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!!!

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Pierre-Marc Bouchard…Wild Superstar?

Ok, so maybe I’m getting a bit carried away, but he’s awfully nifty and clutch lately, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Wild’s run of winning started right about the time he came back from concussion land. Last night he gave the Wild a 3-2 OT win over Anaheim with an excellent breakaway goal just before time expired. I have a man crush right now. Check out the goal. I heart you PMB!!!

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And in the spirit of my last Wild post, here’s Bob Kurtz on WCCO Radio calling said goal.

OMG PMB!!

Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored a rediculous goal tonight in the Wild’s 4-1 win over Vancouver. Just after killing a 5-on-3 power play, he took the puck alone on Nikolai Khabibulin and went in with a spin-o-rama. Here’s the video from NHL.com.

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Here’s Bob Kurtz on WCCO Radio PxP for Butch’s goal, courtesy MN Wild Pondcast.

Bouchard PxP Call

If you recall, PMB scored on the same move in a shootout win a few years ago, and the goalie was, of course Khabibulin, when he played for the Blackhawks. Pretty much the same goal. Here’s that video, for nostalgia’s sake.

Jared Spurgeon also scored his first NHL goal for the Wild tonight. It was a big win that catapulted the Wild into 5th in the Western Conference. Clutch win in a tight playoff race. It’s got this guy thinking about playoff hockey.

It’s good to have PMB back, my friends.

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.

Jots

  • 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.

Next
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.

What More?

08 Cup Logo

Avalanche @ Wild – Western Conference Quarterfinals Game 5 – View from Section 209
No, I wasn’t in mourning or anything…this post was late because I got home at midnite-thirty last nite. Also because I wanted to detach myself a little bit from the game. As most of you know, Wild lose 3-2 to Colorado in game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead in a game that the Wild absolutely dominated for 2 periods. Shots on goal were like 30-15 (give or take) after 2 periods. Jose Theodore was a freaking rock and kept the Wild off the scoreboard save for a 1st period powerplay goal by Pierre Marc Bouchard. The 2nd was such a fun period for the fans. The X was so loud, but every “aaaah” turned into “oooooh” instead of goal horn. It was very emotional and disappointing from a fan standpoint. I had troubles thinking about what I wanted to write. So, here it is.

Let’s start with my keys for the Wild to win from the previous post…let’s see which ones happened.

  • Thugnation plays smarter – Yep
  • Wild score in 1st or 2nd period – Yep
  • Gabby gets at least a point – Not so much
  • Thugnation plays smarter – Yep
  • D-men get their wind back – Only Til the 3rd
  • Sean Hill doesn’t fall over – Didn’t fall over, but took a penalty that led to the go ahead goal
  • Jose Theodore actually allows goals – Theodore was even better
  • Thugnation plays smarter – Yep
  • Crowd is off the hook – Yep

Unfortunately listing Thugnation’s mild manner 3 times wasn’t enough to overshadow the things that didn’t happen. Gabby is now trying too hard, attempting to create what isn’t there and fanning on one-timers to open nets. Adding Eric Reitz into the defensive corps was a good move and he played well, but in my opinion it should have been for Sean Hill, not Pterri Nummelin. Because Sean Hill is old and can’t keep up with most forwards, he had to hook someone after a defensive-zone turnover. And Jose Theodore has clearly made a pact with someone unsavory as he is stopping everything that the Wild throw at him.

The crowd at the X was great. From the opening video on it was bonkers. So loud. The Wild finally get a 1st period goal, but it was to tie the game, not the 1st goal of the game. In the 2nd, they played so well, they pressed so hard, but they couldn’t get anything by Theodore. What Theodore didn’t stop hit the posts. The puck was in the Avs zone for what seemed like the entire period. It seemed they had finally gotten one by Theodore when Pavol Demitra fired one past Theodore from the blue line on the rush, but someone, I’m not even sure who it was, skated into the zone before Demo got the puck past the blue line. Go from pandemonium to what is going on in the crowd. Grrr.

In the 2nd intermission, the place just didn’t have a good vibe. Everyone was so into the 2nd but to not score…definitely came down from a high. They put Caps v. Flyers 2nd OT on the video board (and on the ice…that was cool) and I’m not sure who was paying attention, but I was, and there wasn’t alot of flow to it. When the boys came out, instead of the whole place loud, cheering, waving towels like before the game and before the 2nd period, it was only a handful of people. The place just seemed drained, and so did the Wild. Mikko Koivu turned the puck over in the defensive zone, that led to the Hill penalty, and the Avs scored on the powerplay. So you’re thinkin…ok…there’s time left to tie it up…but Paul Stastney broke out of his scoring drought in a big way with a pretty top-shelf backhand to beat Backstrom, and that was all she wrote. The Wild were barely able to get the puck in the Avs zone the rest of the period. Brian Rolston’s goal from the point off a faceoff with 2.5 seconds left added to the frustration. It was your typical hockey gods laughing at the irony of too little too late after playing a great game. The hockey gods are interfering way too much in this series – Andrew Brunette scored his 3rd of the series tonite too.

Fight to Bring the Cup to St. Paul
They’re really going to have to fight now. Avs lead the series 3-2. Wild need to win the next 2 to continue the fight.

Next on the Docket – Wild @ Avalanche – Sat 4-19-08
Do or die. Win or go home. Play hockey Monday or dust off the golf clubs Monday. Which will it be? If the Wild can play remotely like they did in the 1st and 2nd last nite you would think eventually a couple would go in. Gabby has got to get lose. If he does, we might see the floodgates open and it would be on for game 7. In what could be my last prediction of the season: Wild 4 Avs 1

Huzzah for Touch-Up Icing!!

08 Cup Logo

Wild @ Avalanche – Western Conference Quarterfinals Game 3 – View from the Couch
The hockey gods sure have a sense of humor. If you recall, about a month ago Kurtis Foster was run into the boards on an icing play that resulted in a broken femur for Foster, ending his season and putting the Wild shorthanded on D for the playoffs. After that play, the outcry from Minny, me included, was that we needed no-tough icing. The other leagues have no-touch icing, and how many icings are actually negated by an offensive player beating the defensive player to the puck? Well, tonite the sentiment around the State of Hockey is undoubtedly, “I love touch-up icing!!!”

It started out as a tight checking game tonite. The Wild had plenty of opportunities through 2 periods tonite but could not get anything past Avalanche G Jose Theodore. I liked the chances they got, but I gotta say Theodore was the difference early…and that would turn into a theme as the night rolled on. Granted the Wild took too many penalties that tired out their depleted defensive corps, but when they had offensive time they put some good shots on net. The only goal in the first 2 periods was by our old buddy Andrew Brunette, and the Avs took a 1-0 lead into the 3rd.

Once again apparently the Wild felt they didn’t need to score until the 3rd. With around 12 minutes to go, Todd Fedoruk tossed the puck deep, got his own dump in off the boards and tossed it out front, where Mikko Koivu was crashing the net to knock it past Theodore. Great goal. I love Todd Fedoruk.

Then, enigma #1 Brian Rolston appeared on a pretty short-handed goal, assisted by Pavol Demitra on a 2-on-1. Honestly, before this kill started, I said, out loud, we’re gonna get a shortie. I’m a great prognosticating mind. Demo put on a great deke from inside the Wild’s blueline to start the break. He got around the Avalanche defenseman who was trying to keep the puck in the zone, then went in with Rolston, faked the shot and waited just long enough for the lone D for Colorado to slide out of the way, then dished it to Rolston who had an open net to shoot at, and Rolston made sure he didn’t miss.

But it wouldn’t be that easy. The Wild couldn’t clear the zone shortly after the goal and Joe Sakic scores with about 5 minutes left to tie the game and ignite the Pepsi Center crowd. Things were complicated on that goal. Aaron Voros launched Brunette into Niklas Backstrom, so he pretty much had no chance to make a save on Sakic’s shot.

The Wild put on some great pressure in the final 30 seconds, Mikko Koivu was an absolute stud and drew a tripping penalty with 8 seconds left in the 3rd. Time expired, and no surprise that we go to overtime. More free hockey to burn out our tired defense.

And Theodore kept it up in OT. He stopped Gabby point blank, then Demo on a 2-on-1 with PMB. The Wild absolutely dominated the overtime, but as time went on it seemed like this game could go forever. Finally, just seconds after the Wild telecast showed Andrew Brunette end Patrick Roy’s career in ’03, the puck took a funny carom on a would-be icing on the Wild. Colorado D Jeff Finger apparently had his eyes closed and went behind the net while the puck bounced to the side of the net. Brian Rolston got to the puck 1st to negate the icing, then passed to enigma #2 Pierre-Marc Bouchard in the slot, and PMB fired a wrister top-shelf to finally beat Theodore. Wild win, 3-2, and the dog wakes up because I’m jumping around the family room.

I’d be remiss not to mention the game Backstrom had. He played very solidly tonite, stopping 44 shots. I was really surprised he had that many saves. Throughout the game I thought the Wild were outshooting the Avs. Props to Backstrom for keeping the Wild in the game. Also, although he didn’t score, enigma #3 Marian Gaborik had a TON of chances. That bodes well for the next couple games.

Oh, and Mikko Koivu is a stud.

Fun with Numbers
That’s an oxymoron, but chew on this:

  • The last 5 Wild/Avs games this season have gone to OT.
  • The last 5 Wild/Avs playoff games have gone to OT.
  • The last 6 Wild/Avs playoff games finished with a 3-2 final.

Fight to Bring the Cup to St. Paul
Wild now up 2-1 in this 1st round series. They have 2 wins out of the 16 necessary to win the cup. I know, I know, one series at a time…ok, they need 2 more wins to win this series.

Next on the Docket – Wild @ Avalanche – Tues 4-15-08
Gotta do it all over again tomorrow nite for game 4. FSN has my back with Twins v. Tigers then Wild v. Avalanche, both in HD. So you can guess what I’ll be doing tomorrow evening. The way this series rolls you gotta think the Avs will win, but I’m going with the Wild. I think they gain alot of momentum, The Three Enigmas are starting to roll, and there is karma coming to set up game 5 at Xcel with the potential to wrap up the series. Wild 3 Avs 2

Good Times @ Xcel

Canucks @ Wild – 3-28-08 – View from Section 216
I’m dead tired right now. Spent alot of energy at the Wild game tonite and the sore throat I woke up with this morning will most likely be a full-blown deal tomorrow. But it was well worth it.

Wild win 4-0 tonite over a Vancouver team that looks like they have nothing left. The Wild played an excellent game, dominating for all 3 periods. They scored 2 on the powerplay, another just as the powerplay expired, and there were fisticuffs in the 3rd. The Canucks continued to be the thugs that Minnesota fans love to hate.

Goals
1st period goals from Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mikko Koivu, and 2nd period goals from Brent Burns and Todd Fedoruk. All very nice goals, Koivu’s was very pretty. He snuck out from behind the goal line and slipped it through G Roberto Luongo’s 5 hole. Fedoruk’s goal was on a 2 on 1 with Marian Gaborik, where Gabby set Fridge up with a late pass.

Fights
It was relatively calm in the 1st and 2nd, but all heck broke loose in the 3rd. Derek Boogaard went with someone, can’t remember who, but he took care of bidness. Then, after Canuck Alexe Burrows apparently speared PMB, so PMB gave him a two-handed slash to the back of his leg. That got the two teams together, and PMB and Burrows fought, along with Brent Burns absolutely pummeling Nathan McIver. I mean just laying into him. Everyone else paired off, and it took a good 10 minutes to settle everyone down and sort out the penalties. During the stoppage, the Xcel crowd turned in a quality”Let’s go Wi-ld” chant. It was a nicely riled up crowd that enjoyed Friday nite at the X.

IMG_0404

Jots

  • Niklas Backstrom gets his 4th shutout of the season. The D was very good in front of him, blocking shots and clearing rebounds in a timely manner.
  • Sean Hill was very solid again tonite. He made a couple great plays on D to stop scoring chances and also had an assist.
  • The new tough-guy philosophy seems to be paying off so far. I said to my wife on the walk down the stairs that the Wild certainly haven’t had a team like this before, that would welcome the physical play and had multiple players that don’t back down from fights.
  • Gabby looked very good tonite. the 2 on 1 with Fridge, a breakaway in the 2nd, drew a penalty in the 1st, another 2 on 1 in the 3rd, and a couple nice shots. He didn’t score, but the chances were there.
  • Was good to chase Luongo out of the nets, but can you blame the guy for not being focused? His wife just had their first child yesterday.
  • At the end of the day, Vancouver is in 9th and out of the playoffs thanks to a tiebreaker held by Nashville. The production crew at the X didn’t waste time putting that up on the scoreboard either.

IMG_0406
Fight to Hang the 1st Banner
Wild now with 93 points, Calgary with 90, but Calgary now has 2 games in hand. They play Edmonton tomorrow nite in Calgary. Colorado came back to beat Edmonton in OT tonite, so they are now at 88 points, 5 back of the Wild.

The Wild are 1 point away from clinching a playoff birth.

Next on the Docket – Avalanche @ Wild – Sun 3-30-08
Can the Wild continue their solid play? They look to be on a nice roll, and I think this one is going to last into the playoffs. This game is scheduled for FSN in HD, so plan on a good lookin W. Wild 3 Avs 2