First order of business is to hand out the Warpy Quarky awards for the recent Minnesota Wild games.
A Top Quark goes to Josh Harding for his stellar performance against the St. Louis Blues. Niklas Backstrom might be a little better goalie in the overall scheme of things, but Harding is a real monster when it comes to shootout time. Speaking of shootouts, the Brent Burns goal was a real thing of beauty, definitely worthy of a Top Quark. For once, the TV commentators don't go overboard in their homerism when they talk about the blossoming skills he keeps bringing to the table. A final Top Quark goes to Pierre-Marc Bouchard for his continuing two-way excellence. Martin Skoula owes Bouchard a big steak dinner for bailing him out late in Sunday's game; Skoula was about to cough up the puck in front of the crease with another one of his patented Bozo plays, but #96 swooped in to cover his back and take the puck out of harm's way.
Up Quarks go to Nik Backstrom for reverting back to the rock-solid play that Wild fans have grown accustomed to, and to Nick Schultz for his usual steady, solid and physical defensive play. Martin Skoula gets the Down Quark for playing the puck instead of man in the third period against the Dallas Stars, allowing Niklas Hagman to undress him with the move that potted the only goal of the game. The main reason Skoula doesn't get a Bottom Quark for his bumbling play in this game is that it's hard to pin the loss on one defenseman when the entire offense lays a goose egg for the game. Skoula's play has also improved enough over the last few weeks (I can't believe I just said that:) to take him out of the warped doghouse -- his play has gone from godawfully brutal to downright mediocre, leaving Kim Johnsson as the prime candidate to accumulate a string of Bottom Quark Warpys in the near future.
The Bottom Quark goes to the officiating crew for Sunday's Red Wings tilt against the Ducks. There were enough bad calls in both directions to keep everyone in a foul mood, but the Wings got the royal hose job on that non-goal in the final seconds. As much as I still detest the Wings for their Rent-A-Campbell-Conference-All-Star
building buying a Stanley Cup championship team, they got shafted big time on that call. That would give the Charmed Quark to the Anaheim Ducks for picking up a gift extra point in the standings. Come to think of it, the Ducks have been on a charmed run for quite some time now, between all the non-calls and wimpy suspensions their players get wrist-slapped with after engaging in their goon tactics.
The Strange Quark has to go to Brian McNamee and Roger Clemens for their whole sordid affair (and to Congress for wasting its time investigating same). On second thought, I should give Congress an Up Quark for this -- the more time they waste on baseball's problems, the less time they'll have to screw up the economy, the deficit, Iraq, Afghanistan, and all the other wonderful legacies of the Bush administration. It's revealing to note that the Clemens camp is questioning what McNamee was doing hanging on to needles, vials and gauze pads all this time -- one would expect an innocent man to demand a DNA test on said items to exonerate him once and for all, but the Rocket Team appears content to take shots at the character and intentions of his former trainer, rather than trying to find out whose DNA is on the stuff or how it got there. Hmmmmmm...
quando omni flunkus moritati