Greetings, puckheads! Since the Wild offense decided to take the last two games off, I'll take the usual preamble off and go straight to the Quark awards.
Top Quark in the Wild/Canucks tilt has to go to Nicklas Backstrom. The Wild weren't dominated in the first period as much as the shots on goal and the papers would suggest, but they were dominated by that much (and then some) in the second. Yet somehow, the Wild managed to lead 2-1 going into the third. Backstrom singlehandedly stole a point for the good guys, and might've gotten away with grand theft of two points with some better defense late in OT. Up Quarks go to the Nucks, particularly the trio of Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Markus Naslund, who always seem to find a way to torment the good guys.
Down Quarks go to the Wild offense for spending too much time with the puck along the boards Branko Radivojevic style, instead of getting bodies in front of the net Mark Parrish style to make life more difficult for opposing goaltenders. The Bottom Quark goes once again to Martin Skoula. I was ready to write off the Nucks OT goal as a well executed tic-tac-toe play and give Skoula a mulligan, at least until seeing the replays. What the hell kind of defenseman parks himself next to the left goalpost, straddling the goal line with one skate on either side of it, facing the net, with his back to the action while Naslund and the Sedins are going to town in our zone? #41 seems to have hit on a new way to play defense; instead of defending a worthless piece of ice like he usually does, he has now taken to defending no piece of ice. Earth to Skoula: Backstrom can cover the net just fine by himself; you're not doing any good there. How 'bout turning around to see what you're missing, and maybe try defending the dudes who like to shoot from six feet in front of the net -- ya know, that spot ya keep abandoning in order to go hump/smoke the goalpole?
Skoula also gets the Strange and Charmed Quarks for that game, making for the first Warpy hat trick. It's strange that Jacques Lemaire keeps giving this guy as much ice time as he does, especially in late game situations. I guess some guys just lead a charmed life.
Nikolai Khabibulin sweeps the Quarkys for the Wild/Blackhawks game last night. A 38-shot shutout definitely calls for the Top and Up quarks, and he was definitely charmed, judging by all those strange metallurgy and facial saves.
Bottom line: Definitely a downer for the Wild, who missed out on a normally easy two points against these guys. On the plus side, the Wild get a series of creampuff opponents* after Sunday's Flames game, and will thus have a chance to pile up some points before finishing with divisional tilts in 9 of the last 10 games. Go Wild!!!