Game One for Your Minnesota Wild

20111008-233346.jpg

And so it begins. The 2011-2012 NHL season is full on starting this weekend and the Wild opened their campaign with a bang, defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2. The story was the new-look offense. Now keep in mind Columbus was on the second night of a back-to-back and the Wild had the home opener adrenaline working for them, but you gotta be excited as a Wild fan after this game. The Wild were actually outshot by the Blue Jackets 31-26, but that’s because they went into a shell in the third period, managing only three shots. Through two, they dominated.

New Guys Impact
It didn’t take long to get a glimpse of what could possibly be an exciting year. The Koivu Heatley Setoguchi line started with some jump on the first shift of the game. Later in the first Koivu and Heatley were in on a shorthanded 2-on-1. Koivu to Heatley, Heatley slap shot, fat rebound with Jacket G Steve Mason out of the play, but the puck hopped Koivu’s stick. Early glimpse folks.

Midway through the second and on the PP, Bouchard fed Heatley for a pretty redirection goal from between the circles. Heatley’s first goal in a Wild sweater gave the Wild a 3-0 lead.

Late in the second, Heatley set the table for a Setoguchi one-timer that got through Mason. Wild up 4-1 after two and the offseason moves paying big-time dividends.

Depth
It’s the scoring depth that’s the difference. Heater and Seto give the Wild two good scoring lines, instead of just one as has been the norm the last three years.

When everyone keys on the first line, the Bouchard Lattendresse Cullen line will get more opportunities, and that’s exactly what happened on the second shift of the game. Lattendresse sent one from the defensive zone to Bouchard at the opposite blue line, who saucered a pretty one to Cullen behind the D. Cullen roofed a wrister over Mason’s shoulder for a quick 1-0 lead.

If everyone stays healthy and has years you’d expect, this will be a playoff year for our favorite NHL squad.

Jots

  • The Wild are now 10-0-1 in season openers in franchise history.
  • Nick Backstrom was good in goal giving up two goals on 31 shots. Not flashy or spectacular, but reliable, just the way the Wild need him to be.
  • Did you see the open on FS North with the player graphics built in to landmarks around the state? Very cool.
  • All due respect to Cal Clutterbuck, but isn’t it nice to not have to depend on him as a major cog in the offense?
  • I liked the kids tonight. Powe, Johnson, and Gilles were quick and spent some good time in the offensive zone, and Scandella and Spurgeon looked good on D. Scandella also scored a PP goal in the first on a mad rush with Spurgeon into the Jackets zone. Scandella’s first NHL goal put the Wild up 2-0. Hopefully that will continue throughout the year.

Next
Wild @ NY Islanders – Monday Oct. 10 12:00 p.m. CST

Another Offseason of Change for the Wild

We’re inching closer and closer to the start of the hockey year, for the second time in three years, the Wild are in a major rebuilding mode.

Mike Yeo takes over the head coaching duties from ousted Todd Richards. Yeo wasn’t exactly the sexy choice for GM Chuck Fletcher; he apparently had Craig McTavish and Ken Hitchcock on his list. It’s a gutsy move brining in a first-time coach for a second time, especially when the first one didn’t work out so great. But one thing is for sure…Mike Yeo is a completely different coach from Todd Richards. Yeo preaches structure and puck control; I’m still not sure what Richards stood for. Yeo is fiery and gets after his players; Richards always had that I don’t know what to do look. And while Yeo sure seems to know his stuff it will be interesting to see if his age (he’s 37) plays into his ability to get his players to buy in. I’m optimistic…I think he’s smart and players will get that, and eventually the Wild will become a tough team to play against.

20110925-000604.jpg

And then there’s the players. Oh my goodness were things shaken up this offseason. Gone is the uber popular but sometimes enigmatic D Brent Burns, the unhappy F Martin Havlat (and his agent), the potential never-realized F James Sheppard, the terrible D Cam Barker, the grandpa F Owen Nolan, and the revitalized G Jose Theodore. But coming in is potential for something of which the Wild are in desperate need – scoring. F Dany Heatley and F Devin Setoguchi should provide a good portion of that scoring, another important thing it does is gives the Wild two scoring lines. Opposing defenses will need to focus on a Koivu – Heatley – Setoguchi line, which should open up opportunities for a Cullen – Latendresse – Bouchard line. So if they score more goals, then the key is how they make up for the hole Burns leaves on the blueline. They’ll need one of the young kids to step up consistently and surprise us. If that happens, we’ll be ok.

20110925-001158.jpg

The Wild are again a playoff bubble team this season. It’s generally a bad place to be, because you go into a stretch run trying to make the playoffs, but if you don’t make it, you’re not getting a good draft pick. But there’s a buzz for this squad again, and I’m cool with that. Playoff hockey is the most exciting time of all sports, so whatever it takes to get there in April baby.

An Ode to Mike Modano

The most prolific scorer in American hockey history announced his retirement on Wednesday. Mike Modano made it official via his Facebook page, with a press conference scheduled for Friday.

After the North Stars left in 1993 (and a period of denial), I found myself a Dallas Stars fan. We had no team yet in Minny, so I had to follow someone. We had NHL Center Ice for a few years, and I watched most of their games…including their Stanley Cup run in 1999. I was emotionally involved.

I am a Mike Modano fan, even though most Minnesota hockey fans have or had a strong dislike for him due to his anti-Minnesota statements when the Stars left. My wife is was a big fan as well, although for other reasons. He has pretty white teeth and nice scruffy.

Chances are good this misspelling at the X was done purposefully.

Modo is a polarizing kind of guy. He always has a bit of a cockiness to him and some people don’t like that. He’s the kind of guy you need to take with a grain of salt. But you can’t deny the success he had in his career and what he meant to the NHL. He retires with the most goals ever for an American-born player, won one Stanley Cup and was runner up twice. He is single-handedly responsible for turning Dallas into a pretty successful hockey market. I would have liked to see him finish his career in Dallas, to play his whole career with one team. I also said I would have liked to see him in a Wild sweater last year, but I guess I can’t have it both ways…so he signed with Detroit. His stint as a Red Wing was injury-filled and I’m sure not what he wanted when he decided to play last year, but when you think about his career you’re probably not going to even think of last year, almost like it didn’t happen. I’ll think of him as a Dallas Star or a teeny tiny North Star.

I salute you Mike Modano. I’ll miss the hair in full glory during warmups and the jersey flowing in the wind as you flew by everyone on the ice.

Full Glory

Modo's Hair in Full Glory

Good luck with your golf. We’ll all be following on the Twitter.

Modano's Sendoff at the X

Sendoff at the X

The Night the Wild’s Season Died…Again

So, the Minnesota Wild lost tonight, 4-0 to Dallas. Outshot 31-14 a night after they lose to Nashville 4-0, with their playoff lives on the line. Now I didn’t watch either game, so I can’t comment too intelligently…but that’s pathetic. The Wild are now 4 points out of 8th with 13 games to go.

Following the tweets from @Russostrib, apparently Guillaume Latendresse re-injured himself in tonight’s game. With C Mikko Koivu still out until who knows when, Wild are done…again.

Thanks for getting everyone all riled up and going gutless into the night Wizzy.

The Day the Wild Saved Their Season

Tonight’s 3-1 Wild win over the NY Rangers might have been the big one. After two demoralizing losses to Chicago and the Isle that dropped them from 5th to 11th in the West, and after an uninspiring 1st period, the Wild managed to scrape together 3 goals in the final 2 periods and came through with a surprising win.

Naturally the Wild were out shot again, by a ridiculous 41-19 margin. G Jose Theodore was a beast with 40 saves. Kyle Brodziak, Casey Wellman, and Pierre-Bouchard got the goals for the Wild; #1 on the season for Wellman.

It wasn’t pretty, but in the end the win is what matters, and the Wild still have a shot at the playoffs because of it.

Big Game Letdown: Wild Done in by Blackhawks

The Wild just didn’t have it tonight.

The Chicago Blackhawks came in to the Xcel Energy Center and pretty much dominated our favorite hockey team for two periods, building a 3-0 lead through 2. This was a big game in front of a big crowd, and the Wild were a step slower than the Hawks the whole night. And although they did rally in the 3rd, cutting it to 3-2 and getting a powerplay opportunity late in the game, you just kind of had the feeling that they weren’t going to have enough. Sure enough, they gave up a shortie on that powerplay. Rally: Dead.

My man crush on Pierre-Marc Bouchard also took a hit. He didn’t do much all night as the Hawks were tight on him all game. And you could make a case for pinning the back-breaking shorty on him too. He got a bit carried away in the furious effort to tie the game on the last powerplay, diving to keep the puck in the offensive zone. His weak attempt to get the puck deep into the zone (he was laying on his stomach, so you can’t blame him for that) led to a 2-on-1 Hawks goal from Marian Hossa. It was a play that I probably would have stood and applauded had it not gone the way it did, so  I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

The loss means the Hawks leapfrog the Wild in the standings and the Wild drop to 9th in the conference…yep…back on the outside looking in. They head out to the Big Apple to take on the hapless Islanders Wednesday and the mediocre (and likely Gabork-less) Rangers on Thursday. Gotta take at least 3 points out of those two games, IMHO.

Oh BTW…trade deadline? YAWN!!!