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: February 2, 2009 7:37 pm
Edited on: February 5, 2009 2:42 pm

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

premature articulations:

If there's one thing that has been consistent with the Minnesota Wild in the last two months, it's been that fans never know what to expect in any given game.  Warped minds were all set to gleefully witness the carnage the good guys would inflict on an Edmonton Oilers team fresh off a 10-2 waxing at the hands of the Sabres, only to see the Wild lay another egg.  Then, with back to back defeats looking as inevitable as Republicans blaming Obama for everything short of jock itch, the Wild go and grab a road win against the Vancouver Canucks, then pitch a shutout against the Anaheim Ducks for good measure.  Go figure.  But enough robtangled politcs talk, eh?  It's time to fire up the Warpy Psychlotron: 

dangling sub-atomic participles:

Top Quark(s):  Friday:  It's tough to find anyone from either team worthy of the Top Quark, so we'll give this one to Cal Clutterbuck by default for his continued inspired physical play.  Normally, I'd give the top call to one of the Oilers after a two goal victory that wasn't as close as the score suggests, but the Wild's defense was so bad Friday night that even the Oilers couldn't screw up this easy win.

Saturday:  Lots of choices in this game, but Pierre-Marc Bouchard gets the Top Quark call again.  It's too bad he couldn't quite finish off that glorious chance by the crease, but props are in order for Roberto Luongo's acrobatic save on that play.  PMB did dish off assists on three of the four Wild tallies against the Nucks (and also got a helper on Minny's lone goal Friday) so it looks like Butch is on one of his streaks where he'll make multiple point games look routine.

Wednesday:  Another tough one to call here, with several good choices, but PMB gets the Warpy nod again.  Man, has Butch been on fire lately, or what?  #96 is all over the ice these days -- both on offense and on defense -- and things are getting to the point where fans will panic if Bouchard has a game where he doesn't get multiple points.

Up Quark(s):  Friday:  A collective Up Quark goes to the Edmonton Oilers for taking advantage of a somnambulent Wild team and grabbing two quick points in the standings.  The closet thing to an Up Quark for the Wild on Friday would be the three best defensemen on the ice that night: Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Eric Belanger.  An honorable mention goes to Josh Harding for his fine work filling in for Backstrom after he got pulled.  Despite little help from the D, Harding pitched a shutout the rest of the way.

Saturday:  PMB is a pretty tough act to follow in Saturday's game, but a maverick Up Quark call goes to Eric Belanger.  It's nice to see him get rewarded with a goal after the fine job he's been doing on defense.  Belanger has been nowhere to be seen on the score sheet lately, but anyone who watches #25, #9 and #96 regularly would swear that these guys are regular defensemen, and not to be mistaken with pylons covered in #41 and #5 jerseys.

Wednesday:  Mikko Koivu gets an Up Quark for his goal and assist performance last night.  #9 has been a little quiet lately on offense, but given the recent scoring bonanza by Bouchard, Nolan and Clutterbuck, if Koivu starts to get in on the scoring action, the good guys will be able to win some games on offense for a change, and give the goalies a well earned breather.

Down Quark(s):  Friday:  The entire Wild defensive corps gets a Down Quark for playing like they were on quaaludes.  A special Down Quark goes to Brent Burns for his Skoula-like play where he turned his back to the action and decided to go for the puck instead of fundamentally playing the man.  To make a bad play worse, Burnsie dedided to do his impression of Rogie Vachon by sticking his leg out -- just in time to get in Backstrom's way and cost the team a goal.

Saturday:  Not much in the way of downers in this game, but a huge Down Quark goes to the refs for the bogus major-game misconduct call on Clutterbuck.  I have no problem with a penalty being called on the play, since Cal did hit the guy in the back by the boards.  But the refs had no business tossing him.  A minor penalty?  Fine.  Even a double minor would've been OK, since the hit did result in a cut, and a rule is a rule.  But a game misconduct was way overboard -- especially seeing as how the Nucks player embellished the play by turning his back to the hit at the last second.  The referee duo of Polish and Pockmark obviously feel that "out of sight, out of mind" is the easiest way to handle guys who refuse to play like European pansies.

Wednesday:  It's really hard to find a downer after last night's win, but I've gotta give a Down Quark to Derek Boogaard.  Boogey missed a few chances to civilize some Ducks who wanted to take cheap shots at Clutterbuck.  His failure to drop the gloves is probably more Lemaire's fault than Boogey's, but #24 still gets a downer call for missing virtually every check he's tried to throw lately.

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 Martin Skoula's name here on a permanent basis.

Friday:  Brent Burns gets the Bottom Quark for Friday's debacle, mostly for the play mentioned above, but also making enough other chowderheaded plays to make Kim Johnsson's bungling look inconsipcuous in comparison.  His offense hasn't been anything to write home about lately, either.

Saturday:  Kim Johnsson can run from a Bottom Quark, but he can't hide.  Just when it looked like the Wild were going to cruise to an easy road win, #5 decided to make what has to be one of the most awful plays I've seen him make in a Wild uniform (and believe me, that's some pretty stiff competition).  In his classical "people might think I'm gay if I touch another guy" style of defense, Johnsson decided to eschew a body check in favor of extending his arm for a lame attempt at a stick check.  Needless to say, the forward skated right through this "check" and potted a goal while making Johnsson's body spin like a limp turnstile.  The Swedish Meathead hereby earns a new nickname for that play:  The Five Million Dollar Turnstile.

Wednesday:  I can't think of any Bottom Quark material from last night's game, but warped minds will leave Skooly in the permanent bottom zone anyway.  Last time #41 played a few good games in a row and got himself removed from the bottom of the warpy barrel, he promptly began to play like his old self again.  Skooly has been playing pretty darn well the last few games (and was downright excellent last night) but I learned my lesson from last time, so I'm not about to change the luck this time.

Strange Quark(s):  Has anyone else noticed that Nick Schultz and Martin Skoula have not been paired up on D since the last Red Wings game when Skooly cost the Wild a regulation win in the waning moments, much to Schultzie's disgust?  Lemaire juggles defensive pairs even more often than he changes line combinations, but I havent seen the #41 and #55 combo out there in weeks.  Not that I'm complaining -- actually, the Skooly/Burnsie duo looked pretty good last night.

Charmed Quark(s):  One of the surest signs that the end is near?  The fact that warped minds can say "Martin Skoula is making Brent Burns look good" and expect to be taken seriously.

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 colliders", in case your twisted mind was thinking about chemistry instead of physics...)

Speaking of invisible, how 'bout Stephane Veilleux

post-dramatic sin drones:

And in Kihnclusion:  The Wild start February off on a good note.  With 8 of 12 games at home this month, the Wild will be well advised to pile up the points and get some breathing room between them and the playoff bubble now, because March sees the good guys play 12 of 16 on the road against some mighty tough opponents.  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.  To the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, and remember: I'm pullin' for ya; we're all in this together.

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: March 31, 2008 6:23 pm
Edited on: March 31, 2008 6:30 pm

Mission Accomplished

premature articulations:

And unlike the Bush administration, the Minnesota Wild have actually delivered some results to back up the phrase "mission accomplished".  A brilliant, boring 4-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks, coupled with a not-so-brilliant but solid nonetheless 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche, has the good guys sitting pretty in the Northwest Division.  Robtangle does better recaps than I do on the games themselves, so I'll go straight to the Warpy Quarky awards.

dangling subatomic participles:

Top Quark for Friday's tilt goes to Pierre-Marc Bouchard.  All this guy does is play great two-way hockey, tally a decent amount of goals, and dish out assists faster than Kobe Bryant.  The Wild would be wise to lock Butch in with a lengthy contract extension sooner rather than later -- losing him would be a big step backwards for the good guys.  Top Quark for yesterday's game goes to Marian Gaborik.  This is a good time to see #10 get his finishing touch back; those goals yesterday were beauties.  Gabby tends to score in bunches, so if he's hitting a hot streak now, nobody is going to relish facing the Wild in the first round.

Up Quarks go to the Wild defensive corps for making Niklas Backstrom's job a little easier on Friday -- that game was a far cry from last week's debacle at Edmonton when the D hung Backs out to dry early and often.  Up Quarks also to Brian Rolston for finding his shooting touch again.  After watching #12 miss the net for a week with his slapshots (not to mention watching the puck go all the way back to our end as a result) it was sweet to see him blow one by Jose Theodore yesterday, metallurgy save notwithstanding.  It was also good to see Rolston in the high slot putting away a rebound opportunity.  The Wild may finally be figuring out that good things happen to them when guys go for the net (or at least move around inside the faceoff dots in the offensive zone) rather than having three guys cycling along the boards while the point men grow roots under their skates.  If the Wild look at video from their home games against the Oilers and Canucks, they'll have a good idea of how to get the Flames out of their tight box defense on Thursday.

Bottom Quark has to go to Alexandre Burrows and Nathan McIver for thinking that engaging Gaborik and Bouchard would make them look like tough guys.  I have a lot of respect for the Nucks, but that performance was total, bush league imitation Ducks.  Kudos to Keith Carney and Brent Burns for having none of it, and Down Quarks to the linesmen for not letting Burnsie go to teach the boys some hockey manners.

post-dramatic syndrones:

Bottom line: as posted after the Wild laid their egg in Edmonton, the guys used up their mulligans in the division race and needed to take care of business at home.  So far, they're doing that in spades, and even getting a little help from other teams in keeping the Flames at bay.  Despite the game in hand, the Flames will need to run the table in order to overtake us now, so one more win (or even a one-pointer on Thursday) will drive the final nail into the division coffin, and cement the #3 seed for the good guys.  GO WILD!!!

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

If my wife to be or not be is watching, don't shoot the messenger, but "oxymoron" is not an acne treatment for blondes.  To the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, and remember: it's better to receive than it is to give, 'cause if you don't like what you receive, ya can always give it away.

Posted on: March 24, 2008 2:28 pm
Edited on: March 24, 2008 6:00 pm

Opportunity Knocks for the Minnesota Wild

premature articulations:

What a strange weekend.  The Minnesota Wild go to Vancouver, skate like they're on quaaludes with no sense of urgency, and leave the arena with a regulation win over the Canucks.  Then, they play more inspired hockey against the Calgary Flames, score four goals, and leave with a regulation loss.  Go figure.  Warped minds see the Northwest division coming down to a two horse race between the Wild and the Flames, with the good guys having a big edge in scheduling for the final furlong.

dangling subatomic participles:

Top Quark for Friday's game goes to Niklas Backstrom for a rock solid night in nets.  It was less than two weeks ago that fans were wondering if he was running out of gas, but he has silenced all such talk with an exclamation point.  Top Quark for Saturday's game goes to Benoit Pouliot for potting his first two NHL goals.  His two-way play hasn't been too shabby, either, so it's easy to see why Jacques Lemaire is increasing this guy's ice time by leaps and bounds.

Huge Up Quarks go to Pavol Demitra for some sweet helpers, and also to Chris Simon for his tattoo job on Jim Vandemeer Saturday night.  Sean Hill gets a Down Quark for crummy defensive positioning and play against the Canucks, but also gets an Up Quark for a much better game against the Flames.  Brent Burns gets an Up Quark for a fine performance against the Nucks, but gets a huge Down Quark (he doesn't get many of these) for his Skoula-like play on Dion Phaneuf's goal.  Up Quarks also to Todd Fedoruk and Branko Radivojevic for their continued fine work in setting goalie screens.

Speaking of screens, Kim Johnsson is a shoo-in for the Bottom Quark.  Just when it looked like the Wild were going to parlay a two goal lead into a nice, boring win against the Canucks, Johnsson had to screen Backstrom early in the third to make things interesting.  You could tell from his immediate reaction that he was saying "Gawd, warped minds are really gonna have a field day with this one!"  Luckily, the Wild hung on to win that game despite Johnsson's best efforts to screw it up.  Not so lucky on Saturday, though.  The good guys were less than a minute away from going into the second intermission with a 2-1 lead, when good old #5 had to set a perfect screen in front of Josh Harding to let the Flames right back into the game.  Considering the Wild's 22-0-2 record when leading going into the third, that was a mighty expensive mistake by Mr. "I'd throw a check, but then I'd be touching another guy, so people might think I'm gay."  Seeing as how the Wild need another center, we should move Johnsson there: he can't play defense anyway, but if he can screen opposing goalies as well as he screens our own, there's an untapped bonanza to be had.

Strange Quarks go to the referees.  In both games, they started out by keeping their whistles quiet and letting the guys play.  The players responded by playing good, hard-nosed hockey, and it looked like both games were going to be barnburners.  For no apparent reason, they started getting whistle-happy in the second period of both games, and called every marginal, ticky-tack infraction under the sun, effectively ruining the flow of both games.  The refs also get the Charmed Quarks, seeing as how the chances of the league holding them accountable are about as good as the chances of Pacman Jones staying out of trouble for an entire football season.

post-dramatic syndrones:

Bottom line: most fans probably expected the current road trip to start with a loss to the Sharks, a win against the Nucks, and a loss to the Flames.  The fact that we squeezed out an extra point in the Sharks game is huge.  I expect back to back wins against the Oilers: they have a long track record of getting their sphincters in a bunch and taking stupid penalties whenever Derek Boogaard is on the ice, so J-L would be wise to exploit that tendency and give #24 all the ice time he can handle.  The Flames finish the season with four on the road, so opportunity is knocking for the Wild to start piling up the points, starting now.  GO WILD!!!

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

If a chiropractor has to change a light bulb, does it still take three visits?

Are the Grays the Owl Nebula equivalent of the Bush administration?

If my wife to be or not be is watching: they say a diamond is forever, so getting a new graphite driver oughta double=bond our love, eh?  To the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, keep your stick on the ice, and remember: if the women don't find ya handsome, they oughta at least find ya handy.

Category: NHL
Posted on: February 21, 2008 2:17 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2008 2:29 pm

Thanks, Backstrom. Thanks, Skoula.

Greetings, puckheads!  Since the Wild offense decided to take the last two games off, I'll take the usual preamble off and go straight to the Quark awards.

Top Quark in the Wild/Canucks tilt has to go to Nicklas Backstrom.  The Wild weren't dominated in the first period as much as the shots on goal and the papers would suggest, but they were dominated by that much (and then some) in the second.  Yet somehow, the Wild managed to lead 2-1 going into the third.  Backstrom singlehandedly stole a point for the good guys, and might've gotten away with grand theft of two points with some better defense late in OT.  Up Quarks go to the Nucks, particularly the trio of Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Markus Naslund, who always seem to find a way to torment the good guys.

Down Quarks go to the Wild offense for spending too much time with the puck along the boards Branko Radivojevic style, instead of getting bodies in front of the net Mark Parrish style to make life more difficult for opposing goaltenders.  The Bottom Quark goes once again to Martin Skoula.  I was ready to write off the Nucks OT goal as a well executed tic-tac-toe play and give Skoula a mulligan, at least until seeing the replays.  What the hell kind of defenseman parks himself next to the left goalpost, straddling the goal line with one skate on either side of it, facing the net, with his back to the action while Naslund and the Sedins are going to town in our zone?  #41 seems to have hit on a new way to play defense; instead of defending a worthless piece of ice like he usually does, he has now taken to defending no piece of ice.  Earth to Skoula: Backstrom can cover the net just fine by himself; you're not doing any good there.  How 'bout turning around to see what you're missing, and maybe try defending the dudes who like to shoot from six feet in front of the net -- ya know, that spot ya keep abandoning in order to go hump/smoke the goalpole?

Skoula also gets the Strange and Charmed Quarks for that game, making for the first Warpy hat trick.  It's strange that Jacques Lemaire keeps giving this guy as much ice time as he does, especially in late game situations.  I guess some guys just lead a charmed life.

Nikolai Khabibulin sweeps the Quarkys for the Wild/Blackhawks game last night.  A 38-shot shutout definitely calls for the Top and Up quarks, and he was definitely charmed, judging by all those strange metallurgy and facial saves.

Bottom line: Definitely a downer for the Wild, who missed out on a normally easy two points against these guys.  On the plus side, the Wild get a series of creampuff opponents* after Sunday's Flames game, and will thus have a chance to pile up some points before finishing with divisional tilts in 9 of the last 10 games.  Go Wild!!!

* The Capitals may be an exception to the creampuff portion of the schedule; the thought of being defended by Martin Skoula has got to be giving Alex Ovechkin a hard-on the size of Florida.

Posted on: February 19, 2008 7:01 pm

Fearless Warped Predictions for Tonight's Game

Well, my first try at handicapping the Wild/Canucks game last week didn't work out so great, but my last blog had a brilliant call on a nine goal game against the Predators, so now that I'm on a roll (and already have one more thing right about the Wild than some of the spooling foolios who post on the team page will ever have:) here's a warped precap of tonight's tilt:

1st period: Matt Cooke gets his richly deserved comeuppance courtesy of a well aimed "accidental" Aaron Voros elbow.  The fans don't mind seeing him get a double minor, but get worked up into a frenzy when the ref whistles Kim Johnsson on a questionable ticky-tack tripping call early in the penalty kill.  The frenzy reaches borderline postal proportions when the Nucks take advantage with two PPGs.  Luckily, the ref subscribes to the Marble Theory of penalty calling, giving the Wild a 5 on 3 later in the period.  The Wild cash in once to go into the locker room down 2-1.

2nd period: Lots of roughhousing and fisticuffs in this stanza.  Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra cash in on another two on one break to get the only goal of the period.  This time, with the goalie and the defender both focusing on Gabby, he fakes a snap shot and slides the puck across to Pavs, who slams it into the yawning net.

3rd period: Mikko Koivu continues his Nuck torementing ways, bagging the game winner on a breakaway.  The instant Koivu dips his shoulder for his patented forehand fake shimmy move, Roberto Luongo says "Aha!  I've seen this move before" and slides to the left with his glove up to snag the top shelf backhander.  Meanwhile in the same instant, Koivu goes "Yah, I know you've seen that move before, but this time I really am going with the forehand!"  Brent Burns caps off the scoring by putting in an empty netter with far more elan than the situation calls for, starting a dandy fracas (this prediction didn't pan out last time, so we're due now..)

Last but not least, just to hedge my bets -- and to make sure I get at least one thing right again -- the dildaphonic duo of Martin Skoula and Kim Johnsson (a.k.a. "the one combination known to man that Jacques Lemaire refuses to tinker with") will cost the Wild a goal with their bumbling defensive play and piss-poor positioning.  Even the most indulgent bookie in Vegas won't dare take action on that call.

Let's go Wild!!!  If it ain't broke, you're not trying hard enough.

Category: NHL
Posted on: February 15, 2008 7:26 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2008 7:37 pm

Whew!! That Was Close!

What a strange game last night between the Wild and the Canucks!  What started out as neutral zone trapfest with the makings of a soccer-like score ended up in a rock 'em sock 'em firewagon 5-4 finish.  A huuuuuuge two points for the good guys.  Since I'm still tired from staying up to watch last night, it's time to keep it short and go straight to the Warpy Quarky awards.

Top Quarks go to Stephane Veilleux for his nice, two goal effort.  His first one was a real beauty stolen right out of Mario Lemieux's book of moves.  Roberto Luongo overcommitted early -- something he would repeat later in the shootout to the Wild's advantage.  Another Top goes to Mikko Koivu for his shootout dandy: that shoulder fake and quick release shot is relieving a lot of goalies of their jockstraps.

Up Quarks go to Pierre-Marc Bouchard, James Sheppard and Koivu for their superb play on defense as well as their offensive spunk.  #9 and #96 just flat out hustle nonstop in the defensive zone, acting like extra defensemen (and often playing better D than them).  Sheppard has the makings of a real keeper; the Wild brass made a shrewd pick with this one.  The line of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Markus Naslund get the other Up Quark.  Those guys make it look like the Nucks are on the power play dang near every time they're on the ice.  Besides being damn good hockey players, they also have great chemistry from playing together so much; I doubt that coach Alain Vigneault would even think of juggling players in or out of this line (cough, cough, hint, hint, Jacques Lemaire:)

Not much in the way of Down Quarks when there's a well played game like this.  I've gotta give it to the refs for their lack of consistency after the first period.  That "roughing" call against Brent Burns was an absolute joke, but the breaks weren't as one-sided as the TV homers suggested.  Brian Rolston should've gotten a minor for his blatant cross-check of Willie Mitchell just before the gloves flew off in the second, and Sheppard got a gift non-call in the third on an obvious interference call.  The Wild also made some shaky line changes last night.  I swear they had too many men on the ice on a few occasions, and the Vancouver fans were right to boo a doozy of a non-call for this in OT.

The Bottom Quark goes to Luongo for basically faking himself out on Burnsie's SO goal.  I'll bet he was expecting a repeat of the move Burns made in Sunday's SO, because Luongo moved right and presented Burns with an easy forehand tally.  Luongo also bit on Koivu's shoulder shake hook, line and sinker, and looked like he lost his BVDs in the process.  Marian Gaborik had the only miss for the Wild, thanks to hanging on to the puck too long and trying a few dekes too many.  Gabby's snap shot is absolutely deadly from up to 20 feet, so any time he digs into his bag of tricks for something else, he's doing goalies a favor.

A Charmed Quark go to Niklas Backstrom for doing his part to prove the "law of averages" in shootout performance.  As soon as OT ended, I was wondering if it was permitted to sneak Josh Harding in for the SO.  To his credit, Backs stood his ground and made solid, easy looking saves against the first two shooters, and just missed getting a glove on Trevor Linden's rocket (if that shot hadn't had a full quart of Chinese mustard on it, Nik's glove would've been glove right there with time to spare).

I was going to give the Strange Quark award to Martin Skoula and Kim Johnsson for managing to go an entire game without either one costing us a goal, but the fantasy bass fishing league commercial on channel 45 takes the cake.  How big of a couch potato does one have to be to create a fantasy team of guys who sit in a fishing boat all day, for carcharias sake?

Bottom line: the game ended up about as evenly played as the score would indicate.  The Wild had the better of the play when it mattered, and definitely deserved the two points.  The Canucks are probably happy to escape with a point themselves, which might make for a relatively dull rematch containing less than the usual bad blood (charcaroDOH!:)  First, though, comes a Sunday date with the Nashville Predators at the X.  A nine goal total in that game would be no surprise to your favorite blogger, but I'm out of town so hopefully our second favorite blogger will decorate Tangletown with his usual pearls of wisdom.  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