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: October 9, 2009 12:35 am
Edited on: October 9, 2009 12:37 am

Kim Johnsson Strikes Again..and again..and again

premature articulations:

Greetings, sports fans!  Warpy is trying hard not to turn this into the Official Kim "The Swedish Turnstile" Johnsson Haters blog, but it's getting harder and harder to do with every passing goal against.  #5 singlehandedly cost the Wild at least one point in the standings with his pathetic excuse for defense in Minnesota's regular season opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and his refusal to touch anybody in front of the net cost the Wild another goal in Tuesday's tilt against the Dirty Ducks of Anaheim.

As if that's not enough, The Master Of Hands-Free Defense has already doubled his GAA output in the first period alone in tonight's game against the Los Angeles Kings.  Needless to say, Johnsson has already cemented the Bottom Quark award tonight, so we might as well proceed directly to the Warpy Psychlotron.

dangling sub-atomic participles:

Top Quark(s):  A delayed Top Quark is in order for Martin Havlat after a fine performance in Tuesday's tilt against the Ducks.  Warped minds were too preoccupied with the Twins/Tigers classic to do more than watch the Wild game in fast-forward mode, but that was a heckuva Dome-mojo inspired comeback, eh?  Havlat looks like he's well on the way to another Top Quark in tonight's game, which is now just past the halfway point (with Johnsson The Dildaphonic One chipping in yet another helper for the Kings -- warped minds are surprised that se7en's hat didn't fly on the Staples Center ice to salute Kimmer's efforts:).

Up Quark(s):  Nick Schultz gets an Up Quark for just potting a PPG to cut the Kings' lead down to 4-2 (and he damn near just got another one a minute later).  Aside from his increased participation in the Wild offense, Schultz has been doing his usual unspectacular but utterly reliable work on the defensive end of the ice.

Down Quark(s):  Johnsson is playing so brutally that a Bottom Quark simply doesn't do justice to the debacle that Wild fans are being forced to witness this year -- Kimmer bags the daily double for quarks on the wrong side of the psyhclotron.

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 after each game.

Yep, the Five Million Dollar Salary Cap Boat Anchor strikes again.  Johnsson wasted no time going to his patented Swedish Pansy style of defense, assisting on the first Kings goal before the game was even two minutes old -- his lame excuse of a clearing pass went right on the tape of the Kings' point man, but Kimmer wasn't done yet -- he then proceeded to set up camp in front of the Wild net and do nothing to discourage Kings players from setting up a screen in front of Josh Harding.

The second Kings goal -- minutes later -- was basically a carbon copy of the first, minus the helpful pass.  Opposing scouts have an easy job: just tell players to get in front of the net any time #5 is out there, and watch the scoreboard light up like a Christmas tree.

The Master Of The Screen really outdid himself on the fourth Kings goal, bumbling in front of the crease in classic Martin Skoula style and tangling up Josh Harding's skates at the worst possible time.  Johnsson even displayed a new move on this goal -- since there were no Kings players setting up a screen in front of the net, good old #5 decided to go out there and do it himself.  GWAAAAAGGGH!!  If Johnsson is going to camp in front of the net and screen goalies, it would behoove Todd Richards to move him to forward and at least get him to help the right team.

Strange Quark(s):  It's refreshing to see Wild forwards finally throwing pucks at the net and getting guys down low to sniff around for rebounds, deflections, and the occasional garbage goal.  At the rate Johnsson is going, we'll need all the goals we can get just to stay in the game.

Charmed Quark(s):  The Wild power play is officially on fire; warped minds wonder if Coach Richards read my last blog entry and felt insulted by the comparisons between the Wild offense under Jacques Lemaire and the current "up-tempo" style displayed against the Blue Jackets.  All I know is, the good guys are buzzing the net enough now to bring a joyful tear to my eye.

The Invisible Higgs Boson Award(s):  The Pittsburgh Penguins appear to have found the ideal way to use Martin Skoula on their roster... ha hah.

post-dramatic sin drones:

And in Kihnclusion:  Kim Johnsson is officially a disgrace to the sport of hockey.  There's not much more to say (tho #5 is apparently tired of setting screens for the Kings now, and just decided to take a break in the penalty box...)  It's too bad the ref didn't tack on a 10 minute misconduct to keep him off the ice longer, but the Wild are buzzing the net again, so the outcome of this game may not yet be decided.  GO WILD!!!!!

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

If my wife to be or not to be is watching, the spread formation isn't just for football anymore.  To the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, and remember: if it ain't broken, you're not trying hard enough.  quando omni flunkus moritati

Posted on: February 1, 2008 2:06 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2008 3:27 pm

Boring is Good

Finally, the Wild win a game in cruising style, sparing the fingernails and blood pressures of edgy fans.  In some ways, the 5-1 win over the Ducks wasn't as impressive as it looks on paper.  In other ways, it was even more impressive.

Brian Rolston, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Mikko Koivu and Marian Gaborik all had nice performances, but my Warpy award for the game goes to Pavol Demitra.  Pav was all over the ice Wednesday night, setting up helpers on offense, and doing more than his usual share of coming back on defense.  Jacques Lemaire has got to be pleased with performances like this from his forwards.  Lemaire called out guys like Pav and Gabby a while back for their lack of two-way play -- a justified position in my book -- but if he's going to call them out in the press when they're not performing to expectations, he oughta be consistent and give 'em props in same media when they do respond with games like they've been playing recently.  Failing to do so will just make the tactic less effective next time he decides to push the same buttons.

The big Un-Warpy of the night goes to Kim Johnsson.  Johnsson did the impossible on Wednesday: making Martin Skoula look good.  Why Lemaire would pair the two worst defensemen on the team together as a tandem is beyond me.  Why he would do it when the Wild are already a man down is even more of a mystery.  Johnsson virtually singlehandedly cost Niklas Backstrom a shutout; his trademark turnover pass (on a penalty kill at that, and with plenty of time to clear the puck to boot) gave the Ducks a bonus minute of power play pressure with no chance to change players, and his poor positioning at the end of the shift gave Corey Perry an easy shot right in the slot.  The penalty killers were no doubt gassed by then, but they can thank #5 for robbing them of the chance to get fresh legs out there when the opportunity presented itself.  By default, that would make Lemaire eligible for a dishonorable mention award for insisting on giving Johnsson and Skoula Laurel and Hardy so much ice time.  One other Un-Warpy has to go to the Ducks for a singularly uninspired performance.  The guys clearly did not come ready to play hockey Wednesday night, and stayed flat-footed through most of the game.  Jean-Sebastien Giguere was the only Duck who showed any fire, and it took getting yanked from the game for him to do that.  The Ducks' lack of interest was no more apparent than in the final period, when they couldn't even work themselves up into a foul enough mood to engage in the usual chippy play and cheap shots they're known for when they get involved in a lopsided game.  To their credit, the Wild took advantage of the situation and gratefully collected two easy points in the standings.

Bottom line: the lethargic play of the Ducks makes the Wild victory less impressive than the 5-1 final would indicate -- it was far from the "perfect game" suggested in the papers.  On the other hand, the Wild only mustered up a couple dozen shots themselves, but managed to hit paydirt on five of them.  To put it in football terms, this was a fairly dull game where both teams had a handful of trips in the red zone, but the Wild cashed their trips in for touchdowns whereas the Ducks settled for one field goal on their drives.  The end result was a game decided by the halfway point.  I could get used to nice, boring wins -- boring is good.  Go Wild!!

Category: NHL
Posted on: January 22, 2008 2:47 pm
Edited on: January 22, 2008 2:54 pm

Two Good Efforts, One Good Win

What a game Friday between the Minnesota Wild and the Anaheim Ducks (or the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, or the Los Angeles Quacks of Anaheim, or whatever the heck they're calling themselves this month..)  These two teams are developing a lasting dislike for each other, so a physical game was expected, and the boys did not disappoint.  The bodies were flying, shoulders and hips were crunching, and the boards and glass were rattling from a night-long barrage of hard (but clean) checks that conjured up fond memories of hockey played the good, old rugged Canadian way, instead of the fru-fru European ice dancing stuff the NHL is trying to pass off as pro hockey these days.  Both teams gave as good as they got, and in the end, the better team won, though not by as much as the 4-2 score -- or the Pioneer Press article on Saturday -- would indicate.

Lots of Warpy Props awards to go around in this game.  Derek Boogaard made his return to the lineup in this game, and played exceedingly well while getting lots of ice time -- a lot more than expected.  Boogey did a fine job of creating havoc in front of the Ducks net and scored on a fine deflection midway through the first period, only to get jobbed out of his well-deserved marker by a bogus offside call from one of the linesmen.  Boogs threw his fair share of checks, including a real dandy late in the game, and did his part to keep the game civilized.  Props also go to Kurtis Foster and Keith Carney, who continue to demonstrate that they have no business being healthy scratches.  Carney's one-on-one defensive play late in the first period was a thing of beauty, and should be required viewing for anyone interested in learning the art of hockey defense.  I knew the guy was a good plus/minus player for the Wild, but didn't realize he was +162 for his career going into Friday's game.  Jacques Lemaire would have to be a total cementhead to even think of benching Carney again this season, with the possible exception of giving him some rest in the back half of consecutive games to keep his 37 year old body reasonably fresh.  The biggest Warpy props go to the two referees in this game.  The linesmen were awful, but the refs did an excellent job of letting the guys dictate their own play instead of whistling every little ticky-tack infraction.  The players responded by playing a physically tough but exceedingly clean game, which goes to show what an entertaining product the NHL can be when non-playing officials on and off the ice don't insist on screwing up the game.

The un-Warpy award goes to the linesmen in this game.  The offside call that negated the first Wild goal was pathetic.  Not only did the replays clearly show that the play had to have been onside, the linesman who made the call was on the opposite side of the ice and had no look at where the puck was at the time: he had nearly the exact same angle as the replay camera, where the puck wasn't visible at all, but the position of Kim Johnsson's stick blade made it obvious that no part of the puck -- let alone the whole pucking thing -- could've been over the blue line.  The same linesman also "advised" the ref to call a penalty on Marian Gaborik in the second period when the Wild were already a man short.  Gabby was clearly offside on that play, but was more likely yapping about what he thought of the first period offside call.  Presumably, the refs and linesmen have the same access to replays as everone else, and one would hope that the linesman in question took a look at the replay during the first intermission to see what all the booing was about: had he done so, he would've cut the Wild a little slack, but this was not to be the case.  Even the referee looked and sounded apologetic when calling the penalty on Gabby to put the Wild two men down; it was almost like he was saying "I'm only calling this one because I've been backed into a position where I've gotta go to bat for my linesman."

The bottom line: the linesmen did cost the Wild two goals, which was the final margin of the game, but it's hard to pin the Wild loss on them.  The Wild dug themselves a bit of a hole even without the linesmen's help, and could not quite dig their way out.  The red-hot Ducks were the better team, deserved the two points, and demonstrated the fact that they are Stanley Cup champions for a good reason. 



Robtangle's blog has a crisp, clean and complete recap of last night's game against the Vancouver Canucks, so I'll skip the details and go straight to the props, rants and raves.

Huge Warpy props to Pierre-Marc Bouchard for a brilliant performance last night.  It was cool to see the guy who does the best work grinding along the boards, and leads the team in assists -- no coincidence there -- get a chance to light the lamp a couple of times.  Honorable Warpys to Mikko Koivu for his fine goal plus stylish followup war whoop while passing the Canucks bench, and also to Niklas Backstrom for a rock-solid night in nets.

Not much in the way of un-Warpys in this game; the only one I can really think of is the reduced ice time for Boogey in this game, including a total disappearing act in the third period.  I'm not sure if Boogey's back prevented him from going much in this game, or if Lemaire just decided to deep-six his main physical threat against a team that needs an intimidator around to keep things civilized, but either way, it was kind of a letdown.

Bottom line: the Wild played another fine game last night.  Ironically, they probably played much better hockey Friday night against Anaheim than they did last night, but wound up on the good side of the 4-2 final score this time around.  It helps that their opponent last night wasn't a Stanley Cup champ team in the middle of a blazing roll -- the Wild made the Canucks look decidedly average, which is not easy to do on the road.  It won't get any easier tonight when the Wild go to Calgary to play the nemesis Flames with Iggy and company; they'll need to break out their A-game for this tilt.  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