Posted on: February 13, 2011 4:30 pm

And the Hottest NHL Team in 2011 is...

premature articulations:

Those on the east coast would say the Philadelphia Flyers, with an honorable mention to the resurging New Jersey Devils.  Those on the west coast would say the Vancouver Canucks.  No doubt about it, all three of those teams have rung in the new year with an impressive bang.  But while the bi-coastal media focus on their own shorelines, the Minnesota Wild continue to sneak in under the proverbial radar, and are quitely tied for tops in the NHL for 2011 with 13 wins.

It's been a busy year for warped minds, with not a lot of time for blogging (or posting on the new "improved" CBS site and its formatless ways) but for one glorious day, it's time to fire up the Warpy Psychlotron and send some quarks flying.  The following quarks are for the season to date.

dangling sub-atomic participles:

Top Quark(s):  Cal Clutterbuck is the obvious choice here.  #22 showed some scoring mojo last season, but I seriously doubt anyone expected him to be the team's top goal scorer this late into the season.  Cal has a nice, quick release on his wristers and snappers, which serves to catch goalies off guard when defending against a pass-happy team.

And the best part is, all this scoring has come without any loss in the physical play that makes Clutterbuck such a fan favorite at the X.  Cal continues to drive opponents crazy, but as the local homer commentators correctly point out, he manages to agitate in a clean, civilized way rather than resorting to bush league tactics like the Matt Cookes and Sean Averys of the world.

Other Top Quarks go to the guys between the pipes.  Since day one of the franchise, the Wild have been blessed with more than their share of good goalies, and this year is no exception.  After an iffy streak where Niklas Backstrom actually looked mortal, Backs has returned to being the goaltending machine that fans have come to know and love.  Jose Theodore stepped up big time in Nik's absence, and continues to play rock solid nets.

Backstrom and Theodore make for such a potent duo that it's easy to forget we still have Josh Harding (a backup who is arguably as good as half the starters in the league, and on the verge of returning to the roster to boot) as well as Anton Khudobin, who has once again proven himself NHL ready.  Talk about an embarrassment of riches!

With several teams looking for help in nets, expect Chuck Fletcher to dangle a goalie or two out there before the trade deadline.  I'd hate to see Theodore go, but frankly, I don't us getting a lot of scoring value for Harding right now, so Jose may be the odd guy out.  I just hope we get some good scoring oomph in return: the Tampa Bay Lightining can attest to the value of having a former Wild netminder on their team, so hopefully Mr. Fletcher will keep the price tag high, and more hopefully, make a deal with someone in the Eastern Conference so we don't have to worry about getting stonewalled in the playoffs.

Up Quark(s):  In no particular order, Up Quarks go to #24 Martin Havlat, #9 Mikko Koivu, #6 Marco Scandella, #15 Andrew Brunette, #4 Clayton Stoner and last but not least, #5 Greg Zanon.

Havlat has shown signs of becoming the sniper we expected to see when he joined the Wild, and he also does good work along the boards in the offensive zone.  Frankly, I'd like to see him spend less time on the boards and spend more time in front where he can receive centering passes from the other three or four guys who insist on constantly cycle-jerking the puck behind the net, but more on that later.

Koivu isn't putting up the scoring numbers that one would expect from the a face of the franchise top line center, but warped minds continue to notice his stellar play in the defensive zone: #9 is arguably one of the best defensemen on the team, so I'll never figure out why Jacques Lemaire had such a hard-on for Kim Johnsson and Martin Skoula without giving Mikko some love.

It's hard to believe Bruno has surpassed the 1,000 game mark; he looks and plays like he's good for several more years.  Move over, Nicklas Lidstrom; there's another ironman in da house.

Scandella has been a pleasantly huge surprise on what is turning out to be a suddenly solid blue line corps.  And #5 sure as hell looks better on Z than it does on that other guy who used to wear it...  Frankly, I'd like to see our D-men spend more time blocking shooters instead of blocking shots by the crease (our goalies are quite capable in that area) but it's hard to argue with success.  Then again, it's a lot easier on the body to cover the shooter farther out and use a stick to deflect shots into the netting than it is to risk taking a puck in the family jewels.

Stoner gets a shout-out for his prowess when the gloves come off.  I'm not sure how he managed to get in Todd Richards' doghouse earlier this season, but with injuries forcing him into the lineup, he has proven to be a reliable if unspectacular defender, and he appears to be more handy with the fists than Brad Staubitz (as David Backes and the St. Louis Blues just found out the hard way)

And one final Up Quark shout has to go to coach Todd Richards.  Remember all that crazy talk earlier about his job possibly being in jeapordy?  Neither do I; it's about as memorable as anything that comes out of Michele Bachmann's mouth, eh?

Down Quark(s):  More shooting from guys like Havlat, Koivu and Antti Miettinen would be nice.  Lacking true scorers like Gaborik and Demitra of previous seasons, this is a team that needs to go into lunch pail mode and go for more garbage goals (hey, they count just the same as highlight reel goals)  Unfortunately, it's impossible to score when all three forwards continue to cycle the puck behind the freaking goal line.  Cycling is a good way to start a scoring chance, but sombody's gotta be in front of the net to receive a Bruno pass and bang it home like Antti did last night.  I go postal every time a guy in front of the net makes a beeline to the back wall one nanosecond after a teammate finally gets control of the puck.  Has anyone else noticed this, or is it just me?

Bottom Quark(s):  A reluctant Bottom Quark goes to the blueliners (*cough* Brent Burns) who do too much stick and arm checking and not enough playing the man on defense.  I thought the days of putting one arm out and poking for the puck were over when we unloaded the Swedish Turnstile, but #8 appears to be keeping the tradition alive.  In Burnsie's defense, he does contribute enough on offense to earn a mulligan here and there on D, but it'd be nice to see him use his size more and play the man like a good Canadian blueliner.

Speaking of Canadian D-men, Cam Barker is probably the odd man out when Marek Zidlicky returns to the lineup.  At 24 years old, it's still too early to give up on a former first round pick with good size, but Barker has been underachieving and Stoner has shown better toughness, so unless he decides to accept more ice time in Houston, Cam will need some snazzy suits to wear while being a healthy scratch.

Strange Quark(s):  OK, I am officially off the Patrick O'Sullivan bandwagon now.  Warped minds still rue the day Doug Risebrough gave up O'Sullivan and a draft pick (*cough* Anze Kopitar) for Pavol Demitra, but O'Sullivan hasn't panned out to be the soft touch goal scoring sniper I expected, so the trade didn't end up being as big of a debacle as, say, the Brian Lawton over Pat LaFontaine draft pick of the good old days.

And am I the only one who wonders if Todd Richards has something against having a brotha on the team?  It seems like Robbie Earl can't buy a break; last year, all he did was bang goals in every time he got called up, only to be sent back down when the roster got back to healthy status.  With the Calgary Flames' playoff chances going the way of the Kennedys, Jarome Iginla sure would look good in a Wild sweater for the stretch drive, and he could also greatly accelerate Earl's learning curve on how to handle life as a minority in the NHL.

Charmed Quark(s):  Gotta give a shout-out to Jared Spurgeon.  For an undersized defenseman, Jared displays an awareness of his position that Stoner would do well to imitate in his quest to be the next solid, stay-at-home D-man ala Nick Schultz, and also displays a physical side that should make Burnsie take note.  It seems like no matter how hard Jared gets hit along the boards, the puck almost always ends up on the stick of a teammate who can clear the zone.

post-dramatic sin drones:

And in Kihnclusion:  Games in hand only help if you win 'em, and the good guys are doing just that with the recent sweep of the Blues.  The scary part is, the Wild have managed to claw their way into the playoff picture without their top scoring forward (Guillaume Latendresse) and their top scoring defenseman from last year (Zidlicky).  Z is now practicing again, and Lats appears to on schedule for a March return, so the Wild could (knock on wood) enjoy the luxury of a completely healthy lineup in time for the playoff drive.  Throw in a trade acquisition or two before the deadline, and this could be a team that owns the Vancouver Canucks worse than they’re already waxed by Minny this year.  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: the sooner you fall behind, the more time you will have to catch up.

quando omni flunkus moritati

Category: NHL
Tags: Minnesota, NHL, Wild
Posted on: October 11, 2009 3:49 am
Edited on: October 11, 2009 12:55 pm

San Jose Sharks Ride Kim Johnsson's D to Victory

premature articulations:

OK, maybe that's exaggerating things a bit; the San Jose Sharks were plenty good enough last night to win without Johnsson's help -- but Kimbie once again proved himself more valuable to the opposition than he did the Minnesota Wild, so let's dispense with the usual preamble and proceed directly to the Warpy Psychlotron and dissect last night's performance.

dangling sub-atomic participles:

Top Quark(s):  No question about it: Evgeni Nabokov has gotta get the Top Quark for his performance in nets last night.  The Wild threw 40 shots on goal in the game (thanks in large part to 8 power plays) but Nabokov stonewalled several quality chances in the first half of the game to keep the Sharks within striking distance.  And strike they did -- I sure didn't see any of the soft goaltending from Nabokov that I've been reading about elsewhere; the Wild would probably have put the game away against a lesser goalie.

Up Quark(s):  #15 Andrew Brunette gets an Up Quark whether or not he ends up with credit for the first Wild goal.  At first, the goal was credited to Shane Hnidy, who took the shot, but it was later changed later to Bruno on a tip-in.  Warped minds are still undecided on whether the puck actually touched Bruno on the way in, but seeing #15 camped in front of the net on Hnidy's shot (and seeing Mikko Koivu buzz in to sniff around for a possible rebound) was a thing of beauty.

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, #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 Marek Zidlicky.  Zids mishandled the puck several times in the offensive zone, allowing Sharks players to break up some promising opportunities for the Wild.  #3 sure didn't do the good guys any favors by taking a lazy penalty in a 5 on 3 situation, either, effectively killing what was up to then a one-sided momentum freight train for the Wild.

Brent Burns also gets a Down Quark for his sub-standard play last night.  He looked lost in the offensive zone, and blew more than his share of defensive assignments to boot.  Burnsie and Martin Havlat both need to look for open passes more often and spend less time hot-dogging with the puck.

Warped minds haven't seen enough of Greg Zanon's play to form a strong opinion one way or the other yet, but constantly seeing the back of his jersey on TV when the puck is in our zone reminds me too much of Martin Skoula's "stand in front the net facing the wrong way so it looks like I'm taking a leak by the left goal post" style of defense, so I'm not getting a lot of warm and flocculent feelings right now.

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.

Yep, the Five Million Dollar Salary Cap Boat Anchor strikes again.  Johnsson displayed vintage form on the first Sharks goal, making a lame effort at a stick and arm check on Patrick Marleau as he crossed the blue line.  Needless to say, Johnsson's excuse for a "check" was about as effective as a Swedish turnstile in terms of forcing Marleau to change his direction.

But Kimbie wasn't done yet.  After his non-check, he decided to make a bee line toward the front of the net (also known as the Official Johnsson No Contact Zone) to guard against a pass.  This would've been OK had he stayed there, but good old #5 proceeded to immediately abandon this spot and chase the same puck carrier behind the net that Eric Belanger was covering, leaving Jed Ortmeyer wide open to slam the puck home (which he managed to do without collapsing in laughter at Johnssons "defense")  The look on Johnsson's face after the goal was priceless -- though all too familiar to Wild fans: looking up at the ceiling as if to say "why do the other guys always have score every time I screw up?"

Johnsson's defense was just as lame on the third Sharks goal, though this time the error wasn't quite egregious enough to pin the goal directly on him when tallying up the season-long Warpy Johnsson Meter.  Kimbie did his usual body-free stick checking job on Joe Thornton, who was apparently intimidated enough by this display of defensive toughness to dish the puck off to a wide open Dany Heatley for the deciding goal of the game.  Niklas Backstrom had no chance with Ryane Clowe camped in front of the net setting up a perfect screen -- Johnsson apparently wanted no part of defending a piece of ice actually occupied by a hockey player.

I've long given up hoping that Johnsson will learn to clear guys out in front of the net, but he has now hit on a new technique that bears further watching: in addition to his usual "turn a one man screen into a two man screen" trick, now he's liable to grab the guy's stick and take a penalty for good measure.  Coach Richards has gotta cut down Johnsson's ice time if the Wild are to have any chance of going somewhere this season.

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 reverted back to old habits in the latter stages of the game, spending too much time along the boards and constantly bypassing shots in favor of the tic-tac-toe highlight reel goal, but warped minds are definitely seeing steps in the right direction here, so it's probably just a matter of time before our goalies get the luxury of regular goal support.

Charmed Quark(s):  Eight power plays in the other team's rink?  Nobody can accuse the refs of being homers last night.  The good guys put on lots of pressure in the first few power plays, but went downhill fast after Zidlicky snuffed out a glorious 5-3 chance; they never did fire on all cylinders after failing to cash in on that opportunity.

The Warped Kim Johnsson Meter:  Minus 1 last night, for a season total of minus 4.  This doesn't reflect his +/- stats; it's a running meter of the goals that Kim Johnsson directly costs the team (minus) with credit points (plus) for goals he either scores or directly enables.  To date, I have him with 6 minus points and 2 plus points in that regard, for a net minus 4.

Going forward, warped minds will award half points (for good or bad) on the Johnsson Meter when the situation calls for it.  Goal 3 for the Sharks last night would've counted for a minus .5, but I caught myself saying "nice play, Johnsson" in an earlier game where he would've gotten a plus .5 in the new improved scoring system, so we'll give him a mulligan for last night and consider it wash.  See?  Believe it or not, I really am trying hard to not turn this into a Johnsson haters blog...

post-dramatic sin drones:

And in Kihnclusion:  I probably could've scored Kim Johnsson at minus 2 last night on the Warpy Meter, but am giving him the benfit of the doubt since I don't think the third Sharks goal was totally his fault (tho he sure as hell didn't help any on that play..)  Next up is three days off, followed by three games in four nights, starting with a rematch against the Dirty Ducks of Anaheim.  The Ducks appeared to be in a mood to goon it up at the end of Tuesday's tilt at the X, so we could see some early fireworks on Wednesday.  LET'S GO WILD!!!!!

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

If my wife-to-be (or not to be) is watching, all this talk of Swedish stuff makes me think of meatballs and massages, tho not necessarily in that order.  To the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, and remember: the sooner you fall behind, the more time you will have to catch up.

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: October 4, 2009 1:03 am
Edited on: October 4, 2009 1:07 am

Kim Johnsson Doubles Niklas Backstrom's GAA

premature articulations:

Greetings, sports fans!  The puck has dropped on the Minnesota Wild hockey season, with a new GM, new head coach, and new team members.  So Wild fans want to know: will the new allegedly up-tempo offense relieve our goalies of having to pitch a shutout in order for the good guys to win?  From the looks of tonight's 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the answer is "no".

Sure, it's only the first game of the season, but warped minds are ready to fire up the Warpy Psychlotron for the first of what may become a repetitious looking blog entry; it's hard to disCERN much of a difference between Todd Richards' and Jacques Lemaire behind the Wild bench.

dangling sub-atomic participles:

Top Quark(s):  A 2-1 snoozer doesn't make for much Top Quark material from either team, but the nod goes to Andrew Brunette for potting the Wild's lone goal, giving him an even 600 points in a fine NHL career.  Bruno had a few other nice chances in the game, and was one of the few Wild players who showed a desire to do business in front of the net.

Up Quark(s):  The Blue Jackets get a collective Up Quark for doing a much better job of getting bodies in front of the net; Backstrom had lots of company in the crease area, and played exceedingly well to limit the Jackets to two goals.  Columbus also did a much better job of utilizing the middle part of the ice, whereas the Wild continued to aggravate warped minds with their obsession for keeping the puck along the boards as if they expect to get quality shots there.

Down Quark(s):  Pierre-Marc Bouchard coughed up the puck just enough times to eke out a Down Quark.  In Butch's defense, he only saw limited time during preseason, so a little rustiness is to be expected.  The same can be said for several other Wild regulars, which makes warped minds wonder why Coach Richards gave them so little time to get a chance to gel with new linemates in a supposedly new system before the start of the regular season.  Sure, preseason is a chance to look at younger guys, but in reality, only a couple of roster spots were ever in doubt, so Richards missed an opportunity to give his lines some extra chemistry time, and he also denied them a chance to break old habits left over from the Lemaire regime.

Warped minds can't help but suspect that the Wild offense will spend several upcoming games paying for this mistake; the issue now is that the games are for real.

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.  Nowhere was his pathetic excuse for "defense" more evident than on Columbus' winning goal: Johnsson not only decided to set a screen on his own goalie, he then all but invited a Jackets player to join him to make it a two man screen -- he sure as heck did nothing to discourage the player from setting up camp there, that's for sure.

The normally calm and serene Backstrom was livid after that goal, and he appeared to direct his emotions right at good old #5.  Who can blame him?  Johnsson probably singlehandedly cost the Wild enough goals last year to deny Backs a Vezina trophy, and he appears determined to pick up right where he left off this season (which is thankfully the final one in his contract)

Strange Quark(s):  It looks like the next half dozen games or so will constitue the real Minnesota Wild preseason, where players get a chance to gel with their new teammates and get the rust out of their system.  This does not bode well for a team that's used to starting seasons in red-hot fashion, then having to desperately hang on at the end of the season for a shot at the playoffs.  If Richards' up-tempo style comes to fruition, the Wild may pick up enough points during their normal mid-season swoon to make up for a slow start, but I'd sure hate to take that gamble in my first year on the job.

Charmed Quark(s):  The Wild power play showed some signs of life tonight, and I was impressed with the defensemen being more active participants in the offensive zone.  Once they get a chance to get used to playing with each other, the passing should improve noticeably, and opposing teams will have their hands full any time they're shorthanded.  Did I mention yet that this could have should have been accomplished during preseason?

The Invisible Higgs Boson Award(s):  For old time's sake, we'll give a shout out to Martin Skoula.  Warped minds were looking forward to glogging the next Wild/Panther tilt with Erin Brown and comparing Skooly notes, but it looks like the Panthers aren't interested in extending his glorious career long enough for that to happen.

post-dramatic sin drones:

And in Kihnclusion:  The Wild drop another preseason game, but pay a regular season price (kinda like we fans do normally anyway, eh?)  Next up is Tuesday's home opener at the X against the Dirty Ducks of Anaheim.  If the Wild can't pass, shoot or score in regular season form yet, at least fans might get treated to a healty can of Boogaard.  GO WILD!!!!!

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

If my wife to be or not to be is watching, the Beatles really did have a stand-in for Paul McCartney in 1967, as I shall kihnvincingly demonstrate in a future blog entry.  To the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, and remember: it's OK for guys to read instruction manuals before starting work on something.  The gals will think we're being smart and sensitive, but we guys prefer to think of it as getting away with cheating.Laughing

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
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