Posted on: February 23, 2009 1:43 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2009 1:47 pm

Detroit Red Wings get Schooled by Skoula

premature articulations:

Just when warped minds were ready to stick a fork in the Minnesota Wild's playoff chances this year, the good guys decide to start playing 60 minutes of hockey per game, picking up an impressive 5-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings, then backing it up the next day with a 2-1 against the Chicago Blackhawks -- in a building where visitors seldom find themselves in the win column.  I didn't see yesterday's game against the Blackhawks, so the Warpy Psychlotron will concentrate its efforts on Saturday's tilt against the Wings.

dangling sub-atomic participles:

Top Quark(s):  This one's a close call between Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Owen Nolan, but we'll give the Top Quark nod to Nolan for his two goal effort with an assist thrown in for good measure.  Bouchard and Nolan are starting to get some serious chemistry going, and they seem to have a good sense for where the other is on the ice.  Butch's pass to Nolan on the first goal was a thing of beauty, and Nolan returned the favor in the second period, springing Butch on a breakaway pass after playing some nifty D to get possession of the puck.  Yo, Lemaire, it's amazing what players can do when ya leave 'em on this same line for more than a few shifts, eh?

Up Quark(s):  Pierre-Marc Bouchard definitely gets a huge Up Quark for yet another muliple point performance.  Niklas Backstrom also gets an Up Quark for his fine play in nets Saturday night.  No doubt about it: despite the 5-2 final score, the Red Wings had the better of the offensive play for large chunks of the game, and Backstrom had to be sharp and use his head (literally) to keep Wings at bay.  The Wild's defensive unit (including forwards like Eric Belanger and Mikko Koivu) gets a collective Up Quark for clogging up passing and shooting lanes in our zone, and blocking many shots that would've otherwise caused Backstrom many more headaches.

Down Quark(s):  It's hard to find much in the way of downers when the good guys turn a sure loss into two unexpected points in the standings, but warped minds have to make a Down Quark call on Stephane Veilleux for his mostly invisible play this year.  The few times Veilleux gets the puck in a good shooting position, he either misses the net badly, or else holds the puck too long to make any meaningful play on offense.

Bottom Quark(s):  In order to cut down on the amount of typing I'll need to do on further entries, I might as well put Kim Johnsson's name here on a permanent basis, and fill in the needed details later.  The Swedish Salary Cap Boat Anchor plays "defense" as if he's afraid people will think he's gay if he's seen touching another guy.  The closest thing Johnsson does to "checking" is the occasional sticking out of the arm or stick, which forwards easily skate through on their way to the net while #5 gets spun around like a five million dollar turnstile.

Actually, Johnsson played a halfway decent game Saturday.  He even (gasp) checked someone into the boards, which is virtually unheard of.  If Nick Schultz hadn't been observed wearing the #55 jersey, I would've sworn that he decided to wear #5 for a night.  The real Bottom Quark for Saturday goes to Brent Burns.  His continuing putrid defensive play was in form again on the first Red Wings goal: just like many of Martin Skoula's godawful plays earlier this season, Burnsie couldn't decide whether to defend the guy with the puck beind the net or defend the guy in front of the net waiting for the centering pass, so he chose to defend neither.  Needless to say, when the Wings made the centering pass, #8 could do nothing but spin around like a Swedish turnstile, bumble around looking for the puck between his skates, then obstruct Backstrom from a chance to cover the puck; he looked like Skoula and Johnsson rolled into one on that play.  And Jacques Lemaire presumably noticed that this whole play started out with Burnsie pinching in on offense at an ill-advised time and giving the Wings an odd man rush.

Strange Quark(s):  50% of Martin Skoula's goals in a Wild uniform have come against the Detroit Red Wings.  Obviously, the Wings have no answer for #41, so they would be well advised to pick him up before the trade deadline; Skoula could be the final missing link to a Red Wings Stanley Cup repeat.  If the Wings don't trade for Skooly, and end up doing their trademark "President's Trophy followed by a first round playoff exit" routine, expect warped minds to say "we told ya so." Laughing

Charmed Quark(s):  Was that an octopus I saw flying toward the ice right at the end of the game?  I was watching the game on the big screen TV at the local watering hole so we only got a fleeting glimpse, but warped minds have seen enough flying cephalopods during Wings playoff games to recognize the flying octopus shape when they see one, and this sure looked like the same shape:)  If it was indeed a flying ock, I hereby tip my hat to the warped mind who chucked it -- although the best time to throw it would've been during the cellie after Martin Skoula's goal.

The Invisible Higgs Boson Award(s):  At the rate things are progressing, the Europeans will fire up their Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and disCERN the real Higgs particle before Marian Gaborik is seen in skates again.  It's enough to make warped minds fire up their THC (that would be "titanic hadron collider", in case your twisted mind was thinking about chemistry instead of physics...)

post-dramatic sin drones:

And in Kihnclusion:  The Wild still have a brutal stretch of games in order to hang on to playoff contention, but at least now they're on the inside looking out, instead of the other way around.  Next up is a home gimmie against the Lost Angeles Kings, who gave us a pretty good spanking last time I said something to this effect, but I like our chances better this time around.  GO WILD!!!

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

If my wife to be or not to be is watching, the butterfly position isn't just for goalies anymore, ya know.  To the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, and remember: if at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.

Category: NHL
Posted on: January 7, 2009 8:15 pm
Edited on: January 8, 2009 4:40 pm

Gaborik, Schmaborik. Who Needs Gaborik?

premature articulations:

The Minnesota Wild are certainly doing fine without Marian Gaborik these days.  Just when it looked like Gabby was going to return to the lineup and possibly play well enough to establish some semblance of market value, the knifeman cometh and finisheth off what's left of his career with the Wild.

Minnesota started off like gangbusters early in the season (when they knew they'd be without Gabby's services for a while), and they have gotten on another roll after finding out that #10 wouldn't be in the lineup any time soon.  As a warped matter of fact (technically, I guess all matter would be somewhat warped if you believe in String Theory, but we digress...) the only time the Wild hit a major slump was around the time it looked like Gaborik would be ready to play.  Coincidence?  To find out, it's time to fire up the Warpy Quark psychlotron:

dangling sub-atomic participles:

Top Quark(s):  Niklas Backstrom, Owen Nolan and Josh Harding get Top Quark honors for their brilliant play in recent games.  Backs is riding a two game shutout streak heading into Thursday night's tilt against Jeff Carter and the high scoring Flyers.  Josh Harding played lights out against the Red Wings on Saturday, and would've had a chance to pitch a shutout of his own with better defensive support in front of him (more on this later).  Warped minds thought Doug Risebrough was making a big mistake when he inked Olden Nolan to a two year deal during the offseason, but he is beginning to prove the Warped One pleasantly wrong.  Considering some of Dougie's moves (and lack thereof) over the last year or so, Nolan might end up being the last decent move that Wild fans see for quite some time.

Permanent Top Quark(s):  Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding, Mikko Koivu.  If Jacques Lemaire would quit giving his two worst defensemen (Johnsson and Skoula, a.k.a. The Dildaphonic Duo) the highest amount of ice time every game, the Vezina Trophy would be all but cemented in our favor already.  Koivu continues to be the best offensive player on the team, and is also one of the better -- if not the best -- defenseman on the team to boot.

Up Quark(s):  Cal Clutterbuck continues to impress with his hard nosed and physical play.  #22 obviously likes to finish his checks every chance he gets, and yet hits cleanly enough so even Roger Goddell would have trouble finding an excuse to impose any discipline.  It's safe to say that Clutterbuck has seen the last of Houston, at least as far as playing hockey goes.

And since it might be a while before we have an excuse to praise Marek Zidlicky again, a big Up Quark is in order for his sweet slap shot goal against the Bruins last night.  Nolan and Brunette provided enough screening action so that Manny Fernandez never had a chance.  After blogging incessantly about the benefits of having guys like Mark Parrish, Aaron Voros, Todd Fedoruk and Derek Boogaard hanging out in front of the net and making trouble, perhaps Owen Nolan is finally paving the way for the current cast of characters to pick up their goal scoring.  One can only hope that Marc-Andre Bergeron was watching the game and taking notes -- something to the effect of "memo to self: good things happen when your shots quit missing the net" could pay handsome dividends later.

Permanent Up Quark(s):  Nick Schultz, Brent Burns.  Schultz continues to play his usual, solid if unspectacular (and borderline invisible) style of defense.  Burns adds some good offensive gusto to the blue line.  Both guys will throw regular checks at opponents in their zone, which is more than I can say for most of the other Wild defensemen.  Both would have profited immensely from another year of experienced tutoring courtesy of Keith Carney.

Down Quark(s):  There's not much to get down on when the good guys are bagging se7en out of a possible eight points, but a Down Quark has to go to the hosers in the Toronto replay room for jobbing the Wild out of a well deserved win against the Wings.  Only one angle showed the puck possibly below the crossbar, and that one was taken from a camera a couple dozen rows above the ice; not exactly the most reliable angle with which to make a conclusive judgement.  All other angles were too close to call, so the ref's call on the ice -- an immediate and emphatic wave-off that drew nary a peep from the Wings -- had no business being reversed.

Permanent Down Quark(s):  Pierre-Marc Bouchard.  Man, is this guy having a brutal season!  #96 is still doing a decent job of helping out on the defensive end of the ice, but his shooting has been nonexistent, and his passes are being stroked with all the confidence and authority of 1967 original North Stars alumnus Mike McMahon lining up a four foot putt.  The major difference is that Mikey is typically on target or thereabouts on his putts, whereas Butch's passes look more like Martin Skoula turnovers in slow motion.  To say that Bouchard's play has been disappointing would be a gross understatement; it'll take a pretty impressive turnaround for him to get into the Warpy penthouse.

Bottom Quark(s):  In order to reduce the amount of typing I'll need to do on future entires, I'll just plug in Martin Skoula's name here on a permanent basis, and insert the needed details below as needed.

Yep; that worked.  Just when I was about to remove Skooly from the Permanent Bottom Quark list -- after witnessing a string of games where #41 upgraded his play from brutal to mediocre (with even some flashes of *gasp* quality play) -- the Master of Minus is deciding to play like his old self again.  The first Detroit goal on Saturday was vintage Skoula: facing the wrong way and defending an unused plot of ice while the opponents enjoy a field day behind him.  The second goal was almost as good: Skooly standing by the left goal post and doing his usual impression of a dog visiting a fire hydrant, making no effort to remove anyone who might be interested in parking himself in front of the goalie.  Nick Schultz's reaction, shown on the replay, was priceless: having been knocked to the ice (while trying to actually defend someone), Schultz looks up at Skoula and sticks one hand up in a semi-shrug motion, as if to say "WTF are ya doing over there?!"

Permanent Bottom Quark(s):  Martin Skoula, Kim Johnsson, Marek Zidlicky, Marc-Andre Bergeron.  The Dildaphonic Duo of Skooly and Kimmer have some company.  The addition of Zidlicky (a.k.a. "my defense looks like a cross between Skoula and Johnsson") turns the duo into a terrible trio, or perhaps the European Triangle.  Throw in Bergeron (a.k.a. "master of missing the net and whiffing on checks") and we have a four-sided trapezoid of terror whenever the puck enters our zone: henceforth, The Crapezoidal Quartet.

(new) Higgs Boson award for invisibility:  Marian Gaborik clinches this one.  At the rate things are going, Europe's Large Hadron Collider will get fired up and detect the real Higgs particle before Wild fans detect Gabby's presence again.  Warpy will be rolling out his THC (that's Titanic Hadron Collider, as if you didn't know:) to try and disCERN further information here.

Strange Quark(s):  It appears that Jacques Lemaire needs to have at least one whipping boy in his doghouse at all times, and it looks more and more like Erik Reitz is now the unlucky guy.  Personally, I think he's one of the better defensemen on the team; he's basically the only blueliner not named Schultz or Burns who is willing to throw a check once in a while.  But for some reason, he festers on the bench (or in street clothes) while the Crapezoidal Quartet get all the ice time they can handle, and then some.

Charmed Quark(s):  No doubt about it: the Dildaphonic Duo must have some serious dirt on Lemaire in order to stay out of the doghouse, not to mention the 20+ minutes of ice time they keep logging game in and game out.  Does anybody out there have a logical explanation as to why these clowns get all the minutes while more competent defensemen sit on the bench?

post-dramatic sin drones:

And in Kihnclusion:  The Wild are definitely on a roll, which is a darn good thing considering the strength of their schedule lately.  Next up is a tough matchup against the Flyers, followed by a breather (relatively speaking) in Columbus.  The way the Wild were playing a couple of weeks ago, it's safe to say that most fans were thinking "boy, the guys are in for one helluva a beating in January" but now that the Kim Johnsson captaincy giveth way to the return of Captain Koivu, suddenly the words "yes, we can!" look realistic after all.  GO WILD!!!

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

If my wife to be or not to be is watching, who are you going to believe?  Me, or your lying eyes?  To the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, keep your stick on the ice, and remember: nothing mixes tangled robs like hockey and politics.

Category: NHL
Posted on: November 21, 2008 8:11 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2008 8:18 pm

Vancouver Canucks: 2008/2009 NWDivision Champions

premature articulations:

It's looking like at least one Warpy preseason prediction will pan out: the Vancouver Canucks winning the NW division crown this season.  With the likes of Todd Bertuzzi and Matt Cooke long gone, it's getting harder for this Wild fan to muster up sufficient hatred for the Nucks.  These days, the team earns too much respect from the Warped One for playing the exact style of hockey that the Wild would do well to imitate: a style that would make far better use of the players we have on hand than Jacques Lemaire's current style of cycling the boards all night long.  But speaking of cycling, enough with the jabbering, eh?  It's time to fire up the Warpy Quark psychlotron:

dangling sub-atomic participles:

Top Quark(s):  No decision making needed for this one: Mikko Koivu gets top honors for his scintillating performance last night.  Aside from the obvious reason that #9 deserves the top call for his two goals, warped minds can't help but comment on Koivu's excellent defensive play in last night's game.  I swear, that guy is all over the place every time he steps on the ice, and at least a couple of Wild defensemen owe Mikko a big steak dinner for making them look good.

Up Quark(s):  Cal Clutterbuck continues to impress with his hard nosed and physical play.  #22 obviously likes to finish his checks every chance he gets, and yet hits cleanly enough so even Roger Goddell would have trouble finding an excuse for fines or suspensions.

Antti Miettinen gets a call for being a prominent factor in the Wild's offense again after a few games of relative invisibility.  And Derek Boogaard gets an Up Quark for his active participation in the offensive zone last night.  Boogey is only a few stickhandling and shooting pointers short of fulfilling another warped preseason prediction: getting three goals this season (which fans are strongly encouraged to honor with a shower of hats on the ice:)

Last but not least, the Canucks power play gets a collective Up Quark for executing the very PP style I wish the Wild would use: namely, getting more traffic in front of the net and stretching the penalty killers' sphincters to the limit.  The Red Wings are masters of what I call the "crumpled box" power play method: any time the PP starts setting up in the offensive zone, they'll have at least one player making trouble in front of the cage.  This forces a defender to engage him (unless they want to let him take a free shot from the low slot) which in turn takes the PK out of its standard box formation.  More often than not, the PP goal will come from a bang-bang play that starts right at the spot vacated by the penalty killer forced to engage the man in front.  As a free bonus, the goalie now has two guys in front of him, setting up even more chances for rebounds and deflections.

The Nucks are by far the second best team I've seen when it comes to this effective style of offense.  It doesn't take a scorer of Marian Gaborik or Sidney Crosby's skills to collect garbage goals in front of the cage, so the crumpled box technique would be huge help to a team that is short on goal scorers (*cough*) like ours.  Better yet, this strategy would also deliver more scoring chances when playing five on five, which has been another Wild weakness.

Down Quark(s):  Martin Skoula didn't quite play badly enough to merit the Bottom Quark, but #41 sure looked like his old self out there last night.  In addition to a couple of gaffes that nearly led to goals which would've created an instant lynch mob of 18,000+ waiting for him after the game, Skooly did his usual fine job of making a bee line to the left goal post and striking his trademark "dog by the fire hydrant" pose, effectively allowing the Nucks player he just abandoned to dish off a dandy game winning assist.

Kim Johnsson played his usual "allergic to physical contact" game, so it looks like the Dildaphonic Duo may be back.

Bottom Quark(s):  In order to reduce the amount of typing I'll need to do on future entires, I'll just plug in Martin Skoula's name here on a permanent basis, and insert the needed details below as needed.

Yep; that worked.  See "Down Quarks" above for the details.

Other permanent members on the bottom sector of the Warpy kihntinuum: Marek Zidlicky and Marc-Andre Bergeron.

Yep; this is saving me lots of typing indeed.  After a string of good games, Zidlicky played down to a level that remind warped brains exactly why #3 received a permanent Bottom Quark in the first place.  Both he and Bergeron spent most of last night playing the gentlemanly game of waiting for defenders to get in position for blocks before attempting a shot on goal.  Worse yet, when they actually did decide to shoot the damn rock, they missed the net at the worst possible times, effectively killing any chance at a late tying goal.

Strange Quark(s):  In addition to more scoring punch, the Wild will also definitely need to add some serious muscle to the lineup.  What does it say about a team's toughness when Erik Reitz leads in penalty minutes??  Nothing against Reitz as a player -- heck, he's one of the few defensemen not named Nick Schultz who's willing to throw a check once in a while -- but he ain't no Muhammad Ali, brothas.

Charmed Quark(s):  After watching the Nucks execute their power play, warped minds wonder how the heck the Wild are managing to keep their lofty PP ranking.  I swear, the only time the Wild have someone in front of the net on a regular basis is when there's a big scrum for the puck along the side boards or back wall.  Since the chances of someone delivering a clean centering pass in this situation is closer to nil than your typical European soccer game, I dunno what's up with this.

Worse yet, as soon as a Wild player does gain some degree of control over the puck, there's suddenly nobody home in front of the cage.  Earth to Wild forwards: go to the front of the net when the puck actually has some chance of getting to you.  The Wild did get a couple of nice tip attempts from Miettinen last night, but time and again it seems like the more scoring chances they generate by making trouble in front of the net, the less interested they get in doing so.  It sure is frustrating to see the Canucks play the Wild game to near perfection.

post-dramatic sin drones:

And in Kihnclusion:  Despite all the negativity today, the good guys have actually played pretty well over the last week.  The Wild have more than their share of games at home this month, and also get more than their share of resting days between games.  Better yet, we have enough creampuffs (like the Blues game tomorrow) sprinkled into the schedule for a while so fans won't have to worry about any losing streak lasting too long.  The schedule does even out later in the season (with a brutal final month that'll see the Wild playing mostly road games against top shelf teams) so hopefully, the good guys will fatten up now and pile up all the points they can.  GO WILD!!!

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

If my wife to be or not to be is watching, I'll have a good alibi for you by the time I get home.  To the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, keep your stick on the ice, and remember: I'm pulling for ya; we're all in this together.

Category: NHL
Posted on: October 14, 2008 1:33 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2008 2:44 pm

Wild Offense Overcomes Bruins--and Martin Skoula

premature articulations:

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.

post-dramatic syndrones:

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.

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