Posted on: April 4, 2008 1:40 pm
Edited on: April 7, 2008 1:26 pm

Was There Ever A Doubt??

premature articulations:

The Minnesota Wild winning the Northwest division was as inevitable as Tom Reid faking Ken Dryden out of his jockstrap on a penalty shot... as inevitable as the Wild getting the short end of the officiating... as inevitable as a Cincinnati Bengal getting arrested... OK, maybe not quite that inevitable.  What a win last night!  It's good to see the Wild vault their way into the playoffs and grab the division title with impressive wins, rather than waiting for other teams to help them out.  Now, other teams are the ones saying "uh-oh, I hope we don't have to play those guys in the first round!"  Without further adieu, let's go to the Warpy Quarky awards.

dangling subatomic participles:

Top Quark for Friday's tilt goes to Marian Gaborik for another fine performance.  As I said in my last blog entry, Gabby tends to score in bunches, so this is the perfect time to see #10 get on a roll.  I love it when players make me look smart for a change:)  A huge Up Quark goes to Todd Fedoruk for yet another fine game.  #17 is becoming a frequent customer in front of the net these days, doing an excellent impression of Mark Parrish earlier in the season when #21 was the only guy who'd regularly play inside the faceoff dots in the offensive zone.  If the Wild can get Fedoruk, Parrish, Boogaard, Voros and Simon to make a habit out of loitering in front of the net, there'll be a lot of goalies in a miserable mood before these playoffs are done.  As a free bonus, those guys will command enough attention in front of the net to cut down on the number of defenders available to chase the Gaboriks, Demitras, Koivus and Bouchards of the world.  It's too bad that J-L hates firewagon hockey so much, because the Wild have more than their share of speedy players.

Another huge Up Quark goes to Brent Burns for once again sticking up for an abused teammate.  The only drawback with Burnsie fighting (even though he's good at it and jacks the building up every time he goes) is having one of our top blueliners out for 5+ minutes.  In last night's case, though, at least he took Dion Phaneuf with him, so it was a fair exchange.  Besides, that punk had it coming to him.  If the rest of the NHL hasn't already figured it out, they're about to find out the hard way that it'll be a while before the Wild can be bullied or pushed around again like they were last year.  One more Up Quark is in order for Jacques Lemaire's 500th win behind the bench.  I've commented on his coaching style before (mostly unfavorably) and will no doubt comment on it some more in the future, but today he gets a tip of the cap and hearty congratulations.

Bottom Quark goes to the officiating crew.  That was a badly called game all around last night.  The non-calls weren't too hot, either.  There wasn't much to hand out in the way of Down Quarks for the game: the only candidate I can think of is Brent Burns and Nick Schultz (particularly the latter) being less than ideally positioned on the Flames' scoring play.  I almost never see #55 do anything bad, so we'll give him a downer today so people don't accuse me of having a man crush on him.  Strange Quark goes to the replay review that should've confirmed the goal that wasn't, but still got it wrong -- the NHL regulars must've been on vacation and gotten some NFL dudes to fill in for them.  The Flames get the Charmed Quark for being on the receving end of the Marble Theory of refereeing.

post-dramatic syndrones:

Bottom line: the Wild took care of business at home and finally answered opportunity's knock with authority.  Now the good guys have the luxury of being able to loaf on Sunday and make like the Indianapolis Colts in a season-ending game with nothing to play for (except, perhaps *cough* help the Avalanche get 6th seed:)  The way the Wild are playing now, they can probably handle any team that has to play them at the X, but it sure would be nice to start the playoffs with a confidence building creampuff like the Avs.  GO WILD!!!

...and now, a word from our spawn's hairs...

If my wife to be or not be is watching, "I'm all in" doesn't mean what you think it does when we're playing cards.  To the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, and remember: if it looks like a Duck and quacks like a duck but fights like a chicken, it's probably Dion Phaneuf.

Category: NHL
Posted on: March 24, 2008 2:28 pm
Edited on: March 24, 2008 6:00 pm

Opportunity Knocks for the Minnesota Wild

premature articulations:

What a strange weekend.  The Minnesota Wild go to Vancouver, skate like they're on quaaludes with no sense of urgency, and leave the arena with a regulation win over the Canucks.  Then, they play more inspired hockey against the Calgary Flames, score four goals, and leave with a regulation loss.  Go figure.  Warped minds see the Northwest division coming down to a two horse race between the Wild and the Flames, with the good guys having a big edge in scheduling for the final furlong.

dangling subatomic participles:

Top Quark for Friday's game goes to Niklas Backstrom for a rock solid night in nets.  It was less than two weeks ago that fans were wondering if he was running out of gas, but he has silenced all such talk with an exclamation point.  Top Quark for Saturday's game goes to Benoit Pouliot for potting his first two NHL goals.  His two-way play hasn't been too shabby, either, so it's easy to see why Jacques Lemaire is increasing this guy's ice time by leaps and bounds.

Huge Up Quarks go to Pavol Demitra for some sweet helpers, and also to Chris Simon for his tattoo job on Jim Vandemeer Saturday night.  Sean Hill gets a Down Quark for crummy defensive positioning and play against the Canucks, but also gets an Up Quark for a much better game against the Flames.  Brent Burns gets an Up Quark for a fine performance against the Nucks, but gets a huge Down Quark (he doesn't get many of these) for his Skoula-like play on Dion Phaneuf's goal.  Up Quarks also to Todd Fedoruk and Branko Radivojevic for their continued fine work in setting goalie screens.

Speaking of screens, Kim Johnsson is a shoo-in for the Bottom Quark.  Just when it looked like the Wild were going to parlay a two goal lead into a nice, boring win against the Canucks, Johnsson had to screen Backstrom early in the third to make things interesting.  You could tell from his immediate reaction that he was saying "Gawd, warped minds are really gonna have a field day with this one!"  Luckily, the Wild hung on to win that game despite Johnsson's best efforts to screw it up.  Not so lucky on Saturday, though.  The good guys were less than a minute away from going into the second intermission with a 2-1 lead, when good old #5 had to set a perfect screen in front of Josh Harding to let the Flames right back into the game.  Considering the Wild's 22-0-2 record when leading going into the third, that was a mighty expensive mistake by Mr. "I'd throw a check, but then I'd be touching another guy, so people might think I'm gay."  Seeing as how the Wild need another center, we should move Johnsson there: he can't play defense anyway, but if he can screen opposing goalies as well as he screens our own, there's an untapped bonanza to be had.

Strange Quarks go to the referees.  In both games, they started out by keeping their whistles quiet and letting the guys play.  The players responded by playing good, hard-nosed hockey, and it looked like both games were going to be barnburners.  For no apparent reason, they started getting whistle-happy in the second period of both games, and called every marginal, ticky-tack infraction under the sun, effectively ruining the flow of both games.  The refs also get the Charmed Quarks, seeing as how the chances of the league holding them accountable are about as good as the chances of Pacman Jones staying out of trouble for an entire football season.

post-dramatic syndrones:

Bottom line: most fans probably expected the current road trip to start with a loss to the Sharks, a win against the Nucks, and a loss to the Flames.  The fact that we squeezed out an extra point in the Sharks game is huge.  I expect back to back wins against the Oilers: they have a long track record of getting their sphincters in a bunch and taking stupid penalties whenever Derek Boogaard is on the ice, so J-L would be wise to exploit that tendency and give #24 all the ice time he can handle.  The Flames finish the season with four on the road, so opportunity is knocking for the Wild to start piling up the points, starting now.  GO WILD!!!

...and now, a word from our spawn's hairs...

If a chiropractor has to change a light bulb, does it still take three visits?

Are the Grays the Owl Nebula equivalent of the Bush administration?

If my wife to be or not be is watching: they say a diamond is forever, so getting a new graphite driver oughta double=bond our love, eh?  To the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, keep your stick on the ice, and remember: if the women don't find ya handsome, they oughta at least find ya handy.

Category: NHL
Posted on: February 25, 2008 7:10 pm

We Wuz Robbed

Without any ado whatsoever, here come the Quark awards, thoughts on yesterday's Wild/Flames tilt, and other premature emissions from the keyboard of warped minds:

Top Quarks go to Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff for stonewalling the good guys again.  Some goalies might tuck their body padding into their pants to make their shoulder pads go up and cover more net when they go down into the butterfly, but personally, I think Kipper's secret is a couple of horseshoes inserted in a nearby orifice.  The Wild had enough scoring chances yesterday to win the game 5-2 or 6-2, but couldn't buy a finishing touch around the net.  We're talking Charmed Quark soup, man.  I wonder what the Kings would accept to trade Patrick O'Sullivan back here...

Bottom Quarks go to the officiating crew.  The ref totally jobbed the Wild by hastily waving off the first goal with a non-reviewable judgement call, instead of signalling for a goal, then taking advantage of replay technology to make sure they got the call right.  The NHL schedule wasn't exactly overloaded yesterday afternoon, so the folks in the Toronto war room would no doubt have been delighted to have something do to.  The penalty calling (and non-calling) was also atrocious.  The Wild definitely got the short end of the stick there, though the Flames got shafted on a couple of questionable non-calls as well.  The "phantom puck drop" takes the cake -- what the hell kind of time was that to suddenly enforce a rule that is ignored so much it might as well not even exist?

Up Quarks go to the Wild offense for throwing some good rubber at the net.  I would like to have seen more Voros and Fedoruk in front of the net (making like Mark Parrish) and less of all three guys in the same picture along the corner boards, but I'll take 40 shots on goal any time.  Another Up Quark goes to (gasp) (drumroll) (look outside to see if hell is freezing over) Martin Skoula.  Marty had a pretty solid game yesterday, making his share of good defensive plays, and also made some nice passes on the offensive end.  It's a shame that he pulled a Johnsson and had the puck hop over his stick by the blueline at the worst possible time (though it sure was funny to see how many fans booed when he went back to get the puck; good to see that the love is still there:) but in Skoula's defense, the puck was bouncing at the X all day like a soft puck at an outdoor pickup game -- hence the funnest pickup games are played with a flaccid tennis ball -- so we'll give #41 a mulligan for this gaffe.

Down Quarks to Nick Schultz for pulling a Skoula on the first Flames goal.  Schultz looked like he was taking a whiz by the goalpost, which is normally Marty's trademark pose.  I don't have any problem with defensemen guarding against goalmouth passes, but when they're standing right next to the goalpoast and facing the net, what the hell are they trying to defend against?!  Especially when the play is going on behind them, fer crissake!  Had #55 been facing any other direction, Jarome Iginla's pass would never have made it to its target, and the Wild most certainly would've been the ones to take a stranglehold on the lead.

That also calls for the Strange Quark Award, since it'll probably be a long time before Nick Shultz's name pops up in the Down or Bottom Quark awards again.  Congrats to the Wild for cementing another important part of the team nucleus to a long term deal.  Next up in that department would be making sure #96 doesn't get away.  Next up in the scheduling department is a Southeast road trip.  If the Wild can keep Alex Ovechkin in check, five or six points are begging to be cherry picked.  Go Wild!!!

Category: NHL
Posted on: January 23, 2008 1:26 pm

Dull Effort, Dull Game, Dull Blog

Yawn.  That describes most of the action in last night's tilt between the Minnesota Wild and the Calgary Flames.  After witnessing inspired, hard hitting efforts against the Anaheim Ducks and the Vancouver Canucks this week, warped minds and tangled brains were hoping this would be the night for the Wild to pull off the rare feat of leaving the Saddledome with two points.  Nope.  Aside from a few brief spurts of intense play, neither team looked all that interested in taking the division lead.  It would've been fitting for the game to go into a shootout, but Craig Conroy spared everyone the tedium of an extra session by slaloming his way through a sleepwalking defense and zipping a backhander by Josh Harding.  A Wild victory would've put them in a nice position heading into the All-Star break, but it was not meant to be.

Warpy awards start with James Sheppard.  He didn't exactly have a spectacular Warpy-worthy game last night, but I forgot to give him props for his impressive play over the last several games, so he gets a delayed Warpy.  Sheppard is a good stickhandler who plays well along the boards (almost as well as "velcro stick" Pierre-Marc Bouchard) and hustles all over the place on the defensive end, playing as solidly as a third defenseman.  Heck, his D is at least as good as -- if not better than -- some other regular defensemen who have a 1 or a 5 on their jersey number.  The strange Warpy of the night has to go to the Brent Burns three goalpost shot.  I've seen a few shots go off both goalposts, but have never seen one hit both posts, then hit the first one again for good measure, with the puck straddling the goal line all the while.  An Espy award would not surprise me in the least for this freakish play.

The Un-Warpy of the night has to go to Jacques Lemaire for once again shuffling his lines and defensive pairings like a casino dealer at a blackjack table, then wondering why he gets such inconsistent play from game to game.  Line combinations that worked well together and got some good results in the Canucks game got scrambled worse than eggs on a bachelor stovetop last night, and it showed in the sloppy passing and tentative play on both ends of the ice.  This is starting to get really old:  if Lemaire still can't figure out the best line combinations after six plus seasons of coaching this team, perhaps it's time to give someone else a try (and that, my friends, will be the topic for at least one future blog by the Warped One).  The strange Un-Warpy of the night goes to the plexiglass at the Saddledome:  where do they get this stuff?  Dalton Humphrey's Everything Store??

Bottom line:  the better team -- or at least the less hypersomnolent one -- won last night.  The Wild skating and passing was uninspired for most of the game, and the shooting was lacking in quantity, though there was some good quality.  The Wild also spent too much time along the side and end boards, making life way too easy for the Flames defenders (not to mention giving warped minds plenty of material for a future blog on the state of Wild shooting, or the lack thereof..)  We missed a good opportunity to unclog the logjam in the division and conference standings last night, and now it's on to Denver for another potential four pointer.  Go Wild!!

Category: NHL
Posted on: January 17, 2008 12:20 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2008 1:21 pm

Wild Get Gift Point vs. Flames

What a strange game last night.  The Minnesota Wild, on a roll and presumably well rested after two off days at home, put in a surprisingly dull effort against what should have been a travel-weary Calgary Flames squad.  The Flames consistently outskated, outworked and outshot a Wild team that looked sloppy almost from start to finish.  Stranger yet, perennial Wild killer Jarome Iginla was kept off the scoreboard for the entire game, only to come through with the finishing dagger in the shootout.

Now for the props, rants, and pet peeves:

Props to Kurtis Foster for an inspired performance after being inserted into the lineup.  Kurt used his size to his advantage last night, and was one of the few to (gasp) throw some checks at opposing players.  His cannon slapshot goal was a thing of beauty as well.  At first I thought he was holding the puck too long -- 18,568 at the X no doubt felt the same -- but Foster calmly waited for a Calgary defenseman to oblige him with a screen in front of the net.  From Miikka Kiprusoff's reaction (or lack thereof in this case) the quality of the screen was right up there with the Mark Parrish Special that Wild fans are growing to love.  Huge props are also in order for Niklas Backstrom, who delivered an excellent performance on short notice.  Backs filled in more than adequately for the injured albeit red-hot Josh Harding, coming up with several titanic saves to keep his team in the game.  The Wild defenders didn't exactly do him any favors on the two goals the Flames got in regulation, and also did their best to hose him in overtime.  The first SO goal he gave up wasn't the greatest, but by then the Wild already had one point more than they deserved, thanks mostly to Nik's stellar goaltending, along with a couple of referee assists thrown in for good measure.  Final props go to Iggy for his SO goal -- now that was a sweet goal scorer's shot.

As for ranting, the player who drew the most gerunds last night invoking Fornication Under Consent of the King has to be Kim Johnsson.  Johnsson (among other players) appears to be allergic to bodily contact.  This is fine at a Greyhound bus depot, but not a desirable quality in a defenseman.  Instead of delivering a check -- or at least positioning himself to get in a puck carrier's way -- Johnsson remains content to wave a pansyass stick check in the player's direction, not only allowing the guy to keep the puck, but putting himself at the mercy of whistle-happy refs who insist on calling every ticky-tack hook and slash under the sun.  I can't believe Jacques Lemaire hasn't gotten it through this guy's head to play the man first.  A dishonorable mention to Lemaire for being dumb enough to throw the defensive pairing of Kim Johnsson and Martin Skoula out on the ice for the last minute in a tightly contested overtime.  If the Stanley Cup is awarded to the coach who puts on the biggest show of balls, Lemaire just cemented it for the Wild with that move last night; otherwise, one has to wonder what the hell he was thinking.

The usual pet peeves came up in this game, and don't appear to be going away soon.  Jacques Lemaire needs to pick some line combinations and defensive pairings, then stick to them so they have a chance to jell.  If he had been doing that already, the sudden unavailability of Mark Parrish would only have necessitated one tweak.  As it is, Lemaire kept monkeying around with various lines and pairings trying to find a working combo, and it showed in the sloppy passing all night long, not to mention the odd collision or three of Wild players who were not on the same page.  Lemaire also needs to get guys to play the man instead of poking around like a bunch of European ballerinas.  If the guys here can't or won't do it, it's time to make a call to Houston to see if they have any more Aaron Voros type players on their roster.  With a bunch of critical division and conference games coming up, we'll need Derek Boogaard plus all the toughness we can get, and then some.

Category: NHL
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