Sunday, November 29, 2009
The Wild are expected to have Martin Havlat (hamstring), Antti Miettinen (illness) and Marek Zidlicky (lower body, undisclosed) back from the injured list in time for Wednesday's game.
- Does anybody who is a DirecTV subscriber really miss the Versus telecasts of NHL games? I do, but only because the NHL's contract with Versus says that no local TV can be showing the same game. And that is the sad part. Those of us who buy NHL Center Ice, should be allowed to watch the Versus games on a NHL CI channel. If DirecTV and Comcast (majority owner of Versus) can't reach an agreement, wouldn't that be a great way to get fans to purchase the Center Ice package? The Minnesota Wild are on Versus 4 times in the next 8 weeks; 3 of those 4 are on the road. Wouldn't it behoove the NHL to step in on behalf of the fans, say 'we have something right here, which might provide a solution for now' and let the games be shown, while the two sides continue to act like they're a couple of 3-year-olds?
- Don't think NHL teams are losing fans due to the continued economic recession? Then how come at least seven teams that I regularly get e-mail from (Anaheim, Colorado, Columbus, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Phoenix, and St. Louis) are begging me to buy tickets? How come Ticketmaster is having a weekend sale for hundreds of events (concerts, sports, etc.)? So why doesn't the NHL acknowledge this publicly? The first step in addressing a problem, is to admit it exists.
- Despite the misfortunes of October's horrid start, the Wild are only 6 points out of a playoff spot as they begin December play next week, with 2 games vs. Nashville (one home, one away) sandwiched around Anaheim's final visit of the season in St. Paul on Dec. 4th. After the Anaheim game, the Wild embark on their most intense (5 games in 8 days) road trip of the season. The Wild will have already played half of the road schedule (21 games) after the Dec. 12 game at Vancouver. By contrast, the 21st road game last season (granted, a non-Olympic year) was Jan. 30 at Edmonton.
- The Wild ended November with a 5-3-3 record, a .590 clip. A lot of NHL teams would like to play at a .590 clip over a calendar month. That would play out to winning 9 of the 16 games played next month (when 9 of the 16 games are on the road). Oh, by the way: Wild play in December on the road in all 4 time zones... 2 road games on Eastern Time (Montreal, Ottawa); 1 road game on Central Time (Nashville); 3 road games on Mountain Time (Phoenix, Colorado, Calgary); and 3 road games on Pacific Time (Vancouver, LA, Anaheim).
- Anyone actually like some of the new third jerseys that have come out recently? Nashville debuted their thirds Friday night vs. St. Louis; majority dark blue, trimmed in black and white. Dark blue and black 'checkerboard' design at the waist. Next to no gold on this jersey. (They used all of it on those 'Grey Poupon' mustard-yellow jerseys a few years ago), and fangs on the shoulders. Are the Preds trying to bore their fans into buying new jerseys?
- Florida debuted their new, really blah, third jerseys against the Penguins at home Monday night. Nothing about these jerseys says 'buy me', even to the most hardened Panthers' fan. These scream 'Houston Aeros, if the WHA team had actually merged into the NHL' all over 'em. The shoulder has an 'FLA' super-imposed over a sun image. The main logo is a round (similar to Minnesota and St. Louis) with a Panthers' head (only) in the middle. It looks more like the logo for a local elementary school here in Minnesota..."Home of the Kittens." They actually paid someone to design this stuff? Where do I sign up??
Anyhow, that's it for now. Keep warm, everyone.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Saturday was 'Beanie Night' at Denver's Pepsi Center. Perhaps it should have been proclaimed 'Newbie Night.'
Minnesota Wild newcomers Guillaume Latendresse scored the tying goal, and waiver-wire wonder Andrew Ebbett scored the shootout winner, as the Wild swept the home-and-home weekend series with a 3-2 shootout win over the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night. The Wild victory ended their November with a 5-3-3 mark, and pushed their record to 10-12-3, good for 23 points overall, the same number as idle Anaheim in the NHL's Western Conference.
Latendresse's goal, the Wild's second, came on a rebound of a great set-up by Owen Nolan, who again figured in the scoring. Coach Todd Richards admitted in the post-game interview with the media, that Nolan was not supposed to be with Latendresse and Kyle Brodziak on that shift, but that he jumped over the boards, out of turn. The Wild are probably very happy Nolan did.
Mikko Koivu also scored in the shootout, as the tempo of the game swung dramatically following Eric Belanger's second period goal, his 5th, to open the scoring early in the second as the Wild fought all the way back from a 2-0 Avs first period lead.
Josh Harding, who started for the first time in over two weeks, was brilliant, stopping 20 of 22 Colorado shots for his first win of the season (Harding is now 1-3). Harding won despite being inadvertantly slew-footed by his own defenseman, Kim Johnsson, which directly led to the Avs' second goal. Despite the inadvertant move, Johnsson had an OK night, being the only non-goalie on the ice with over 31 minutes of ice time.
The Wild now come home to face the Nashville Predators, Wednesday night at 7:00 PM Central Time, at Xcel Energy Center (Wild TV: FSNorth; Nashville TV: FSTennessee; XM Radio Ch. 207).
Friday, November 27, 2009
By Wild Road Tripper
Chuck Kobasew made sure his teammates had a good day Friday, as the Minnesota Wild rode Kobasew's hat trick, the first 3-bagger for the Wild in 23 months, to a 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche Friday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center, as an announced 18,365 enjoyed what was, at least in the opinion of this blogger, the Wild's best team effort, start-to-finish, in nearly three weeks.
Kobasew led the charge as seven different Wild players tallied points against the Northwest Division-leading Avs, as the Wild beat the Avs for the second time this season. Kobasew's hat trick was the second of his career; the first was also against Colorado, on Jan. 24, 2006, when he was with the Calgary Flames.
The hat trick set off a 'hat trick hat sale' at the team's Hockey Lodge team stores for the rest of the day, as is custom when a Wild player scores three goals in the same game. The last time a Wild player scored three goals in the same game, was Marian Gaborik's five-goal bonanza against Henrik Lundquist and the New York Rangers on December 20, 2007.
Owen Nolan, the NHL's oldest active player, rang up another goal, his 7th, at 9:28 of the first period, moving away from a surprised Avs defense in doing so as well. Derek Boogaard's pass in front, bounced off the goal and into Kobasew's wheelhouse, where he buried it behind Avs goalie Craig Anderson early in the second period, to give the Wild a brief 2-1 lead. Kobasew struck again just over 3 minutes later when, on the power play, Kobasew took a pass again directly in front of Anderson from Andrew Brunette, and gave the Wild a 3-2 lead.
In the third, with the score tied at 3-3, it was Brunette's turn to score after Mikko Koivu received a pass from Marek Zidlicky, that was a result of the Avs not being able to stay away from the sin-bin, as Darcy Tucker was off on a slashing penalty at the time. Kobasew finished off the afternoon's scoring, as he took a pass from Koivu in front of an empty net after Colorado had pulled Anderson for the extra attacker, and calmly slid it into the empty net with 18 seconds left in the contest.
The Wild move to 6 wins, 2 losses, and 1 tie (2002, vs. Colorado) all-time on the day after Thanksgiving, as they get their 4th Western Conference win of 2009-10. The home record of the Wild now goes to 7-3-1 for the season (4-2 against the West), as the scene now shifts to Denver's Pepsi Center for 'Beanie Night', and the rematch tomorrow evening, 8:00 PM Central (7:00 PM Mountain) Time (Wild TV: FSNorth; Colorado TV: Altitude; both feeds in HD; XM Radio, Ch. 241).
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tonight's Boston Bruins-Minnesota Wild game at Xcel Energy Center had all the makings of a fun contest. Two teams, going primarily in opposite directions, getting together on the day before Thanksgiving for a inter-conference battle. One question?
Who slipped both sides the L-tryptophan?
The Bruins proceeded to put the Wild to sleep, winning 2-1 in the shootout in the fourth round as David Krejci stickhandled his puck past Niklas Backstrom to win it for Boston, as Chuck Kobasew's attempt to put it between the pads of Tuuka Rask failed to extend the shootout. The announced crowd of 18,208 yawned mightily, then went off into the night, in order to cook Thanksgiving dinners for loved ones who were smarter than to watch this contest.
A not very exciting game to watch, with the Wild already minus five front-line players, and then at the last minute, having Antti Miettinen come up sick after the line-ups were given following pre-game warm-ups. (We hope Miettinen doesn't have his 'sickness' degrade into yet another Wild concussion.)
If you are so inclined, have your turkey sandwiches ready on Friday as the Wild take on the Colorado Avalanche (Wild TV: FSNorth (includes FSWisconsin); Colorado TV: Altitude; all feeds in HD; XM Radio, Ch. 241) for a 1:00 PM Central (Noon Mountain) Time start. Indications are that new Wild winger Guillaume Latendresse may be in the line-up by that time.
Happy Thanksgiving, blogosphere!
Monday, November 23, 2009
Because, we say au revoir to Benoit Pouliot, as the former Wild first-rounder, drafted 4th overall in 2005, has been traded by the Minnesota Wild to the Montreal Canadiens, for fellow 2005 draft pick Guillaume Latendresse, the 45th overall pick in the 2005 NHL draft.
Both players have similar stats, and similar backgrounds. Both players never panned out to their potential, were vilified in the cities they played in, and might just do well with a fresh change of scenery playing for another team. Both players made the same amount, according to NHLnumbers.com ($803,000 US), although Latendresse comes with a slightly higher cap hit for the Wild, due to his service time in the NHL.
The straight-up trade was approved by the League late Monday afternoon. Latendresse will not be available (due to US labor laws) for Wednesday's Wild-Boston Bruins game in St. Paul; Pouliot, who jammed his wrist against the NY Islanders on Friday night, is day-to-day.
Here's this week's list (thru November 28th, updated November 25):
Colorado -- 'Beanie Night' for first 10,000 vs. Minnesota (November 28)
Columbus -- T-shirts for all on 'White-Out night' vs. Calgary (Nov. 28)
Dallas -- Team Yearbook (Nov. 28 vs. Tampa Bay)
Detroit -- Wall calendars (Nov. 25, vs. Atlanta); also a 'Riverfront Party' before the game (Nov. 27 vs. Calgary)
Florida -- Panthers' Jersey Luggage Tags (Nov. 27 vs. Toronto)
Minnesota -- McGruff the Crime Dog Crime Prevention Cards for all 14 and under only (Nov. 27 vs. Colorado)
New Jersey -- Energy-Efficient Light Bulb, 18 and over, New Jersey residents only (Nov. 25 vs. Ottawa); Youth Hockey Jersey, 13 and under only (Nov. 28 vs. NY Islanders)
NY Islanders -- 'Baby Crawl' at 1st intermission (Nov. 27 vs. Pittsburgh) with $500 team store 1st Prize
Pittsburgh -- Baseball Cap (Nov. 28 vs. NY Rangers)
Tampa Bay -- License Plate Tags, 1st 7,500 + 2,000 for STH's (Nov. 25 vs. Toronto); Mike Smith #41 hats, first 5,000 + 2,000 for STH's (Nov. 27 vs. NY Rangers).
Saturday, November 21, 2009
The 5'9", 182-lb Ebbett, a 26-year-old center, played last season with Anaheim. He was obtained by the Blackhawks off waivers on October 17th. A native of Calgary, he played college hockey for the University of Michigan. His original pro contract was with the Ottawa Senators in 2006, where he signed as an undrafted free agent. The Sens assigned him to their Binghamton farm club.
The Wild will be Ebbett's fourth NHL organization.
Friday, November 20, 2009
The oldest member of the Minnesota Wild, 37-year-old Owen Nolan, and the Captain of the Wild, Mikko Koivu, teamed up tonight at Xcel Energy Center to sink the New York Islanders 3-2 as the Wild ended a 4-game losing streak. Nolan's two goals, his 5th and 6th of the season, started and ended the Wild scoring, while Koivu's 6th of the year, on a close-in shot beat Isles backup goalie Martin Biron. Nolan's 6th goal of the year propelled the Wild's record against the Eastern Conference to a respectable 4-1-2 after seven games against the other conference.
Nolan's first goal was a sharp-angle shot from the goal line which beat Biron 11:44 into the game. Nolan's last goal looked as if even he was surprised on, as Eric Belanger set him up by deftly passing the puck to an all-alone 'Irish God of War' in front of Biron, who put the winner away with just 1:07 remaining in the contest, to run the Wild's home record to 6-3 after 9 home games.
Niklas Backstrom made 29 saves (only 5 in the 3rd period), as did Biron for the Isles, as they drop to 3-5-5 on the road for the year. Jon Sim scored his 2nd goal of the season and assisted on Josh Bailey's fourth tally as the Isles took a 2-1 lead into the third period. Then the Wild took the game away from the Islanders as the pressure was indeed put on as the period waned.
A barely-sold-out crowd of 18,118 (54 over the 'X' 's seated capacity) cheered, well, wildly as the Wild ran their record to 8-11-2, 18 points, good for 14th place in the Western Conference, one point of cellar-dweller Anaheim, who was idle on Friday night.
The Wild return to action on Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve, as the Boston Bruins come to town for a 7:00 PM start (Wild TV: KSTC-45. Boston TV: NESN. XM Radio: Ch. 238) in a game which will, once again, feature the Wild's new green third jerseys.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Only 18,110 were issued tickets to see this exhibition of insipid hockey, as the Wild came back twice from one-goal deficits, only to have the Coyotes score the game winner only 19 seconds after Antti Miettinen tied the game at 2-2, when Scottie Upshall, former Nashville Predator who moved west in last summer's free agency, bit the hand that once fed him (Craig Leipold, Wild owner) by putting a high wrist shot over the glove shoulder of Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom. The aggressive forecheck of the Coyotes also kept Minnesota pinned in their own zone a good part of the night, as the Wild dropped their fourth straight decision in the last 7 days (0-2-2) and their November record drops to 2-3-2 with 4 games left to play in the month.
The Wild now face the New York Islanders on Friday night, in another matchup featuring a Minnesotan (Kyle Okposo) versus the team from his home state.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
OK, so after ¼ of the 2009-2010 NHL season has been played, what do we have?
- 7 of the 16 teams who made last year's playoffs would be out today, if the season ended now.
- Six points separate first from eighth place in the Eastern Conference, the same number which separates second from tenth place in the Western Conference.
- The Minnesota Wild coming off a combined road record of 2-9-2 after two killer road trips (one road trip five games, the other four games) in a span of five weeks.
- Six of the next 10 games for the Wild are against teams who are currently in the playoffs, if the season ended today. Two of the other 4 games are against teams who made the playoffs last season.
- The jury is still out on Wild Head Coach Todd Richards and his new 'system' of more offense. Although they actually show signs of doing it the way it's drawn up at times, there are still lapses, such as the third period of last week's game at Tampa Bay, and the first 25 minutes of the game at Carolina last Sunday, a game played so badly, that in that period they allowed a team, who lost 14 games in a row, to get up by three goals. Twice.
- The question still exists of whether or not the Wild will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline following the 17-day Olympic break Feb. 14-March 3. And just whom do you trade, anyhow? Those players with expiring contracts only? Or, do you blow the whole thing to Hell and start over? Who gets to pick and choose who stays, and who goes?
- It is only a matter of time before the Wild's sellout streak is over; it may even happen before Thanksgiving, as the team plays two opponents who are not really strong draws league-wide (Phoenix, NY Islanders) and a third opponent (Boston) who's major calling card, at least in Minnesota, is no longer with the club (Phil Kessel, now a Toronto Maple Leaf.)
- What about the Wild defense? Brent Burns is having an up-and-down season, at best: Nick Schultz, after some horrid nights early on, is slowly adjusting to the new style; Greg Zanon and Shane Hnidy are still getting used to playing with their new teammates; Marek Zidlicky still takes the dumb penalty at the wrong time, still gets caught out of position frequently and makes it harder for other defensemen to do their job; and Kim Johnsson, shoulder injury (or higher up, depending on who you listen to) still isn't the same defenseman he was last season.
- Injuries to forwards have plagued the Wild this last six weeks as well. Four of the top six forwards (Petr Sykora, Martin Havlat, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Andrew Brunette) were out at one time or another. Throw in the pre-season woes of Brunette and Mikko Koivu, and you have a recipe for disaster, as no one knows much about who they're playing alongside.
- Although one of the brightest spots has been the goaltending of Niklas Backstrom, the lack of defense in front of him means he has seen a lot of rubber already, and we still have 60 + games left to play.
Although the Wild are far from out of the playoff race (it's way too early in the season to even start that talk for any team), they are inching precipitously close to the edge of the proverbial cliff. If they go over, they're like a bad Michael Jackson record.
While there are some minor changes, the largest immediate change here will be the splitting of M & G and the new, more transportation-focused Along the Right of Way (http://alongtherightofway.blogspot.com), which will primarily have the transit/transportation articles which were formerly mixed in with the hockey-related blogs, on the old M & G.
Here are a few reasons I relaunched Mileposts and Goalposts:
1. Not that I didn't enjoy my 20 months at Hitting the Post (I did), but I have been thinking about this since last summer. Since then, Nick Henry, HTP's creative force, who I was asked to fill in for, now has more time to spend on that blog. Three voices on one blog is a lot, especially when two of them are doing nearly daily posting.
2. I have an admission to make. I am a control freak.
I have wanted to have more control over what I put out than what HTP allowed. Not that the HTP format is a bad one, but it is very constraining at times, especially when you think that you have a lot to say. M & G will be my own blog, my own thing, done my way. You, the reader, will determine what you like and/or dislike. (And, I hope you join in and let me know what you like and dislike.)
3. There are a lot of Minnesota Wild-based blogs out there. Maybe not as many as some clubs(Original Six clubs, Vancouver, the Alberta teams) but more than most U.S.-based NHL teams. To be heard in this 'sea of me's', you have to come from somewhere different. I am hoping that the fact that I see the Wild in person up to 50 games a year gives me an edge over other blogs.
4. Some of the things I did at 'HTP' will come over here, such as the Wild post-game summary (although sometimes, this will be the next day; I need to get to sleep sooner after most Wild games), 'This 'n' That', and some new stuff as well, which I will develop in the next few months.
I hope you enjoy the ride! And, if there some things that get lost in the transition, we apologize in advance for forgetting them.
Wild Road Tripper
Creator and Publisher
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Granted, we are still not talking playoff hope. No. Not at all. The hope we are talking about is simply respectability, as the Wild continues to rebuild the organization after the disasater which was left behind following the sacking of Doug Risebrough earlier this year.
There are nine potential free agents in 2010, none the least of which will be defensemen Kim Johnsson and Marek Zidlicky, and forwards Owen Nolan, Eric Belanger, Petr Sykora and Derek Boogaard, all of whom could be used as trade bait to free up cap space for younger, faster, stronger, and smarter players.
What am I getting at? Yeah, let's speak to that. The Wild have a lot of dead weight to unload. Granted, it takes two to tango, so someone needs to step up and say they want one of the above mentioned players. The most talked about (at least here in Minnesota) are Johnsson (currently injured, yet another concussion, although the Wild are loathe to admit it), Zidlicky and Boogaard.
Granted, we are not even 1/4 of the way into the 2009-10 season. But '3-buck Chuck' Fletcher is waiting for your call. Any or all of these players are available...If, the price is right!
Seriously, NHL teams, up against a shrinking salary cap, need to shed dead weight as a whole. There are too many players on 3rd & 4th lines making too much money for doing too little. And now, no thanks to DR, the Wild have little money left to trade salaries to upgrade the talent pool. Few draft picks, thanks again to Dougie and his 'I'll give you a 3rd round pick for a 4th line forward' draft strategy.
So, here we are, Wild fans. They're running what they brung. It's just what they brung isn't getting the job done. Yes, they have finally put three solid periods together, but it took them seven weeks to do so. Granted, there is no way you put in a new offense overnight, but this team has dug itself such a hole, there may be no way that they dig themselves out. So we go back to the 'who wants 'em?' question again.
The winter, to say the least, will be an interesting transition period for the Wild. We'll all find out, together.