly after the Wild’s announcement of a new mascot, Nordy. You can read that post here. I didn’t see much of Nordy last season because we didn’t make it to any Wild games, so I never really got a chance to really formulate my opinion. So, as we walked in to the Wild booth at the fair, Nordy was sitting there, signing autographs, kids gathered around. Next thing I know, I’m standing next to him, Adriana in tow, mom taking the picture with a camera phone. Adriana LOVED him! And thus, my opinion is official. Nordy is awesome!


Welcome back to hockey!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Winds of Change

“Nuh uh…you’re foolin’, right?”

Loosely translated, that was my reaction when one of my coworkers told me Doug Reisbrough had been fired. I thought there was no way. He insisted, and I check out the interweb (sorry IS team, I’ll do an extra 5 minutes of work this weekend) and sure enough, Wild owner Craig Leipold pulled the trigger and surprised everyone by firing DR. I am still in shock. Never saw this coming. I’m so used to hearing about the T-Wolves and Glen Taylor’s “country club” and the other pro teams here in Minny doing just enough to be almost competitive…I just never thought this was possible.

So, I did what any other tech-savvy fan would do…I posted the Strib story to Facebook. Within minutes I had comments from friends expressing their “Like” for the news. No surprise here. DR had worn thin with the Team of 18,000 and I was one of them.

I welcome the change. Whoever Leipold brings in, Reisbrough never had the guts to pull the trigger on a deal. I give him credit for building a playoff contender out of an expansion team, but it is time the Wild become a Cup contender.

What Does it All Mean?
Suddenly this summer which a week ago was going to be filled with fan uncertainty on has new drama. Sure, we don’t know what the new philosophy will be, but there is a new enthusiasm, a new hope that the new regime can bring in new talent and put together a winning product. I have hope that Leipold will bring in a well-known hockey man as GM, and a well-known hockey man as coach. I have hope that this change means Kevin Constantine is not the likely successor to Jacques Lemaire. I am prepared for a year or two of rebuilding in order to bring meaningful playoff hockey to the Xcel Energy Center. I have hope of seeing the Stanley Cup in the outstretched hands of Brent Burns and Nicklas Backstrom. I have hope of going nutso in the streets of St. Paul.

Here’s to hope.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

So Long Coach

Jacques Lemaire made it official after tonight’s 6-3 Wild win over Columbus. He will not be coaching the Wild next season. For the first time ever, the Wild will not have Jacques behind the bench.

This is a sad day. While I would enjoy a more offensive style of play, I absolutely loved Coach Lemaire’s French accent, his willingness to actually coach his superstars, and I will very much miss his post game pressers.

Obviously this brings up a ton of questions: Who will Doug Reisbrough hire to replace him? Will the style of play change? Will Jacques coach somewhere else next season? Will a team with little talent bottom out without a good coach? How long into free agency will Marian Gaborik take to find a new team? These things I’ll cover in future posts.

For now, reflect a bit on the Wild’s first 8 seasons of hockey that included a before-their-time run to the Conference Finals, two other appearances in the playoffs, and a Northwest Division title. Appreciate the foundation that a legendary coach has built.

Thank you Coach Lemaire.

Friday, April 10, 2009

All Over but the Cryin and a Meaningless Game in Columbus

Anaheim just finished off Dallas, well sortof, Dallas tried to keep the Wild in it. Steve Ott tied the game with 13 seconds to go in regulation, but it had to be a regulation win and the Wild are officially eliminated from the playoffs. Stupid 3 point games. The OTL point has got to go.

It’s the Wild’s own fault for not showing some sort of moxi over the last half of the season. Marian Gaborik has likely played his last meaningful game in a Wild sweater and Jacques Lemaire may be done as well. Get ready for a summer of teeth gnashing and Doug Reisbrough bashing.

Finally…But too Late?

This enigmatic Wild team finally showed some heart, passion, and life tonight. They played with fire, like a team that was fighting for their playoff lives. Sure wish they would have tried that a couple weeks ago.

The Wild win 8-4 tonight over Nashville, eliminating Nashville from the playoff chase and doing what they could to keep their own playoff hopes alive.

As Dick Bremer said on the Twins broadcast, “How did they score eight goals?” and Bert Blyleven added, “Wow!”

They got down 1-0 early, but Dan Fritsche worked hard on a delayed penalty call and sprung himself on a breakaway. He got the shot on net and it deflected over Nashville G Pekka Rinne (who?). That energized the crowd at the X and fired up the Wild and they went on to score 5 more goals before adding 2 empty netters as the Preds tried all they could to keep their season alive.

Dan Fritsche was rocked with a shoulder to the head by Jordin Tootoo, who I didn’t realize was such an agitator, and on the ensuing play Marc Andre Bergeron scored. I hope Fritsche turns out OK, I’ve liked his game since he came over midseason.

So in a season that has been very disappointing, the Wild finally showed me something and whatever happens, reminded me why I love Wild hockey.

Where We Stand Now
The St. Louis Blues are back in the playoffs, beating Columbus tonight 3-1. Jeff and Gilby have got to be excited. However, this was one of two teams the Wild needed to lose to keep their chances alive. So congratulations to the Blues…

That leaves one spot, and the only chance the Wild have is for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks to lose to the Dallas Stars. At time of this post it is 1-1 in the 2nd intermission. This game can not go into overtime…any points by Anaheim eliminates the Wild. So the State of Hockey needs some help from its former NHL identity to keep our hopes alive. I’ll update when that goes final. GO STARS!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Remember that NHL Team…

So I haven’t written about the Wild for about a month now, since UMD started on their run in the college hockey postseason. I think subconsciously I hoped that my lack of interest might spur some sort of run for them…one of those superstitions I have. Yeah, that didn’t work. The Wizzy continued on their win one lose one pace. The Wild still have feint hope, but it all starts with winning both their final games, which tacked on to Tuesday’s win v. Dallas would win 3 in a row. Really, that just doesn’t seem possible. And even if they do pull off said 3-game winning streak, they still need either St. Louis or Anaheim to go into the toilet in their last two games, all against teams that have been eliminated from the playoffs and are looking to hit the golf courses. We’ll know tomorrow night if there is still hope – all three teams are in action. It could all be over or we could have reason to watch on Sunday.

College Hockey Side Note
Bemidji State’s Cinderella run came to an end tonight with a 4-1 loss to Miami (Ohio), the team that ousted my Bulldogs. Miami makes their first ever national championship game and will face top seed Boston University on Saturday. I guess that sort of validates Miami’s win over the Dogs. But I’m still disappointed in that loss too.

Congrats to the BSU Beavers on a great post season, and I’m pulling for you to get into the WCHA next season. Maybe even a little road trip once that new arena is finished.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Love we Lost…Was a Frozen Four

So, UMD’s run in the NCAA postseason is finally over. The Dogs were unable to pull off another heroic night on Saturday, getting down 2-0 in the 2nd period to Miami Ohio and finally kicking the offense into gear in the 3rd period. They finally scored with just about 2 minutes left and that was all she wrote. Justin Mercier scored both goals for the RedHawks, the first shorthanded that really took alot of energy out of the UMD fans at Mariucci. They crowd still represented, but couldn’t help muster any magic for the Dogs. Although they outshot the RedHawks 26-19, I never had a feeling they were close to putting the puck past Miami G Cody Reichard.

I had a ton of fun watching this surprising run…it got me jazzed about hockey again and gave me something to write about on this blog. Perhaps it will inspire that certain NHL team I pledged not to mention until the Dogs were done…so look for more on them soon.

Channel Flippin’
Trying to watch all the hockey games this weekend was a lesson in channel switching. First, when we tuned to watch the UND v. UNH game on ESPN2, the longest NCAA lacrosse game in history was going on first. So, we missed the entire first period and part of the second period, which frustrated my wife and Sioux fans everywhere. Seriously, you score 18 goals in regulation and it takes you 6 overtimes to score one more?

Then, when it came time for UMD v. Miami on ESPNU, the Air Force v. Vermont game went into 2 OTs. So this got my undies in a bunch. When the time slot opened up ESPN moved the UMD game over to ESPN Classic, and I only missed one period. Seriously…there’s gotta be a better way.

Upset City
The Dogs losing a game they really should have won to make a 2nd Frozen Four appearance since I began following them in 1996 was disappointing, but I didn’t feel too bad after all the crazy upsets over the weekend. We had North Dakota losing to New Hampshire in a back and forth game UNH tied with 0.1 seconds left in the 3rd and eventually won in OT. #15th overall Bemidji State dominated #2 Notre Dame, and then beat Cornell to make the Frozen Four, the lowest seed ever to advance that far. Boston University is the only #1 seed to make the Frozen Four. It has been a crazy tournament…BU is the only team I had correct in my bracket.

Frozen Four
Now there are no games for 2 weeks as the NCAA doesn’t want to put the hockey games on the same weekend as the basketball Final Fours. I guess it make sense, but the weekend off kinda bites. Here are the matchups:

Bemidji State v. Miami (OH)
A #4 v. a #4. Miami was good against UMD, but BSU has taken the torch as the momentum team from UMD, so I like the Beavers. Plus, if my homerism can’t stay in UMD might as well keep it in God’s Country!

Vermont v. Boston University
I saw parts of Vermont’s games over the weekend but nothing really stood out for me. BU is the tournament’s #1 overall team. Are we looking at another upset? I don’t think so…I’ll take the Terriers.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sioux Nation invades section 216

For those of you who are checking your URL address to make sure you haven't stumbled upon a UND hockey blog; don't worry, section 216 is still here. I've been asked to share my insights as UND begins the quest for their 8th NCAA championship this afternoon.

Before I get into my preview, how about them Dogs??? Wow!! UMD is one WCHA team that I pull for and don't mind so it was nice to see them continue their postseason run last night. 1 week ago at that time in the Final Five semis may have been a different story though.

Speaking of the Final Five, some strange part of me thinks those first 5-7 minutes of the UND/UMD game last Friday night may have set the tone for the weekend. The Sioux came out flat and went down 0-2 right away. In the second and third periods, they came out flying but it seemed like someone forgot to freeze the pucks since they were bouncing right off and over the Sioux sticks. Then in the 3rd place game against Wisconsin, I think they forgot you play for 60 minutes and not 20. After taking a 1-0 lead heading into the 2nd period, UND was outshot 25-9 in the second period and were trailing 3-1. UGGGHH!!! It was hard to remember that this is the Sioux team that were on their traditional 2nd half surge (14-2-3 heading into the Final Five since January 1st). The only silver lining to going 0-2 at the Final Five was that those 2 losses hurt the Gopher's chances at getting into the tourney.

Fast forward a week and now we are to a point where you will go home after 1 bad period or a bad 5-7 minute stretch of play. UND was shipped out to New Hampshire and the Northeast regional. They had been in a position to play at Mariucci this weekend but last weekends debacle sent them to New Hampshire. UND opens up with essentially a road game against New Hampshire (USCHO #12). Should UND get past UNH, the will most likely have a date with the #1 overall seed Boston University. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, let's take a look at the UND/UNH matchup.

New Hampshire is coming of a similar conference tournament disappointment as they were swept in the first round by Boston College. These losses came two weeks ago in Hockey East's first round so there may be some rust on the tires. New Hampshire is led by James van Riemsdyk (17g 22a). The #2 overall draft pick in the NHL by the Flyers, this F was also a leader on the Team USA World Junior team this past winter. This big forward will more than likely be the difference maker in the game. F Mike Sislo (18g 10a) is the goal scoring leader for UNH. One of the leaders on New Hampshire's blue line is freshman Blake Kessel. Yes, that is former Gopher and current Boston Bruin Phil Kessel's younger brother.

UND will need to find a way to win at a neutral site venue (granted this is basically a home game from New Hampshire) as they are now 0-5 this year at neutral sites. The Sioux will also need to remember that they were the WCHA scoring leaders and find that scoring touch. Hakstol was saying that this week's practices were very physical and very good practices. Hopefully some of that time was spent working on the powerplay as UND was 0-14 last weekend. The one thing that concerns me is that they seemed to be calling alot more of the NHL style penalties (obstruction) in yesterday's NCAA games. The WCHA is a very physical league in comparison to the eastern leagues, and UND is one of the more physical WCHA teams. If UND finds themselves in the box, it could be a short trip out east. I've also noticed that freshie Brett Hextall has been going to the box more and more. He is an agitator and for the most part has been able to stay out of the box all year. I noticed it in Grand Forks with their series against Michigan Tech two weeks ago and also last weekend in Saint Paul that the refs are on to his antics and are giving him two minutes much more often now. I still think that kid is money though. I mean his dad is Ron Hextall so you know he has a little temper in him.

I am going with a Sioux win 4-1.

Well Maverick, You had a Helluva First Day…

I’m spent. I hope the Dogs have a little more energy left than I do. Tonight in the NCAA hockey tourney the UMD Bulldogs battled…scratched…clawed…absolutely escaped…and surprised the heck outta me to beat Princeton, 5-4 in OT. This was a game UMD should have been in the driver’s seat. They seemed to be for the majority of the first period, taking an early lead on a goal from F Andrew Carroll. But Princeton tied it late in the 1st, then took the lead in the 2nd, then added another to go up 3-1. UMD D Brady Lamb got a shot off that eluded Princeton G Zane Kalemba to give UMD some life. Princeton controlled the 2nd period, but a penalty with 3 seconds left gave even more hope to UMD faithful starting the 3rd.

But as was the story for most of the night, UMD’s powerplay mounted little chances, and later in the period, on another PP, UMD gave up what appeared to be the dagger, a shorthanded goal for Princeton thanks to lackluster lunges at the puck trying to get it off the Tiger’s stick. Down 4-2, UMD pulled G Alex Stalock with about 2 minutes to play. A penalty call on Princeton with roughly a minute and it was “So you’re telling me there’s a chance…”

Then it got nuts. UMD scored on the PP with 39 seconds to go. Still, I’m thinkin’ it woulda been nice to get that goal about 5 minutes ago. UMD won the faceoff and pushed to the net, but a questionable (IMHO) goaltender interference call moved the faceoff out of the zone with 12 seconds to go. Once again UMD won the faceoff, something they did consistently all night long, and got the puck on goal. Zane Kalemba played the puck off for a defender, but the Dogs were coming hard, and they got the puck out front on of the net, where Bulldog D Evan Oberg threw a desperation wrister at the goal.

<<Visualize My Reaction>>Holy crap…it went in! Check the clock! 0.8 left on the clock! It’s a good goal!!! Jump up and down and attempt to be quiet so you don’t wake the family!!! Too late, dog barking, baby crying, wife asking what’s going on!!<<End Visualization>>

Whew! So now we go to an improbable OT, where you worry that the momentum will not carry over because you’ve spent too much emotion. Both teams had some chances, and I let out some gasps on both sides of the ice. With about 6 minutes to play the Tigers were called for tripping, and UMD had another PP opportunity. They were not good on the PP all night, but only a few seconds after the ensuing faceoff UMD F Mike Connolley showed some nifty skate work to catch a beauty centering pass from F Justin Fontaine and had a yawning net to stuff the puck into, and he did just that. UMD moves on to the West region championship game. Win and go to the Frozen Four! The pro UMD crowd was awesome all night, continually getting behind the Dogs. Those that came down to Minneapolis from Duluth now get to go out and party and look forward to seeing UMD play another day.

Friday Recap
UMD had to scratch and claw to get a win tonight and defend their higher seed. In the other games Friday, the high seeds were upset. In the East regional, #4 Air Force beat #1 Michigan 2-1 and #3 Vermont beat #2 Yale. In the other West regional game, #4 Miami Ohio took care of Denver 4-2. So I got one game out of the four right in my bracket…and I barely got that one.

That sets up Air Force v. Vermont and Minnesota Duluth v. Miami Ohio to go to the Frozen Four. Honestly, I got nothin’ on AF v. Vermont. As for UMD v. Miami, the Dogs have got to be super tired - it is good that the game is an 8:00 CST start. Good opportunity to rest. They have to be careful not to take Miami lightly because they are the #4 seed. Miami also probably learned alot from Princeton’s gameplan to take the athletic Alex Stalock out of UMD’s gameplan. The Dogs will have to stay intense and bury their opportunities better than they did tonight. And, sticking to my bracket, and my loyalties, I think they will do just that.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

2009 NCAA Tournament Prediction Post

Dogs Logo

Minnesota Duluth’s unexpected run to the WCHA Final Five title and appearance in the NCAA Tournament continues my distraction from the ever-frustrating NHL team I usually ramble on about. I will continue this impromptu coverage of the 2009 college hockey season with predictions for the NCAA tournament.

Northeast Region
Verizon Wireless Arena - Manchester, New Hampshire
Pretty much a no-brainer, but I’ve got #1 overall Boston University coming out of this region. I am going with a slight upset in the #2/#3 game, with the host New Hampshire Wildcats beating the North Dakota Fighting Sioux. This will not make my wife, a few friends, and some relatives very happy, but after the standard start-slow, finish strong to win the WCHA regular season, North Dakota hasn’t quite been the same since the playoffs started. They less-than overwhelmed Michigan Tech in the first round, then lost to UMD and Wisconsin in the Final Five. They’re headed into an arena 38 miles from UNH, and I think the Wildcats will ride the wave to one W. They will be overmatched in the next round v. Boston U, and BU will be in the Frozen Four.

East Region
Bridgeport Arena at Harbor Yard – Bridgeport, Connecticut

Yale is the host school for this regional…only 16 miles from the arena. I think Yale beats Vermont, Michigan beats Air Force, and Yale upsets Michigan to get to the Frozen Four.

West Region
Mariucci Arena – Minneapolis, Minnesota
First one to comment who I think will win this region gets the Atta Boy prize. I gotta believe UMD’s run continues for a few more games. Bulldog G Alex Stalock let in one goal last weekend in the Final Five and he’s playing like the best goalie in the nation. That said, I’ve heard rumblings that Princeton has the ACTUAL best goalie in the nation. I’m looking for Stalock and MacGregor Sharp to stay hot, for some other Bulldog scorers to join the party, and for the Dogs to beat Princeton in a low-scoring affair. Then it’s UMD v. Denver to get to the Frozen Four. All sorts of history here…UMD just beat Denver in the Final Five championship game this past weekend. Denver ended UMD’s last NCAA run in the national semifinal in 2004. I think UMD has the tie-breaker here because they’re the hot team and it’s their turn to win on the big stage.

Midwest Region
Van Andel Arena – Grand Rapids, Michigan
I know next to nothing about most of these teams. I know Bemidji State wants to get into the WCHA, and I know that UMD swept them in Duluth this season. When BSU gets into the WCHA they’ll play against better competition, but for now they’re overmatched. Notre Dame wins that game, and I’ve got Northeastern beating Cornell, and the Fighting Irish advancing to the Frozen Four.

Frozen Four
Verizon Center – Washington D.C.
Boston U will end Yale’s cinderella run  and advance to the championship game. In the other semifinal…you guessed it, I have UMD over Notre Dame. That sets up a Bulldog v. Boston Terrier final. Naturally the Bulldogs will win that matchup, and UMD will win it’s first-ever NCAA hockey championship!

While I was able to apply at least a little logic to the regional games, I’m clearly looking at the Frozen Four through Bulldog-colored glasses. But when your team has only been to the hockey dance 5 times previously, you’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity!

Here’s proof of my prognostication, courtesy of the poor low-light picture-taking abilities of my iPhone…

download (1)

Check back later for recaps of this weekend’s games.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Let’s Go Bulldogs – Clap – Clap – Clap-Clap-Clap

I’m finally able to say this…the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs are the WCHA Final Five Champions!


UMD beat Denver University, a team they historically struggle against, 4-0 in Saturday’s championship game at Xcel Energy Center. They are the first team to win the Final Five having to play 3 games in 3 nights starting with the Thursday play in game. They earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. They are on an unbelievable high and who knows how long they can ride it.

I wasn’t able to pay 100% attention unfortunately. My family and our cousins had a great idea to go to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch and baby girl was all riled up. I actually missed all 3 goals in the first 2 periods, looking up just in time to see the celebration. But trust me, I’m ok with it. I’m just too excited to care!

MacGregor Sharp had a hat trick and G Alex Stalock stopped all 20 shots he faced to secure the Broadmoor Trophy. Stalock was named tournament MVP (duh).


NCAA Tourney
UMD got a nice break from the NCAA selection committee. They will play in the West regional, which is being played at Mariucci Arena at the U of Minnesota. They drew the #2 seed in the region and will play #3 Princeton Friday night. The other game is #1 Denver v. #4 Miami of Ohio. This will be UMD’s 1st appearance in the NCAA since 2004, when they made it to the national semifinal before losing to that infamous Denver Pioneers squad.

On a side note, Minnesota did not earn a spot in the tournament for the first time since 2000.

Look for more coverage on the NCAA tourney here later this week, including my bracket predictions!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Don’t Stop…Believin!

Dogs Logo 
For the first time ever, the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs are in the WCHA Final Five championship game. The Dogs are riding a wave of unbelievable goaltending, strong defense, and a bit of luck into a chance to actually lift a trophy.

Last night the Dogs took on the #1 seeded North Dakota Fighting Sioux, they beat them 3-0, and I finally made it down to the X for the first time this season.

Ticket Hunt
We met up with some friends at Great Waters Brewing and hoped to find a good deal on tickets outside the arena. I thought alot of Gopher fans would be selling their tickets. To my surprise, all that were available outside were singles, and they were going for more than we were looking to pay. I’ll give Gopher fans props for still attending the game after they were knocked out of the tournament. We wound up buying tickets at the box office, which wasn’t really all that bad…we were able to avoid Ticketmaster’s ridiculous fees.

Early Lead
The Dogs capitalized on an early miscue by UND G Brad Eidsness on a UND powerplay when UMD cleared the puck and Eidsness went behind the net to stop it. He left it for a teammate, but UMD F MacGregor Sharp got to it first and snuck it into the net. Later the Dogs got another goal on a 4-on-4.



Alex Stalock – Clap Clap Clap Clap Clap
UMD’s goalie was again outstanding. He made several key saves when UND eventually got their game rolling. And he was also lucky. UND missed alot of opportunities where the puck would hop a stick or go off a skate.



Hang On!
The 2nd and 3rd periods were definitely tense for the outnumbered UMD fans at the X. Much as I love the Dogs, they always have had a tendency to become complacent and let a team back in. But it didn’t happen last night.

The key to the game after a long 5-minute major penalty called on UMD D Brady Lamb. UMD was able to kill the powerplay and got a ton of momentum and confidence for the rest of the game.

Suite 32
Our friends got us into their suite for the 2nd and 3rd periods. That was cool, because the seats were better than we had, and the beer was free! Definitely appreciate Paul for getting us in. Thanks buddy!

Every other fan in the suite were Sioux fans, and they were all crabby by the time we got there. They were very cordial to me, but you’d think UND was the worst team ever if you listened to their grumbling.


UMD v. Denver
The Broodmoor Trophy will go to either the Pioneers or the Bulldogs. UMD has never played well against Denver in my memory, and they knocked the Dogs out of the Frozen Four a few years ago. It will have to be another stellar defensive show if the Dogs want to win, and Stalock will again need to be good. If the Dogs can get the first goal again, I like our chances. I may just get to see my team hoist a trophy!

Friday, March 20, 2009


Dogs Logo

My regular readers know I am a huge University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs hockey rube. After an impressive upset in the first round of the WCHA playoffs over Colorado College last weekend, the Dogs earned a rare birth in the WCHA Final Five. Tonight was their play-in game, against our (and about 5 other team’s) biggest rival, the University of Minnesota Gophers. This house was riled up. My wife is from Grand Forks, ND, and is a Fighting Sioux fan, so clearly we both were looking for a Bulldog victory.

And that is exactly what we got…UMD 2, UMTC 1. It was a really good game. The Dogs went up 1-0 early in the first period and also killed an extended 5 on 3 Gopher powerplay. They got another goal in the 2nd to go up 2-0, and the Gophers seemed to be disinterested the rest of the second period. Even the homer Gopher announcers for FSN noted that they just didn’t seem to have life.

But as everyone would expect, the Gophers brought it in the third. They got a goal about midway into the period on a deflection and the Dogs held on for dear life. A key point in the game was with about two minutes left, after playing almost all of the period in their own defensive zone, UMD put a little pressure on the Gophers and came up with a couple good scoring chances. That was enough to run out the clock, although as time expired UMTC had a nice little last-second opportunity and a UMD player got a hook in to draw a penalty, but time expired and the Dogs get the W. UMD goalie Alex Stalock has been getting a TON of press around the Twin Cities about how he is the best goalie in the WCHA right now and one of the best in the country, and he absolutely lived up to the hype. He kept the Dogs in the lead in this one.

Sweet victory for me. I am a UMD fan living and working in Gopher-land. Gopher fans were looking past tonight’s game to a matchup with North Dakota in the semifinal. I hate to pile on UMTC fans after the basketball team was ousted early in the NCAA tournament, but then maybe they shouldn’t be so sure of themselves every time they get the opportunity.

So that sets up a Final Five matchup for my Dogs v. my wife’s Sioux in St Paul. UND won the WCHA regular season title, UMD finished 7th. UND is an unbelievable second-half of the season team, UMD is on an influential run. UMD beat and tied UND in two games this season. Tomorrow night should be fun. Julie and I will head to St. Paul and try to score a couple tickets from disgruntled Gopher fans unloading their ducats. If we are successful, come back here for some pics.

And all I can hope for is a competitive game and a chance to win at the end – and to only hear “Sioux Yeah Yeah” a minimal of times.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Shocker in San Jose!

Wild @ Sharks – Thurs Mar 5 – View from the Couch
I sure didn’t see that coming. Tonite the Wild were dominated for almost two periods v. San Jose. Down 3-0, the Wild get goals from F Mikko Koivu (or D Marc-Andre Bergeron) and F Pierre-Marc Bouchard late in the 2nd and a backhanded dump in from center ice by D Marek Zidlicky that bounced through Sharks G Brian Boucher to get to overtime. A point is nice, but two are better, and F Mikko Koivu knocked in a stray puck off a rush by D Brent Burns with only 13 seconds left in the OT, and the Wild break their 4-game losing streak in dramatic fashion, the final 4-3.

Love the Cele
How great was Mikko’s reaction after the game winner? Jumping up and down like he just won the cup, you could tell an anvil-sized weight was just lifted off him and this team. After the game on FS North he talked about the spirit of the team, mentioning that Owen Nolan was on the bench, and I quote, “puking,” and still playing, and that was a great sign for the team.

Mikko strapping the team to his back Kirby Puckett style is great to see. “We’ll see you tomorrow night!”


  • I can not overemphasize the emotional swing of this game. Just from my own standpoint, I went from fast-forwarding through another snoozefest and getting all crabby about dropping further into the playoff black hole, to watching intently and jumping up when Mikko scored the winner. Now it’s “Ain’t no stoppin’ us now!”
  • PMB needs to keep scoring. His goal tonight was nice – a little head bob before firing a wrister. He is a guy that is disappointing big time this season, but turn it on now and who cares Butch!
  • Thank you to SJ for not playing G Evgeni Nabokov tonight. I have to believe that Nabokov does not let this game get to OT.
  • Wild D Kurtis Foster, who broke his fibula just under a year ago at HP Pavilion v. SJ on a touch-up icing play and is ready to make his season debut after surgery and rehab, had the option to play tonight. He chose to wait, no doubt the ghosts of what happened a year ago entering his mind.
  • Closed-Circuit to Wild GM Doug Reisbrough, you’re right, we didn’t need Olli Jokinen. He only scored 2 goals in his debut tonight for Calgary v. Philly. And while we truly didn’t need D Jordan Leopold, he also scored a goal. This is what happens when you make trades DR…

The Fight to…Make the Playoffs
Lady Luck smiled on the Wild tonight. Dallas led LA 3-0 as well, and LA closed the gap and got a fluky goal as well to tie it, this one with 15 seconds left. They eventually get the W in OT, so the Wild remain in 11th place but only one point out of that last playoff spot. Don’t write off this season just yet.

Wild go to Los Angeles to take on the Kings Saturday afternoon (3 PM CST). They CAN NOT waste this spirited effort by losing to the Kings. CAN NOT!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Niklas Backstrom Extension

Tuesday the Wild signed G Niklas Backstrom to a 4-year contract extension, reportedly worth $24 M. I have mixed feelings. I thought that Backstrom was really the only asset the Wild have at the trade deadline and that they could deal him for some offense in return. Add Marian Gaborik back from injury to that offense, and you might have a new force for a playoff run. You can read my great GM mind published here in a guest bit on Cycle Like the Sedins. But given that Wild GM Doug Reisbrough would never pull the trigger on a deal like that, I guess the next best scenario is signing Backstrom to a contract that keeps him here for a few years. At least he will not be leaving for nothing.

Initially after seeing the terms I thought that’s actually not a bad price to pay…it’s not an overly-aggressive deal. Then I read that it makes him the fourth-highest paid goaltender in the NHL. His stats certainly put him in that category. Pretty good for a guy signed two years ago as a nobody from Finland to be Manny Fernandez’s backup.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Wild in State of Flux

Wild @ Canucks – Tues Mar 3 – View from the Couch
Another ridiculous loss for the Wizzy tonight. After jumping out to an early 2-0 lead in the 1st period, they give up 4 unanswered to lose 4-2. A disastrous 2nd period where the puck was seemingly in the Wild zone for the entire period. The Wild dropped in to a defensive style from which they never emerged, and two Canuck goals 28 seconds apart tied it then gave VAN the lead for good.

Wild goals came from Dan Fritsche and Marek Zidlicky. The bulk of VAN’s scoring was especially painful…two from pain in Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s posterior Alex Burrows and one from former Wild F Pavol Demitra. Hurts extra hard.

The Wild have now lost 4 in a row and are in absolute free fall.

Mikko Koivu is March Captain

The Fight to…Make the Playoffs
This was a big loss. Since this was a late game we know where we stand…11th place in the Western Conference, 3 points out of a playoff spot. With 20 games to play obviously the Wild are not out of it, but they’ve got to turn this ship around in a big hurry.

The big west coast road swing continues Thursday in San Jose. Things just don’t get any easier.

Marian Gaborik Checked Out

This one really takes the cake. From the Does this Really Surprise You Bureau, unrestricted free agent and rehabbing Wild F Marian Gaborik met the press yesterday on a little conference call. During this call he said, and I’m paraphrasing, that during his rehab he hasn’t been watching the team’s games, he mentioned that he he is a free agent July 1, and he expects he will be back toward the end of the month, while the Wild have stated a return much sooner than that.

Are you kidding me? Is there any more proof that he does not want to be here? Ish. We’ll miss your offense Gabby, but we won’t miss your attitude.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Annoying Goal Horns 2 Wild 0

Wild @ Edmonton – Sat Feb 28th – View from the Recliner
This is enough to make a Wild fan panic. Tonight the Wild go to 0-2 in this year’s pivotal road stretch, 3-2 to the Oil. Even finally getting a first period goal was not enough. The Wild’s goals came from Mikko Koivu and Antti Miettenen, and Josh Harding was in net for the Wild who lost their third game in a row. While I can’t pin it on Harding, there were a couple that I think he probably should have stopped. I am on record saying the Wild should deal Niklas Backstrom for offense and go with Harding, and tonight didn’t exactly make me feel like a great hockey mind.

Derek Boogaard Suspended
The NHL suspended Wild waste of space Derek Boogaard five games for his elbow in yesterday’s game v. Calgary. For reference, see my recap from yesterday’s Wild loss. That’s one way to get him off the team.

Another Looserville USA Night
Seems like every time I have some sort of hockey night at my house the teams I am rooting for lose. Last night it went Flames 4 Wild 1 and Gophers 2 Bulldogs 2. Tonight it was Gophers 5 Bulldogs 3 and Oil 3 Wild 2. My UMD Bulldogs had an excellent opportunity to position themselves for home-ice advantage in the WCHA playoffs this weekend, but only get 1 out of 4 points. Both nights they had leads – tonight they even had a natural hat trick from MacGregor Sharp (UMD’s first hat trick in over four years). But defensive breakdowns lead to too many odd man rushes, and UMTC gets the most out of the weekend, and I will hear about it all week at work.

The Fight to…Make the Playoffs
With the win, Edmonton moves ahead of the Wild and is tied for 7th in the Western Conference, with Anaheim. The Wild drop to 10th, 2 points behind Edmonton and Anaheim. If the Wizzy don’t stop this skid in a hurry there won’t be any playoff push left for Marian Gaborik to solidify if he ever gets healthy.

The Wizzy HAVE to come out like it means something on Tuesday when they travel to Vancouver. I almost pulled out the must-win card last night, and I’m not quite going to do it here, but this is almost a must-win game.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Wild Outclassed in Calgary

Remember that obnoxious goal siren and god-awful red flame I wrote about in my last post? Yeah, got to see that 4 times tonite, as the Wild are dominated by the Calgary Flames tonite, 4-1. The Wild are absolutely terrible in the Saddledome. The lone Wild goal was a token goal from Marc-Andre Bergeron with only a couple minutes left in the 3rd. There’s not much to talk about in this one from a Wild fan standpoint. Hopefully my UMD Bulldogs will beat UMTC Gophers tonight, in a game that I know has ended but I will be watching on tape delay. Go Dogs!

Boogaard Has Got to Go
Tonite did provide further proof that there is no reason to have Derek Boogaard on this team. I continue to have no clue what value he provides. Late in the 3rd he was on the ice…why I can not fathom…and came in late and hit Flames F Brandon Prust high with an elbow. It made quite the sound into the boards, and Prust went to the ice. As Flames D Dion Phaneuf and Jim Vandermeer went after Boogaard. That prompted Wild play-by-play and analyst guys to babble about how Phaneuf and Vandermeer were cross checking and punching and slashing Boogaard, as if he didn’t deserve it. Seriously…WHY IS EVERYONE SO INFATUATED WITH DEREK BOOGAARD?!?!?! Drives me insane! He’s terrible!

(Hopefully I still have some Wild fans reading this blog after I made that statement…)

Fight to…Make the Playoffs
Starting play the Wild were in a 4-way tie for 7th place in the West. The other 3 teams in that tie are off tonite, so that will be the story tomorrow night as well.

Wild play game 2 of the NW Division leg of this road trip tomorrow night in Edmonton. We’re quickly approaching “biggest game of the season” time. The Oil is one of the teams in that 4-team tie for 7th, so it is a very big game. The Oil are 1-3-1 in their last 5. But they also have an obnoxious goal siren, so that doesn’t bode well for my favorite team.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

One that Got Away

Kings @ Wild Tues Feb 24
The Wild left a point on the ice tonight v. LA Kings, losing 2-1 in a shootout. They certainly played well enough to win, but failed on a few opportunities to bury the puck.

Regulation was relatively uneventful. Antti Miettenen did score a shorthanded goal in the 1st after receiving a nifty pass from Mikko Koivu on a 2 on 1. That was definitely nice to see. But they gave up a powerplay goal in the 2nd…actually Kim Johnsson scored it for the Kings on one of those “here goalie, cover it” type plays. Buzz kill. There were periods in the 3rd where the Wild would carry the play but they could not get it by Kings G Jonathan Quick. Most notably, Andrew Brunette made a beauty move only to be stoned by Quick with about a minute left in the 3rd.

The Wild had a couple golden opportunities to win it in the OT. Dan Fritsche was oh-so-close to winning it in the OT. He broke in on a 2 on 1 and the LA D took away the pass so he fired a shot that hit the near-side post. Shortly after, the Wild hit another post and Pierre Marc Bouchard also had a point blank chance. No one was clutch, and clutch is everything in the playoff stretch.

Mikko Koivu hit a post in the shootout, and Niklas Backstrom gave up his first and second shootout goals and that was the story.

So most of the Wild forwards are grinders this year, but I thought Cal Clutterbuck, Dan Fritsche, James Sheppard, Craig Weller, and Stephane Veilleux were the most productive  of everyone in the 3rd. They took a lot of body, kept the puck in the offensive zone, and had a handful of opportunities. If someone could only finish…

Fight to…Make the Playoffs
The Wild move into a tie for the 8th spot in the Western Conference. The missed point was a missed opportunity to move into the 7th spot, but let’s concentrate on the positive. Wizzy would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

Who’s Next
The Wild embark on the big 14 of 17 on the road bit of the schedule on Friday, starting the trip in Calgary. I hate watching games at Saddledome on TV. The picture is always grainy and washed out. Plus the whole arena turns red when the Flames score, adding that extra insult to injury. Hopefully this one won’t turn into a DVR FFWD game.

Monday, February 23, 2009

We’re Winnin’! We’re Winnin’!

Hey! It’s a posting sighting on Wild View from Section 216! I’ve been a bit MIA lately – crazy stuff going down at my day job and all-around other stuff going on. Let’s see, since my last post what has happened?

  • 4 wins, 3 losses, 1 OT loss
  • Ridiculous 3-0 blown lead v. Ottawa
  • Dominated by Detroit, then Domination of Detroit
  • In and out of the playoffs seemingly daily
  • Kurtis Foster completed a successful rehab stint in Houston
  • Coach Jacques knocked to the ice 2x, almost a 3rd
  • Beat writers and fans went from fired up to disgusted
  • Twins signed Joe Crede (yeah yeah, wrong sport, but can you believe it?)

So where in my last post I was encouraged and thought the Wild had perhaps gotten over the win 1 lose 1 hump, they went 4-3-1. They continue to hover on the playoff bubble, currently IN the playoffs 1 point ahead of Edmonton.

I stick by my preseason prediction that the Wild will make the playoffs in the 7th or 8th spot, and that they will be this year’s team that bucks the home-ice advantage and upsets a couple teams. It feels like a year that when no one expects the team to do anything and it takes alot of heat in town – that once in the playoffs something crazy happens. That’s the vibe deep in my gut.

But then again, in my last post I thought they had gotten over the mediocrity hump.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wild Win 2nd in a Row

I really wanted to put together a nice post after tonite’s 3-0 shutout Wild win, but I dinked around too long and now I’m tired. So, you get this.

The Wild scored 2 goals in the 1st period and put the clamps on for the rest of the game to shut out the Anaheim Mighty Ducks tonite. Yes, I know it’s just the Ducks now, but I like the cartoon team of yesteryear, so I’m sticking with Mighty Ducks. Wild goals came from February captain Andrew Brunette, real captain Mikko Koivu, and an empty netter from never been captain Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Backstrom was good, real good on a Ducks breakaway, and once again I am encouraged that the Wild are playing well enough defensively to stay in the playoff picture. The Wild have won 2 in a row and may just have turned that consistency corner to stop the win one lose one cycle. I guess we’ll see in Friday’s game v. Nashville.

Coach Jacques Speculation
During Minnesota hockey guru Lou Nanne’s most recent appearance on KFAN radio with Dan Barreiro Tuesday, he talked about Jacques Lemaire and his thoughts on whether or not he would be back to coach the Wild next season. Louie is fairly convinced this will be JL’s last year. You can listen here.

I don’t really want to think too much about this yet, but is it safe to assume that Kevin Constantine, who is a former NHL coach and the current coach in Houston, will be the next Wild coach? I’ve heard that he can be even more defensive-minded than Jacques…

Freeze on Season Ticket Prices
Today the Wild announced that they will not be raising prices for season tickets next season. They also announced that any playoff games this year will be the same price as last year’s playoff prices. Citing the economy, the pressers I read and heard during the game broadcast tonite all made it sound like they’re doing this great deed for the fans.

I call BS. The Wild know that if they raise prices next season they will lose even more ticket holders. I know a handful of people that have not renewed in the last couple years because prices have gone up too much and Doug Reisbrough does not put a corresponding level of talent on the ice. I have heard many rumblings of unhappy season ticket holders this season. The Wild had no choice but to freeze ticket prices. If it was really for the economy and to do something great for the fans, they would have dropped ticket prices for next year.

Then again, maybe I’m just bitter because I’ve been frozen out of the X myself so far this year.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wild v. Maple Leafs Pseudo Live Blog

Working on tonite’s post during the game, sort of live blogging but not really cause I’ll be mixing in dinner, baby time, and trying to figure out who to use for web hosting for a site for my dad. And because I’m not going to post it until after the game is over.

I’m excited for this game v. Toronto mostly because we don’t see the Leafs that often. Also because it is a team the Wild should beat. Also because I’m enjoying a tasty Goose Island IPA. Sit back, relax, and read my takes as they happened.

1st Period

  • Why did Mike Greenlay just yell “BOOM!”?
  • Caaaaaal Cluttttterbuck scores! Just a weak wrist shot from the right boards that Leaf’s G Justin Pogge simply missed. Bonus because we got to play “Caaaaaal Cluttterbuck” with Baby Girl. She loves it! Anytime we say his name she laughs so hard…it’s the cutest ever! I love when he scores.
  • Beauty save by Wild G Niklas Backstrom on a Leafs shorthanded 2 on 1.
  • Eric Belanger just split between 2 Maple Leafs and went in alone on Pogge. He didn’t get off much of a shot, but I can’t remember ever seeing Belanger split 2 defenders.
  • Owen Nolan ends the period with a nice opportunity in alone on Pogge, but he’s old so the Leafs d-man caught him and he didn’t get a shot off.
  • 1st intermission interview with Caaaaaal Cluttttterbuck!!!

Good period overall for the Wizzy. Multiple opportunities and the shots Toronto got were not too threatening. Quick break for dinner, Baby Girl’s bedtime, and for wifey to watch a little 90210.

2nd Period

  • Starting the 2nd about a half hour behind on the DVR. Sweet…no commercials.
  • Moorhead’s own Jason Blake ties it up for the Leafs about 5 minutes in. The puck sort of found Blake’s stick off a Wild skate and Backstrom did all he could to stop it but he couldn’t get his stick down far enough.
  • The 2 Wild players with the most hyphens in their names team up to give the Wild the lead back just a minute after the Leafs goal. Marc-Andre Bergeron pinches in and takes a nice pass from Pierre-Marc Bouchard from behind the net.
  • Hey! PMB can score goals too! He one-times a quick pass from Belanger past Pogge to put the Wild up 2. Belanger is on fiya!
  • It’s on! Owen Nolan after a loose puck where I thought he should have shot, drops a pass pack to Mikko Koivu who finds Andrew Brunette on the other side of the net and he has a wide open net to bury the puck into. 4-1 Wizzy!
  • Ugh. Wild play-by-play guy Dan Terhaar just asked color guy Mike Greenlay what it means when the puck makes a loud noise when it hits the goalie. Really?
  • Little fisticuffs between Caaaaaaaal Cluttttterbuck and Ian White after a little bit of a push into the boards on Cluttttterbuck and the 2 teams came together to exchange pleasantries.
  • PMB scores his 2nd of the nite on a breakaway! 5-1!

3rd Period

  • I’d love to see the Wild keep up the pressure in the 3rd and not go into the defensive shell. We’ve given up way too many leads this season.
  • Owen Nolan scores into a gaping net from way deep on the goal line. Marek Zidlicky to Brunette to Nolan to a vacated net. 6-1! Save some goals boys!

That’s about it. Great win and a great start to the 2nd half of the season.


  • Tonite was Andrew Brunette’s 500th straight game played. Only the 4th NHL player in the last 16 years to get to 500 consecutive games played.
  • What if PMB starts scoring consistently???
  • What was with the Wild’s passing tonite? Seriously, if they passed like that in every game…

Return of the Fight for…the Playoffs
How things change in a year. Last year this segment was called the Fight to Hang the 1st Banner. They won the division, and then were bounced in the 1st round of the playoffs. This season it is just a fight to finish in the top 8 of the Western Conference. Gotta live in the now, so here goes.

At time of this post the Wild are in 10th place in the conference, 2 points out of the playoffs. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the next 3 weeks are critical if the Wild will make a run in the standings. Spots 5 thru 12 are separated by only 6 points. The Wild could conceivably finish as high as 5th with a nice run, or they could wind up playing golf in April.

Wild are off until Friday, before taking on the Oil in Edmonton. The Oilers are losing at time of this post 7-1 to Buffalo at the 2nd intermission. The Oilers are 2 points ahead of the Wild so Friday will be a big game.