Game One for Your Minnesota Wild

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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

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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.

Hockey Day 2010

Just a real quick post before I fall asleep. I’m winding up a long day that included taking in a good portion of Hockey Day Minnesota and a good day of family, mixed in with some “day job” work. I’m actually quite spent.

The Wild put together a nice game and beat Columbus 4-2, although it should have been a shutout for Niklas Backstrom. He gave up 2 goals in the last 30 seconds of the game. The first one deflected off Kim Johnsson and Backstrom could do nothing about it, but his reaction annoyed me. He sorta dropped his stick in a weird way…seemed defiant. And the 2nd goal with 3 seconds left was a weak shot from outside the circles. Seemed to me he gave up on it after the shutout was broken up. But that’s just me.

Mikko Koivu scored twice as the Wild tried something different called score first and play with the lead. Seemed to work out pretty well!

From the Dissappointing but Typical Desk, the UMD Bulldogs, who had jumped to #4 in the national polls after consecutive sweeps in the WCHA, lost in OT v. Bemidji State. BSU tied it up in the last seconds and won it in OT to complete a weekend home-and-home sweep over the Dogs. The loss doesn’t hurt UMD from a conference standpoint so it’s all about the bounceback next week.

I’m looking forward to BSU joining the WCHA next season along with Nebraska Omaha (who brings Dean Blais with them). I think the conference will be even tougher, and I’m looking forward to having a couple more teams in the mix.

Alright. Sortof a lame post but I have to get to bed. I hear there’s a big football game tomorrow.

Keep on Rollin, Rollin, Rollin

Just a quick post via phone before seepy time. The Wild beat the Vancouver Canucks tonight, 5-2. It was certainly an interesting game with alot of different nuances to it. The Wild scored 2 goals before the game was even 4 minutes old. The Canucks pretty much dominated the rest of the 1st and all of the 2nd period, and eventually tied it up. The 2nd was pretty ugly if you’re a Wild fan. Nothing was working and they were lucky to get out of it tied. But the 3rd belonged to the Wild. They scored 3 unanswered goals to semi-blow out the Canucks, and then the Canucks turned thug-nation and initiated 3 seperate fights, pretty much losing all of them, and definetely losing to John Scott. He pummeled a guy whose name escapes me at the moment. Actually he might not remember his own name either after the 5 or 6 rights Scott landed in his ear and face.

Antti Miettinen scored 2 goals on the night, one of them on a pretty one-touch pass from Mikko Koivu.

Koivu scored on a 2 on 1 in the first with a nasty wrister past Canuck G Roberto Luongo.

Speaking of Luongo, he appeared to be fighting the puck the whole night. I guess that’s obvious when you give up 5 goals, but he just didn’t have it.

The win is the Wild’s 4th in a row, negating the 4-game skid they were on just before the homestand. They beat some quality teams on this stretch.

The Wild are now 2 points out of 8th in the Western Conference. That’s amazing.

They’ve gotta get ready in a hurry to face the Blues tomorrow night in St. Louis. Back to backs are a killer, and let downs are no fun. 5-in-a-rows are funner. Look for Josh Harding in net.

And now it’s seepy time.

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.

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.

Next
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.

ETC
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.

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.

Healing
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.