Posted on: October 18, 2009 6:28 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2009 8:25 pm

Minnesota Wild Pre-Season Comes to A Merciful End

premature articulations:

Officially, the NHL preseason ended a couple of weeks ago, but with Todd Richards keeping virtually all starters out of the lineup (and thus robbing them of the chance to get used to playing together with new teammates in a new system) the Minnesota Wild did their finest impression of sports fans everywhere -- paying a regular season price for preseason games.  But now that it looks like the good guys are getting ready for actual regular season play, it's time to fire up the Warpy Psychlotron and get some quarks flying.

dangling sub-atomic participles:

Top Quark(s):  There's not much in the way of Top Quarks for the Wild after an 0-fer road trip.  The most Top Quark worthy performance warped minds witnessed this week was the defensive play of the Anaheim Ducks and the Vancouver Canucks.  These teams have no trouble keeping the front of their net clear of opposing players -- and making said players pay a hefty price any time they venture near the crease area.  The same can't be said for the Wild defense; tapes of the Ducks and the Nucks playing D should be mandatory viewing for all Wild blueliners not named Schultz or Hnidy.  All too often, opposing players collapse into Niklas Backstrom's crease, and the Johnssons, Zidlickys and Zanons of the world are only too happy to let them set up shop there for as long as they please.

Up Quark(s):  Fellow Wild fan cmc18v (who has a damn funny blog on this site) has turned me on to Benoit Pouliot.  #67 has been doing a fine job of getting in front of the net and creating trouble for opposing goalies; if he adds a finishing touch to his scoring chances, Pouliot could put up some damaging stats this year.  James Sheppard has also picked up his play; #51 took a big step backwards last season after impressing the year before, but Sheppard looks to be returning to the form that made fans see him as a very promising up-and-comer.

I also have to give a shout out to #34 Shane Hnidy.  It took warped minds a few games to connect Hnidy's name with the TV commentators' constant references to "nightie" so I kept wondering what the hell kind of hockey name "nightie" was.  Turns out that it belongs to a solid defensive player who uses above-average size to push guys away from the Wild crease area.  As regular Warpy readers already know, warped minds pay special attention to defensemen, and dissect their play in far more detail than that of the forwards (heck, anybody can talk about goal scorers and recap their points, eh?) and I've gotta say that I'm warming up to Hnidy pretty quickly.

Nick Schultz hereby gets a permanent Up Quark for his reliably steady defensive play.  Schultzie seldom makes spectacular plays that garner media attention, but he almost always makes the routine plays correctly in any given situation.  And with the possible exception of Brent Burns and Shane Hnidy, #55 is also one of the only Wild defensemen who shows a willingness and ability to play the man on a regular basis.  Keep it going, Nick!

Down Quark(s):  Lots of possible choices here, but I've gotta give a Down Quark shout-out to Brent Burns for a continuing series of sub-standard defensive games, paired with less than stellar offensive plays that often as not leave his blueline partner hung out to dry in transition.  Burnsie's skating appears to be a tad slower as well, which makes warped minds wonder if he's as healthy as advertised.

Greg Zanon is getting dangerously close to entering permanent Down Quark territory.  I'm still seeing too much of the Martin Skoula-like "stand in front of the net facing the wrong way so it looks like I'm taking a leak by the left goal post" style of defense to get much in the way of warm and flocculent feelings when #6 is on the ice.  The fact that you can see his jersey number on TV when the other team is in our zone says it all for warped minds: unless he leads the league in blocked shots because he takes 'em all off his kiester, Zanon (and the fellow crease campers who allow opponents to crash Backstrom at will) need to turn around and see what they're missing.

Bottom Quark(s):  In order to reduce the amount of typing I'll need to do on future blog entires, I hereby award Kim Johnsson (a.k.a. "I don't wanna touch another guy because then people might think I'm gay") the Bottom Quark on a premanent basis, and will just fill in the necessary details on the next line(s) after each game.

News flash!  The Five Million Dollar Salary Cap Boat Anchor goes quarkless in the last three games!  After an absolutely brutal first week, Johnsson actually played three pretty good games in a row.  Nothing spectacular (after all, he did botch a handful of power play chances by allowing the puck to get by him at the point -- a common occurence when #5 is on the ice) but Johnsson also goosed out enough "attaboy, Kimmer, nice play!" shouts from the Warped One to escape this week with a total wash.

I still say a "break even" type of player isn't worth anything close to $5 million a year, but it is what it is, and this is the final year of Johnsson's contract, so there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.  Besides, Wild fans are used to seeing far worse play from Johnsson, so if he keeps the Warped Johnsson Meter from going down too much farther, I can live with it.

Strange Quark(s):  Slowly but surely, the Wild are getting the hang of throwing pucks at the net willy-nilly and getting guys down low to sniff around for rebounds, deflections, and the occasional garbage goal.  The Wild keep reverting back to old habits of spending too much time along the boards (three forwards all behind the goal line on the back wall?!) and constantly bypassing shots in favor of the tic-tac-toe highlight reel goal (especially on the power play) but warped minds are still optimistic that it's only a matter of time before our goalies get the luxury of regular goal support.

Charmed Quark(s):  Nobody can accuse the refs of being homers lately; the Wild got more than their share of PP chances on the road trip, but seemed less and less inclined to shoot as the games went on.  Considering how many pucks were finding their way in earlier, I really can't figure out why the Wild don't just throw the puck at the net every chance they get -- junk goals count the same as pretty goals on the stat sheet, and there's nothing like traffic in front of the net to turn a low percentage shot into a goalie's nightmare.

Earth to Wild players:  SHOOOOOT!!!  And shoot some more!  Who cares if ya can't see a good shooting lane to the net?  If you can't see the goalie, he probably can't see you either (and is most likely praying that you'll pass the puck somewhere else so he can see the damn thing again...)

The Warped Kim Johnsson Meter:  Three consecutive games of Even Steven performance keeps the season total at minus 4.  His +/- numbers may have gotten worse in the official NHL stats, but the Warped Johnsson Meter counts goals that Kim Johnsson directly costs the team (minus) with credit points (plus) for goals he either scores or directly enables (or *gasp* actually prevents with his defensive play, tho I don't expect this part of the equation to come into play very often.. ha hah) 

For those folks who might've thought Warpyland was nothing more than a Kim Johnsson haters blog, I've got one thing to say:  good game, Kimmer!  Keep it going!  OK, that's technically two things, but Johnsson's improved play lately calls for two pats on the back.

post-dramatic sin drones:

And in Kihnclusion:  The unofficial regular season kicks in Wendesday at home against a red-hot Colorado Avalanche squad.  Warped minds weren't expecting too much on the road trip that just ended (tho a point here and there would've been nice) but now that the guys have had some time to gel, the Wild will need to avoid settling for 4 or 5 shots on goal per period in order to keep the sellout streak alive in a post-Bush-but-thank-goodness-it's-not-a-McCain economy.  Personally, I'm seeing enough progress in the right direction to give the good guys a few more mulligans for early season growing pains; methinks it's too early to write this season off as a lost cause yet.  LET'S GO WILD!!!!!

...and now, a word from our spawn's heirs:

If my wife-to-be (or not to be) is watching, it probably wasn't meant to be.  To the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, and remember: if at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.

quando omni flunkus moritati

Posted on: April 16, 2008 7:08 pm

Where's the Beef? (part 2 of 3)

premature articulations:

Unfortunately, after viewing last night's debacle, it looks like part 3 of this quadrilogy will be posted after Saturday's game.  I was looking forward to seeing a game not end up 3-2 in OT, but this wasn't exactly what I had in mind.  The Colorado Avalanche outplayed, outhustled, outscored and outeverythinged the Minnesota Wild last night.  At least last night's performance makes for easier work on the Warpy Quark awards.

dangling subatomic participles:

Top Quark(s):  No single individual stands out from last night's game (at least none from before I got hammered) so we'll go with a collective Top Quark to the entire Avs team for their thorough domination of our homeboys.  Man, that was ugly, but you've gotta give props to the Avs for taking advantage of a tired and sloppy Wild team to put the game away early.

Up Quark(s):  Nobody in a Wild jersey played well enough to merit consideration for an Up Quark.  Joe Sakic gets a mention in this segment for being one of the few Avs players to consistently play at a classy level.  I used to be a big fan of Peter Forsberg, but his "let's see how many people I can get to care about my foot this year" antics gradually soured me to #21, and his wussy tactics in this series (particularly last night) have cemented the end of my respect for the Swedish meatball.  For a guy who does as much stickwork on opposing players as he does, Forsberg sure knows how to make himself scarce when anyone over 150 pounds is around.  Sakic, on the other hand, doesn't resort to crap like that, which explains all of the respect he gets -- richly deserved -- from hockey fans everywhere.

Down Quark(s):  Too many downer moments to mention, so the entire Wild team gets a collective Down Quark.  Actually, scratch Niklas Backstrom from the downer list -- the Wild defensemen could easily have been credited with assists on three of the Avs goals, so it's hard to blame the goalie for last night's disaster.  Martin Skoula and Kim Johnsson played like their old selves yesterday, but everyone else played so badly that even the Dildaphonic Duo didn't really stand out.  That takes some serious doing.

On the Avs side, we'll toss Down Quarks to Ian Laperriere and Cody McLeod as well as to Forsberg.  For all the griping the Avs homer fans are doing because of the supposed "goonery" by the Minnesota Wild, it's ironic to watch the play of Lapansyass and McToofless: they sure act and talk tough when separated by linesmen or dividers, but neither one of them has shown enough hair on his balls to take on anyone bigger than Gaborik or Bouchard.

Bottom Quark(s):  Bottom Quark has to go to Jacques Lemaire for double shifting the Gaboriks and Koivus of the world after the score got out of hand, while at the same time keeping the Boogaards and Simons on a sphincter-tight leash when the opportunity presented itself to send an emphatic message.  Presumably, Doug Risebrough obtained guys like Chris Simon and Todd Fedoruk to prevent a repeat of last year's mauling by the Anaheim Ducks, but the message sent by J-L last night was essentially: "go ahead, hit our smaller guys all ya want -- it's all free."  Earth to Lemaire: what's the point of bulking up a roster if you're not going to utilize the advantage that it offers?  Can you imagine Glen Sonmor preaching "let's just play old time hockey, Toe Blake style" with a quartet of Ogie Oglethorpes on his bench?

Strange and Charmed Quark(s):  The refs and linesmen pick up the Strange Quark for their strange job of officiating throughout the series.  I'm not going to grumble about all the penalties called on the Wild last night (because most of them were fully deserved) but the officials have nobody to blame but themselves for seeing the game get out of hand in the later stages.  When Avs agitators have free rein to do their thing while officials keep the Wild enforcers at bay, chippy (and dangerous) stickwork is inevitable.  If the zebras would let a couple of guys duke it out for a while, the frustration would vent itself off in a much more civilized fashion.

Charmed Quark goes to the Avs for continuing to get more than their share of the non-calls.  As long as the officials prevent the Wild from exacting payback -- and as long as J-L refuses to let his enforcers exert their civilizing influence on the agitators -- the Avalanche have no reason to change their tactics.

post-dramatic syndrones:

And in Kihnclusion:  What an ugly abomination that was last night!  Hopefully, the Wild enforcers are putting on the foil in preparation for a badly needed donnybrook right off the draw tomorrow.  If the officials let some guys go in the early stages of the game, they'll probably be surprised at how clean and civilized the rest of the game goes.  I can't wait to see how Avs fans react when their team is on the receiving end of a wax job like last night.  I'll just copy and paste some of their own "quit whining at the refs and play better hockey" posts from today, and we'll see who the real sniveling homers are.  GO WILD!!!

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

If my wife to be or not to be is watching, PETA is not interested in my beaver shooting.  To the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, keep your stick on the ice, and remember: if it walks like a Duck and quacks like a duck, but has teefus like Leon Spinks and runs like a chicken, it's probably Cody McLeod.

Category: NHL
Posted on: April 15, 2008 2:33 pm
Edited on: April 15, 2008 6:52 pm

Stick a Fork in 'Em - They're Medium Well Done!

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This is incredible!  Whoever did the study suggesting that sports fans have greater risk of heart attack during Super Bowls and World Cups obviously forgot to factor in Wild/Avalanche playoff games.  The Wild had much the better of the play in OT -- which made me afraid the Avs would get one good chance and promptly cash it in to further frustrate the good guys -- but in the end, the Wild walked out with a well earned win and the series lead.  Buckle up; it's a busy day for the Warpy Quark awards.

dangling subatomic participles:

Top Quark(s):  For the first time, we have Top Quark co-winners today.  I would've split the Top Quark, but funding cuts by the Bush administration prevent any American facilities from pursuing the Higgs Particle prize, so any quark splitting will have to take place at the European LHC.  Jose Theodore gets a Top Quark for yet another stellar performance in nets: without his insane goaltending, the Wild would've put games 1 and 3 away well before any thoughts of overtime kicked in, and we'd be talking about a possible sweep tonight.  Brian Rolston gets the other Top Quark for his timely scoring plays: the homer commentators are right on when they say that Rolston seems to be around every Wild goal lately.  Maybe there really is something to all this "aura" stuff.

Up Quark(s):  Pierre-Marc Bouchard gots an Up Quark for being in the right place at the right time, and more importantly, for finishing the opportunity when it presented itself.  Pavol Demitra must have some aura stuff of his own going on, because #38 also seems to be around the puck on more than his share of the Wild goals.

Joe Sakic gets an Up Quark for scaring the bejeezus out of me every time he handles the puck inside our blue line.  Somebody's gotta hit that guy instead of letting him waltz around in the offensive zone.  I'm not talking about a goon (or even Anaheim Duck) type hit -- just a clean but hard knockdown hit or three would make Sakic a little more tentative, which in turn would ease the heart rates of Wild fans everywhere.

Petteri Nummelin also gets an Up Quark mention for continuing to do what Kim Johnsson was brought here (and paid over four mill a year) to do: create some offense, and inject some life into a moribund power play.  Well done, Nummie.  Now if we could only get Johnsson to play to a fraction of what was expected of him when he signed here, the Wild would be in really good shape.

update: I can't believe I forgot to add a huge Up Quark for Todd Fedoruk: in addition to setting a bunch of fine screens in the last several games, now Fedoruk is dishing out some fine centering passes for his linemates to bang home.  I thought it was a dumb move to pick him up this season (after all, how useful can a guy who had his face rearranged by Derek Boogaard be??) but he's showing enough these days to merit serious consideration for a nice raise and contract extension -- both of which could probably be done without making an overly large dent in the salary cap.

Down Quark(s):  Not much in the way of downers last night, though a couple of candidates do present themselves.  Brent Burns had enough nice offensive rushes and chances to vie for an Up Quark, but gets a small Down Quark for getting caught in deep -- then being a little slow once he got back on D -- during the first Avs goal.  Sean Hill gets a bigger Down Quark for his bumbling play on the second Avs tally.  Hill had plenty of time to make a good clearing play, but his blind effort off the boards saved the Avs the trouble of holding the the zone.  He then compounded the error by letting himself get spun around (and down) in a play eerily reminiscent of many a Martin Skoula misplay earlier this season.

Speaking of Skoula, he leaves last night's game quark-free -- or "quarkless" if you consider his recent collection of Up Quarks.  #41 made a couple of good plays last night, and also a couple of not-so-good plays, but nothing to stand out either way: all in all, a steady, solid and unspectacular performance (which is as acceptable as money in the bank when one's job is to be a defensive defenseman:)

Bottom Quark(s):  Once again, the Bottom Quark has to go to the refs.  The penalty calling wasn't as one-sided as the homer commentators made it out to be, but it was pretty close.  I kept waiting for the refs to move some of their marbles from one pocket to the other in order to balance out the weights a bit, but it never happened.  Just about everything that was called a penalty was legit, but the Avs sure got more than their share of the non-calls.  To their credit, at least the refs put their whistles away for the third period -- except for the call on Jones, which was too blatant to not call -- and let the players decide the outcome of the game for a change.

Strange and Charmed Quark(s):  No doubt about it, the OT goal calls for a Strange Quark and Charmed Quark.  The gods of hockey finally decided to cut the Wild a break on a touch-up icing play: after costing us the services of Kurtis Foster, a touch-up icing situation won the game for the good guys last night.  Not exactly a great exchange, but it's a start; the hockey gods still owe us some more love.

post-dramatic syndrones:

And in Kihnclusion:  What a huge win the for Wild!  The Avalanche will be in desperation mode tonight in an effort to avoid going down 3-1.  If Jacques Lemaire doesn't tighten up the defensive sphincters on our guys too much, the Wild should have plenty of chances to pot some early goals for a change.  Sakic and Forsberg looked totally gassed in OT last night, so even if the latter plays tonight, two of the biggest Wild killers will be at less than full speed.  If the Wild come close to duplicating last night's effort, the Avs will be making tee times for this weekend, and tonight's game will be the last hockey played at Pepsi Center until fall.  GO WILD!!!

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

If my wife to be or not to be is watching, if ya didn't want that circular saw for Valentine's Day, why so much talk about the sharp and powerful turning you on?  To the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, keep your stick on the ice, and remember: if it walks like a Duck and quacks like a duck but runs like a chicken, it's probably Ian Laperriere.

Category: NHL
Posted on: April 14, 2008 2:24 pm

Delayed Gratification (but worth the wait, eh?)

premature articulations:

One strange and funky result deserves another.  48 hours after the Minnesota Wild outplayed the Colorado Avalanche in every measurable category only to end up with a loss, the good guys even up the series in a game that was much more tightly Kihntested.  If either team had an edge in play Friday night, it was the Avs, but for once the gods of hockey smiled on the Wild and gave them a long overdue break.  Speaking of breaking stuff, it's time for the Warpy Quark awards.

dangling subatomic participles:

Top Quark(s):  It's hard to single out a play or player in this game for the top award, so we'll give a collective Top Quark to the Wild defensive corps.  The blueliners have done a much better than expected job of stepping up their play in the absence of Kurtis Foster and Nick Schultz.  On second thought, let's give the Top Quark to the Wild D, minus Sean Hill...

Up Quark(s):  Lots of Up Quarks to go around today.  Martin Skoula gets a huge call for another fine performance: for the second game in a row, he dang near grabbed solo possession of the Top Quark.  The mano a mano play in the third that ended with Skoula crunching his man into the boards was a thing of beauty.  His tattooing czech on another guy seconds later wasn't too shabby, either: the fans were plenty vocal in expressing their delight and approval.  Brent Burns gets an Up Quark for a fine, goal-saving poke check, and Petteri Nummelin gets one for continuing to create moves inside the faceoff dots in the offensive zone -- a commodity sorely lacking in the Wild offense lately.  Even (gasp) Kim Johnsson gets props for a well played game.

Down Quark(s):  The biggest downer I can think of is Sean Hill's bumbling misplay of Peter Forsberg on the first Avs goal.  It's easy to see why Jacques Lemaire lacks confidence in #6, even when the rest of the D is gasping for air: plays like the "should I take the man, should I play the puck, or should I just fall on my ass like a clown?" fiasco won't exactly convince J-L to increase his ice time any time soon.  Niklas Backstrom shot Skoula a quick, nasty glare for screening him at the worst possible time on that shot, but we'll give #41 a mulligan there because it's pretty hard to make anything decent happen when your defensive partner hangs you out to dry.

Bottom Quark(s):  No doubt about it: the refs have to get the Bottom Quark just on the basis of that incredibly godawful call against Kim Johnsson late in the game.  Replays clearly show Ryan Smyth diving for the loose puck, with his body almost parallel to the ice before Johnsson even attempts to lift Smyth's stick (Johnsson's aversion to any contact more intimate than stick checking has been well documented in earlier entries and posts..)  Bottom line is, that would've been a bad penalty to call at any point in the game, but was absolutely inexcusable with 1:09 left in regulation.  Luckily, the gods of hockey smiled on Keith Carney in overtime, otherwise the X would have turned into a complete zebra lynch mob.

Strange and Charmed Quark(s):  Strange Quark goes to Jacques Lemaire: can somebody tell me what Keith Carney did to justify all the time he's spent in the doghouse this year?  Granted, Carney has made his share of misplays -- including a few real dandies -- but other defenders playing a lot worse this season (*cough* Johnsson and Skoula) still keep getting all the ice time they can handle and then some.  Maybe the secret to piling up the Charmed Quarks and ice time in J-L's system is to keep playing worse.

post-dramatic syndrones:

And in Kihnclusion:  With two rounds in the books, the judges have this battle scored dead even on their cards.  Hopefully, the Wild will have enough time to get acclimated to the altitude before game time.  I never noticed the difference when driving on road trips to Denver, but flying out there is a whole different story.  It would be a bummer for the Wild to be on the slow side tonight because of the altitude factor, then have to try and muster up enough energy for the second half of the back-to-back tomorrow.  If the good guys can leave Denver with a split, we'll be in mighty good shape.  If the Wild win both games there, the Foothills golf course by Wheat Ridge (just off Wadsworth, if memory serves:) should be ready to accommodate the Avs and their fans all summer long.  GO WILD!!!

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

If my wife to be or not be is watching, "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" was your idea, so no, I can't explain how those bras and panties got into my suitcase.  For the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, keep your stick on the ice, and remember: the Procrastinators Anonymous meeting has been postponed until sometime after the tax deadline.

Category: NHL
Posted on: April 10, 2008 7:41 pm
Edited on: April 10, 2008 7:49 pm

Where's the Beef?

premature articulations:

Unreal.  The Minnesota Wild outplay, outskate, outhit and out-everything but score the Colorado Avalanche, and find themselves in a 0-1 hole.  For all the talk of Chris Simon or Derek Boogaard giving Ian Laperriere a free education in the unwritten code of hockey conduct, the Wild enforcers looked like the Charlestown Chiefs in the first period of their final game, playing "old time hockey" ala Reggie Dunlop before learning that NHL scouts are in the stands with contracts in their pockets.  The end result was not unlike getting a big burger, mostly bun.  All is not lost, though: the good guys played well enough to win more than their share of the next six games if they can duplicate last night's effort.

Speaking of good, bad and ugly, it's time for the Warpy Quark awards.

dangling subatomic participles:

Top Quark(s):  Jose Theodore almost singlehandedly won the game for the Avs in the first two periods.  The Wild threw a lot of rubber at him (some of the shots were even good, but more on that later) but couldn't get anything by him early.  Had they been able to do so, the fans would've blown the roof off the X, and the Avs would've gotten a case of tight sphincters worse than the Rockies did in last year's World Series.

Up Quark(s):  First Up Quark goes to the Avs offense for making the most of the handful of chances they got to light the lamp.  Martin Skoula gets an Up Quark for some superb defensive play (especially in in the first period) though he'll also get a Down Quark for some not so great play in the second.  Petteri Nummelin also gets an Up Quark for an admirable job filling in for Nick Schultz.  The gossip vine has #33 already signed to play in Europe next year, which is too bad because we could use all the help we can get on D for the next few seasons, unless Doug Risebrough pulls a monster trade out of some nether orifice.

Down Quark(s):  The Dildaphonic Duo strikes again.  Martin Skoula gets a downer for his defense (or lack therof) on Ryan Smyth's power play goal.  I'm not sure what he was trying to accomplish by standing motionless with his back turned to Smyth while the latter was camped in front of the crease (though it did make for a kinky looking sandwich).  Niklas Backstrom gets a delayed Up Quark for not going postal on #41, or at least saying to him "hey man, if you're not gonna defend this dude in front of me, how 'bout making yourself useful somewhere else?"  It's a shame this non-play ended up being so costly, because Skoula otherwise played an exceedingly good game.

Kim Johnsson (the other half of the Dildaphonic Duo, as if you didn't already know) gets the other downer for his lazy excuse of a defensive play on the first Avs goal: I haven't seen a lamer looking wave of the stick since a steroidless Rondell White batted cleanup for the Twins.  I've long since given up thinking that Johnsson will ever learn to play the man on defense -- though that shouldn't be asking too much for 4+ mill a year -- but you'd think the guy would at least try to get in a guy's way once in a while.  Nope, not Mr. "if I touch another guy, people will think I'm gay" Johnsson.

Bottom Quark(s):  No doubt about it: Jacques Lemaire has to get the Bottom Quark for last night's game.  It's safe to assume that J-L put the reins on Simon or Boogaard in the early going, thereby missing an opportunity to engage in some manly intimidation and show everyone who was boss.  The game plan of constant perimeter play also left a lot to be desired (if this wasn't the game plan, J-L still gets the Bottom Quark for not doing something about it).  I'm tired of seeing all of our speed players' talents being wasted with constant cycling on the back wall, with no bodies in front of the net to receive a pass even if all the cycling works.  Almost every time a Mark Parrish or Todd Fedoruk get in front of the crease, the Wild get quality scoring chances -- unfortunately, this sort of play seems to be the exception rather than the rule, at least judging by the amount of time I see the Wild with nobody inside the freaking faceoff dots while in the offensive zone.

Strange and Charmed Quark(s):  The officiating last night definitely calls for a Strange Quark.  The Wild must've had a Charmed Quark in their pockets, because the Marble Theory of penalty calling never quite kicked in to even out the power play chances.  Not that I'll ever complain when the good guys get to hog the power plays -- unless of course they decide to keep the puck along the sideboards even with the extra man, which appeared to be the strategy last night.

post-dramatic syndrones:

And in Kihnclusion:  Despite all the negativity of today's post, the Wild played a pretty darn good game last night: they dominated in every measureable category (even faceoffs, which is no mean feat against the Avs) except the scoreboard.  Way more often than not, a team who does this will also end up dominating the scoreboard, so if the Wild can play the next four or five games like they did last night, I love our chances.  GO WILD!!!

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

If my wife to be or not be is watching, String Theory is a Group of Lies.  For the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, keep your stick on the ice, and remember:  if you hear someone shout "that check's no good!" you're either at a cash-only establishment, or you're watching Kim Johnsson play hockey.

Category: NHL
Posted on: April 7, 2008 2:19 pm
Edited on: April 7, 2008 6:59 pm

"Mission Accomplished" Scoreboard: Wild 3, Bush 0

premature articulations:

The Minnesota Wild checklist:  1) Get into the NHL playoffs.  Check.  2) Win the division and get at least a #3 seed.  Completed -- on budget and ahead of schedule.  3) Utilize control of playoff destiny to let the Colorado Avalanche get the #6 seed, forcing the perennial Wild killing Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks to engage each other in the first round.  Once again, mission accomplished.  Boo-yah!!

The Bush administration checklist:  1) Win the war on terror.  Mission accomplished if you're on the side of the terrorists: George Dubya has done more to attract recruits to Al Qaida and boost their cause than Osama Bin Laden could possibly have dreamed of doing on his own.  New recruits can even get real, hands-on, live combat training at the expense of our troops thanks to this administration's uncanny ability to create new terror threats where none existed before 9/11.  Bin Laden may be one of the few people sad to see Bush go.

2) Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Way behind schedule, way over budget, and no end in sight.  Granted, the situation probably isn't as bad as the media here says it is, but it's probably close -- especially in areas with light US presence.  And to think that an administration official was asked to quit his job shortly after the war started for daring to think the war might cost up to $85 billion; Dubya's cherry picking cronies insisted the job could be done for about half that cost.  Great call.  Now it'll take at least three generations of taxpayers to pay for this administration's mistakes.

3) If Dubya didn't learn anything else from his old man, you'd think he'd at least remember: "it's the economy, stupid!"  The Republican tax cuts that were supposed to pump our economy into the stratosphere sure aren't working.  No doubt these are golden years for Fortune 500 executives and fat cats with stock in Big Oil, but most everyone else is waiting to see what good comes from anything touched by Bush's decision making.  Eight years later, most of us are still waiting.  Needless to say, most of us are also eagerly awaiting the chance to vote out any idiot in Washington who thinks that making Republican tax cuts (or anything else from this disatrous time in our history) permanent would be a good thing.

OK, enough of the politicking -- it's hockey time, which means another dose of the Warpy Quarky awards.

dangling subatomic participles:

Top Quark:  Pavol Demitra.  A couple of nice assists is just what the doctor ordered as the Wild head into the playoffs.  With Marian Gaborik showing signs of getting on a goal scoring roll, this is the perfect time for #38 to start heating up again.  Pav's defensive play hasn't been all that shabby lately, either.  Jacques Lemaire would be well advised to keep these boys together through the playoffs, and keep Todd Fedoruk out there with them to watch their backs when he's not setting up goalie screens.

Up Quark(s):  Gotta give local homeboy Mark Parrish a call for getting back into the lineup and doing what he does best: hanging around the crease, distracting goalies, taking a lot of punishment, and shoveling a garbage goal into the net.  Beautiful hockey!!  Fedoruk has also been making a habit of this style of play lately, and his recent increase in scoring is no coincidence.  If the Wild can get their other big guys to do the same, opposing goalies and defensemen will have to pay a lot more attention to them; this would effectively rob the other team of their ability to clamp down the defensive sphincters against our speed guys.  Watching film of yesterday's Red Wings game will give the good guys a free lesson on how to execute this style: the Wings almost always parked a guy in front of the crease once they got the puck in the offensive zone, and the Black Hawks had a miserable time of it all day long.

Down Quark(s):  There's not much to get down on when a game is as cleanly and well played as it was yesterday.  The closest candidate would be Josh Harding for letting in a couple of bad angle shots on the short side, but this could've been part of the master plan to let the Avs get the #6 seed without making it look too obvious:)  Harding did make several sharp saves on other scoring chances, so we'll give him a mulligan for yesterday's performance.  A Down Quark is also in order for the Wild's shootout techniques.  The shooters oughta watch how the Avs do it: make a quick move or two, pick a spot, and let 'er rip.  The longer one holds the puck and gets in tight, the more it favors the goalie to just plop into the butterfly and let the puck hit him somewhere.

Bottom Quark:  This game was about to go Bottom Quark-free until Ian Laperriere's Bush League antics in the final minute.  Even Claude Lemieux would've showed more class than that once a game no longer had anything at stake.  The Wild need to send a message to the Avs and the rest of the NHL early in the playoffs that cheap hits to skill players in violation of the unwritten Code of Conduct will result in a heavy penalty.  I can see Derek Boogaard and Chris Simon engaging in serious negotiations for the privilege of being first one to teach Laperriere the proper rules of etiquette.

Strange Quark:  The Wild get this one for making it look like they were trying to actually win the game yesterday.  When the Wild went up 2-1 and Harding started stonewalling everyone and everything in sight, I kept yelling "whaddya doing?!  You've gotta let a couple of those in, man!"  Luckily, all's well that ends well, and the game ended almost exactly according to the warped script (it wouldn't have hurt to win in OT just to throw in the proverbial exclamation point to the season) so the good guys also pick up the Charmed Quark.

post-dramatic syndrones:

And in Kihnclusion:  An OT win yesterday would've really put the Avs into a "we just can't beat these guys" funk.  Now, warped minds see the game going six fairly interesting games before the good guys prevail, whereas sticking the OT dagger in yesterday would've had 'em strugging to avoid an embarassingly boring sweep.  At any rate, it sure is nice to know that either the Sharks or the Flames will be history before round 2 kicks in.  GO WILD!!!

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

If my wife to be or not be is watching, that nice lady was just keeping your side of the bed warm for ya until ya got home.  Nothing more to it.  Honest.  Who are you going to believe?  Me, or your lying eyes?  For the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, keep your stick on the ice, and remember:  if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck but runs like a chicken, it's probably Ian Laperriere.

Category: NHL
Posted on: March 31, 2008 6:23 pm
Edited on: March 31, 2008 6:30 pm

Mission Accomplished

premature articulations:

And unlike the Bush administration, the Minnesota Wild have actually delivered some results to back up the phrase "mission accomplished".  A brilliant, boring 4-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks, coupled with a not-so-brilliant but solid nonetheless 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche, has the good guys sitting pretty in the Northwest Division.  Robtangle does better recaps than I do on the games themselves, so I'll go straight to the Warpy Quarky awards.

dangling subatomic participles:

Top Quark for Friday's tilt goes to Pierre-Marc Bouchard.  All this guy does is play great two-way hockey, tally a decent amount of goals, and dish out assists faster than Kobe Bryant.  The Wild would be wise to lock Butch in with a lengthy contract extension sooner rather than later -- losing him would be a big step backwards for the good guys.  Top Quark for yesterday's game goes to Marian Gaborik.  This is a good time to see #10 get his finishing touch back; those goals yesterday were beauties.  Gabby tends to score in bunches, so if he's hitting a hot streak now, nobody is going to relish facing the Wild in the first round.

Up Quarks go to the Wild defensive corps for making Niklas Backstrom's job a little easier on Friday -- that game was a far cry from last week's debacle at Edmonton when the D hung Backs out to dry early and often.  Up Quarks also to Brian Rolston for finding his shooting touch again.  After watching #12 miss the net for a week with his slapshots (not to mention watching the puck go all the way back to our end as a result) it was sweet to see him blow one by Jose Theodore yesterday, metallurgy save notwithstanding.  It was also good to see Rolston in the high slot putting away a rebound opportunity.  The Wild may finally be figuring out that good things happen to them when guys go for the net (or at least move around inside the faceoff dots in the offensive zone) rather than having three guys cycling along the boards while the point men grow roots under their skates.  If the Wild look at video from their home games against the Oilers and Canucks, they'll have a good idea of how to get the Flames out of their tight box defense on Thursday.

Bottom Quark has to go to Alexandre Burrows and Nathan McIver for thinking that engaging Gaborik and Bouchard would make them look like tough guys.  I have a lot of respect for the Nucks, but that performance was total, bush league imitation Ducks.  Kudos to Keith Carney and Brent Burns for having none of it, and Down Quarks to the linesmen for not letting Burnsie go to teach the boys some hockey manners.

post-dramatic syndrones:

Bottom line: as posted after the Wild laid their egg in Edmonton, the guys used up their mulligans in the division race and needed to take care of business at home.  So far, they're doing that in spades, and even getting a little help from other teams in keeping the Flames at bay.  Despite the game in hand, the Flames will need to run the table in order to overtake us now, so one more win (or even a one-pointer on Thursday) will drive the final nail into the division coffin, and cement the #3 seed for the good guys.  GO WILD!!!

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

If my wife to be or not be is watching, don't shoot the messenger, but "oxymoron" is not an acne treatment for blondes.  To the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, and remember: it's better to receive than it is to give, 'cause if you don't like what you receive, ya can always give it away.

Posted on: March 18, 2008 2:12 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2008 2:16 pm

Good Win, Good Timing

Can you say "cemented a playoff spot"?  Warped minds can, and soon, so will the Minnesota Wild.  The good guys continued their mastery over the Colorado Avalanche, picking up two colossal (we're talking behemoth) points.  Better yet, they didn't give one back by letting the game slip into overtime.  The guys sure didn't make it easy on themselves, but a win is a win.  The Wild thoroughly outskated, outhustled and outplayed the Avs for two periods, but only had a 2-1 lead to show for it.  They looked Kihntent to sit on the lead for the final stanza -- a strategy that has cost them an odd point here and there -- but in the end, the team that played better and deserved to win did indeed get the big W.  And now, it's off to the sub-atomic awards:

Top Quark has to go to Brent Burns, the no-brainer #1 star of last night's game.  Aside from the sweet shots that resulted in both Wild goals scored when the Avs had a netminder between the pipes, Burns made other nice shots, passes and defensive plays.  This guy just gets better with each passing month, and will be a total monster in two or three years (and will just be reaching his mid 20s for age).  Even now, Burnsie makes more than enough positive plays while he's on the ice to earn a mulligan or three for his occasional brain farts on defense.  A couple more seasons of tutoring under guys like Nick Schultz and Keith Carney will have fantasy players drooling at the thought of adding #8 to their teams.

Lots of Up Quarks to go around: my favorite one was Todd Fedoruk's fantastic screen on the first Wild goal.  It's a shame that Fedoruk can't be credited with an assist on the play, because poor Jose Theodore never had a chance.  Branko Radivojevic gets an Up Quark for the sweet deflection on the second Wild goal.  Branko doesn't provide a whole lot of opportunities for fans to give him props, so we've gotta strike while the iron is hot.  Another Up Quark goes to Martin Skoula, who continues to keep improving his game -- it's getting easier and easier to mistake him for an actual, serviceable defenseman these days.  Skoula's recent collection of Up quarks, combined with his previous collection of Down, Bottom, and Charmed quarks, should make for an interesting, Tau neutrino-like structure with Higgs Boson-like properties (cough, cough, hint, hint for those of you attempting to theorize about Dark Matter and/or Dark Mass, although thanks to the Bush administration's sphinctering of the science budget this year, it looks like the Europeans will rape all the benefits..)

The only Down Quark I can think of would have to go to Kim Johnsson.  After Skoula made a sweet check to staple his man into the boards on an Avs power play (he actually threw a few good hits around last night, which made me wonder all the more who was really in the #41 jersey) Johnsson not only failed to clear the puck when he had a chance, but also failed to defend any meaningful piece of ice for the next several seconds, effectively allowing Joe Sakic to set up a camping and picnic spot in the high slot.

Bottom line: the Wild picked up two badly needed points in the race for the division title.  Now it's off to the road for a brutal, four game stretch.  How brutal is it?  The way the Oilers have been playing lately, the Canucks game will probably be the "easiest" of the four.  Man, that's brutal!  On the bright side, if the good guys manage to pick up three or four points on the trip, they'll be nicely positioned to take advantage of friendlier five games at the end of the schedule.  GO WILD!!!

Category: NHL
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com