After a long, hot, muggy and mosquito filled summer, it sure is good to welcome back the cool, clean, vigorous snap of Minnesota hockey season air. And everything smells and tastes better after a sweet Minnesota Wild victory. Saturday's win was more kihnvincing than the final 4-3 score would indicate, thanks to some brutal play from our favorite defenseman. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it's time for the season's inaugural Warpy Quark awards.
dangling subatomic participles:
Top Quark(s): Eric Belanger wins this one hands down. Scoring two goals in the first game is a sure way to make Warpy look like a genius for his brilliant pre-season post on the Wild Fanatics group page. Even with that personal bias aside, Belanger gets top honors for his performance Saturday. He was a couple of bounces short of tacking on another point or two of the goal or assist persuasion, and he also showed some fine defensive hustle, which should please Jacques Lemaire to no end.
Up Quark(s): Colton Gillies gets the Up Quark award for scoring his first NHL point in game one. His pass to Belanger was a stylish way for a rookie to bag his first point. I wonder if somebody had the presence of mind to take the puck out of play; I couldn't tell one way or the other from watching the game on FSN. Phil Kessel and Blake Wheeler get honorary Up Quarks for being former Gophers. The white, black and gold Boston Bruins jerseys looked enough like the white, maroon and gold U of M colors to bring back some fond memories.
Down Quark(s): Kim Johnsson gets a small Down Quark (not that there's such a thing as a "big" quark, but I digress:) for continuing to play defense like he's allergic to physical contact. But for one game at least, Johnsson didn't make any plays that were bad enough to cost the Wild a goal.
Marian Gaborik gets the main Down Quark award for a nearly invisible performance Saturday night. The Bruins did stack up the D pretty good on Gabby and Mikko Koivu all night, but aside from a couple of rushes where Gabby put the jets on, the rest of his game was spent in loafing cruise control. Zero points and zero scoring chances on two measly shots will not do any favors for his contract negotiation leverage.
Bottom Quark(s): Who else? Martin Skoula gets the first of what promises to be many a Down Quark award this year. The media are bending over backwards trying to build up some fan love for #41. Saturday's Pioneer Press "Meet the Wild" section said that Skoula is known for his gaffes, but is typically a "solid, and occasionally brilliant" defenseman. The TV commentators got into the act, pointing out his "physical play" when he actually threw a check (what a radical concept for a defenseman, eh?)
Unfortunately, being on the ice for all three goals against is not the way to get Warpy on the Skoula fan club waiting list. If you watch replays of the first Bruins goal, you'll see #41 vainly (and a couple of strides late, I might add) trying to defend against Phil Kessel in the high slot. Maybe Skoula was defending against a pass from the high slot to a winger on the side wall?? The second Boston goal was vintage Skoula: given the option to play the man or play the puck -- or at least clog up a passing lane (most coaches from pee wees on up will holler "play the man!") Minus Skoula elected to do none of the above, and basically hung Brent Burns out to dry on a sweet pass Marc Savard. Skoula did defend against the slap shot just fine (apparently, he doesn't trust Nicklas Backstrom to do this...) Why, oh why, does this clown continue to have a job, let alone get 20+ minutes of ice time?!
Strange Quark(s): Jacques Lemaire gets a Strange Quark and borderline Up Quark (disCERNing folks might wonder if this is the elusive Higgs Particle:) for not having the Dildaphonic Duo of Johnsson and Skoula on the ice in the final minute of the game. Warped minds saw all too much of this last year, often with disastrous results. The sight of Nick Schultz and Brent Burns being out there in crunch time brought big smiles to many a fan at the local watering hole.
Charmed Quark(s): The Wild power play pick up a Charmed Quark for finally showing some potency. With the loss of guys like Aaron Voros and Todd Fedoruk, the surest way to discourage opposing teams from taking physical liberties with our skill players will be to cash in early and often on the PPGs and exact a heavy price for penalties. For one night anyway, the good guys did this in spades.
And in Kihnclusion: A great start for our favorite hockey team. It would've been nice to see a more boring victory after taking off to a 4-1 lead, but I'm not going to complain about any kind of win (except for the Vikings' so-called "win" against the Lions -- now that was some bad, bad football) Warped minds see lots of goals coming in tonight's tilt against the Thrashers; Eric Belanger just might score enough tonight to keep that 164 goal pace alive:) GO WILD!!!
...and now, a word from our spawn's heirs...
If my wife to be or not to be is watching, "beaver shooting" is not an activity that'll get us in trouble with PETA. To the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, keep your stick on the ice, and remember: if it ain't broke, you're not trying hard enough.