That headline is much easier done than said after a martini and two manhattans. Once again, the Minnesota Wild got off to a lethargic start in the first period. Warped minds make that 4 for 4 in games where the Wild's first period passing is enough to make fans yearn for the sight of Gus Frerotte or Tarvaris Jackson on skates.
Unlike the other three games, however, the Wild kihntinued their sloppy passing in the second and third periods Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning outskated, outpassed, outshot and outplayed the Wild for virtually the entire game, but the good guys still managed to steal two points in the standings thanks to the following Warpy Quark award winners.
dangling sub-atomic participles:
Top Quark(s): It's hard not to give the Top Quark award to the goaltender when the team gets a shutout. Nicklas Backstrom made his share of good saves in regulation, and owes Eric Belanger a steak for flopping around the net like Tony Esposito on amphetamies in order to make two of the biggest saves of the night. Backstrom's performance in the shootout cements the top nod for the game. He got lucky on the second shot (after getting beaten cleanly through the five hole) but he read the other two shooters perfectly from start to finish, and never gave either one a decent look at a shot. If Backs makes a habit out of shootout performances like Saturday's, warped fans will take it easy on the chants for getting Josh Harding into games that develop a shootout flavor in the late stages.
Up Quark(s): It's also hard to find a lot of Up Quarks in a game that stays scoreless through overtime, but I'll throw in a couple of ups (which sounds better than "throwing up a couple of ins") and add Tomas Mojzis and Craig Weller to the obvious Antti Miettinen pick. I haven't seen Mojzis play enough to make a really informed evaluation of his play, but if he has more games like Saturday's performance, the pro shop may want to stock up on a few #6 jerseys. Ditto for Weller; as the TV commentators correctly pointed out (at least when they weren't trying to hype up the man love for Kim Johnsson) #12 threw some nice hits while he was out there.
Down Quark(s): There's not much to choose from in downers when the good guys pitch a shutout, but I've gotta give a call to Derek Boogaard here. I hate to get down on a wildly popular player like Boogey, but he's gotta start playing better hockey in order to justify a regular spot in the lineup. A newspaper article a couple of years ago quoted Boogey as sayting that he only sharpens his skates once or twice a year. The equipment manager may want to sharpen 'em more often whether #24 asks for it or not, because he seems to lose his balance every time there's contact involved. It would also be nice nice to see him create more havoc in front of the net.
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 later.
Actually, Skoula played quite well Saturday night -- by far his best game of the season so far. #41 still had his back to the action more often than I'd like to see (and this technique seems to be rubbing off on Nick Schultz and Kim Johnsson) but he was positioned better in this game than in the first three, and he even (*gasp*) threw his share of checks along the boards. There was nothing spectacular to his play, but if he gets into the habit of duplicating Saturday's performance, I'll forget about buying that minus-41 jersey with his name on it.
The half-hearted Bottom Quark goes to Brent Burns. Burnsie appears to be overly obsessed with coast to coast runs, possibly due to frustration of being paired with Skoula so much and having to watch his back. #8 would be better served to look for the good pass once he gains the zone, or else take a shot on net and get back to the point instead of making like a center. Warped minds suspect it'll be quite some time before we see Burnsie's name again in this sector of the Warpy continuum.
Strange Quark(s): The Wild power play definitely gets the strange call for this game. After being nearly unstoppable in the first three games, the Wild failed to capitalize (or even threaten) on several early chances to get a good head start against the Lightning. The only power play that saw any sustained pressure was the 4 on 3 overtime situation.
Charmed Quark(s): One has to wonder if TV and newspaper hockey analysts have been visiting Warpyland for puck insights. From almost the first drop of the puck this season, the Dildaphonic Duo of Skoula and Johnsson have been getting far more than their share of man love. It seem like every time one of 'em doesn't screw up, somebody's hollering "what a play by Johnsson!" or "there goes Skoula with another physical play!"
post-dramatic sin drones:
And in Kihnclusion: Not the best of wins by the Wild, but those extra points in the standings will sure come in handy when the playoff calculators start heating up in March. Next up for the good guys is a Thursday tilt against the Buffalo Sabres. One of my drinking buddies is a former Sabre from Fort Erie, ON, so the trash talk will no doubt be flowing as freely as the Labatts and the Windsors. GO WILD!!!
...and now, a word from our spawn's heirs...
If my wife to be or not to be is watching, my philatelic interest in Phildaelphia has nothing to do with philandering. To the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, keep your stick on the ice, and remember: the sooner you fall behind, the more time you will have to catch up.