Monday, March 29, 2010

Turnabout IS Fair Play: Wild 3, Kings 2

180-degree improvement in Wild effort puts Los Angeles down for fourth straight loss

By Wild Road Tripper

That classic line from the TV game show, "Hollywood Squares", aptly sums up what the difference was between tonight's effort between the Minnesota Wild and Los Angeles Kings, and last Friday's no-show effort by the Wild in Detroit.

Brent Burns did his best Marian Gaborik imitation, Martin Havlat and Owen Nolan scored also as the Wild got off the schneid to hand LA their fourth straight loss, a loss which puts the Kings in a very precarious position as they continue on to Nashville, to face a red-hot Predators team which all but has a date with the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs all sewn up.

The Wild even went so far as to kill a two-man 2-minute power play early in the third period, after retiring referee Kerry 'the Hairdo' Fraser called two Wild players for penalties on the same play -- Cal Clutterbuck for hooking, Nick Schultz for cross-checking -- and forced the Wild to use the same three penalty killers -- Mikko Koivu, Greg Zanon, and Burns -- for 1:14 of the 2 minutes. On that power play for LA, Dustin Brown was alone at the side of the net not once but twice, and never got a shot off, blowing the pass both times. Zanon, playing despite having a broken ankle, blocked 6 -- yes, SIX -- shots during the game, including two on that power-play alone. (OW!)

What started out as a very dull, boring game in the first period had, by the end of the evening, become a lively, defensive struggle as the 18,284 in attendance at Xcel Energy Center roared their approval.

Next Game: vs. Chicago, Wednesday, March 31st, 7:00 PM, Xcel Energy Center. (Wild TV: KSTC-45; Hawks' TV: CSN-Chicago; Versus (in select areas only, check listings); XM Radio, Ch. 207)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Do you have a favorite Wild game that sucked? Let me know!

Dear Readers:

I am starting to put together the second 'Six Pack of Suck', six games that broke the Wild's season. Now, I have a few ideas, but I need to know if yours are the same as mine. So nominate the game you loved to hate, the one where you said, 'they're screwed, they're not making the playoffs,' the game where you walked away from the arena shaking your head, vowing 'never again with the Wild', the game where you went away angry, disappointed, and/or flat-out pissed.

Let me know in the comments section, or on Twitter (twitter address; wildroadtripper). And, thanks in advance for the games that you really hated. Believe me, the way this season progressed, there were a LOT of 'em.

-- WRT

Friday, March 26, 2010

Root Canal: Detroit blows out Wild, 6-2

It was an aptly named night tonight at Joe Louis Arena. It was 'Michigan Dental Association Night.' Little did the sellout crowd of 20,066 know, they were going to be witness to major dental surgery being performed. As in the teeth of the Minnesota Wild literally being kicked out of them, by the Detroit Red Wings.

The Red Wings scored about every way you can, save from the press box, as they solidified their return to the playoffs with a 6-2 blowout victory Friday night, a victory which not only distanced the Red Wings from the Wild (their lead over Minnesota is back to double digits), but the other teams who thought they could keep up with the Wings (Calgary, St. Louis), and the rest of the pretenders (Anaheim, Dallas) who were all hoping for that eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot. The Wild ended up the night back in what seems to be their accustomed spot for this season -- 13th place, 6 points ahead of 14th-place Columbus.

All your favorite Red Wings scored tonight -- Johan Franzen (twice), Tomas Holmstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, all the reasons you really HATE the Red Wings for their continued success -- they all scored. So, they will just march on into the playoffs. As for the lowly Wild, however, there are still seven games (4 home, 3 away) to deal with. The fact of the matter is, that the Wild beat themselves -- again -- as much as the Red Wings did. The goaltending was poor (in fact, Josh Harding aggravated his hip problems again, he may need surgery in April) the defense was terrible (how many times were the Wild shorthanded, either by penalty or laziness, so as to allow the Wings to score a shorthanded goal?), and the offense, except for a brief period in the first half of the third period, was non-existent. There's nothing else to say.

Next Game: vs. Los Angeles, Monday, March 29, 8:00 PM Central (6:00 PM Pacific) Time, Xcel Energy Center. (Wild TV: FSNorth (includes FSWisconsin); Kings TV: FSWest (both feeds in HD); XM Radio, Ch. 207)

-- WRT

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Brodz Street Bully: Wild rebound, beat Flyers 4-3 on Brodziak OT goal

The Minnesota Wild, looking for their first road win in three weeks, found the secret weapon for what ails them tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wachovia Center.

Victory, thy name is Kyle Brodziak.

In front of the usual crowd of 'proper Philadelphians' -- 19,716 of them, to be exact -- the Wild stormed back from two goals down in an uptempo third period, where every skater, including rookie Casey Wellman, got into it with hockey's most penalized franchise, as the Wild stole two points away from the Eastern Conference playoff race for their efforts, points which, at least for tonight, kept the Wild from falling further into the depths of the Western Conference playoff race.

Martin Havlat and Guillaume Latendresse worked the give-and-go to perfection, to cut a 2-goal lead in half with just over 13 minutes remaing in the third. Half-way to the end, a John Scott shot was tipped in by Andrew Brunette as the Flyers' Daniel Briere was all over Brunette.

As the overtime passed the half-way point, an Antti Miettinen pass to Brodziak connected, Brodziak shot, the shot deflected off Brian Boucher, third string Flyers' goalie, and into the net to end the contest. Niklas Backstrom, starting his second straight game, made 32 saves for his 25th win of the season.

The defeat by the Wild forced the Flyers to call an immediate, post-game 'players only' team meeting in their dressing room, a meeting which some described as 'a call to focus'.

Two questions rear their ugly heads afterwards for Wild fans: First, where the hell was this effort two weeks ago, when the Wild had a reasonable chance of still being in the playoffs? They could have used this type of effort against, say, Florida, a game most Wild faithful say was the final nail in the coffin of this Wild season. The second question: Will it continue? It may not, as the road trip continues tomorrow night, in another house of horrors for the Wild, yet another building they have not had much success in.

Next Game: at Detroit, Friday, March 26 (tomorrow), 6:30 PM Central (7:30 PM Eastern) Time, Joe Louis Arena. (Wild TV: FSNorth; Wings' TV: FSDetroit, both feeds in HD; XM Radio, Ch. 205)

-- WRT

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Shark feeding frenzy 'Chums' Wild, 4-1

San Jose gets off the schneid, snaps six-game losing streak at Minnesota expense

By Wild Road Tripper

Like so much food in the water, what the San Jose Sharks needed most was a chance to relax and feed off some poor, out-of-the-playoffs team whose defense is not very good.

Enter the Minnesota Wild, who were just such a school for the Sharks tonight, embarrassing themselves once again in front of a national cable/satellite TV audience with a 4-1 trouncing by the Pacific Division-leading (again, thanks to tonight) Sharks, in front of 18,551 somewhat disgusted patrons at Xcel Energy Center.

It didn't take too long -- 5:12, to be exact -- before the Sharks, behind Joe Pavelski's goal, began to feed off the impatient, inexact Wild. Passes were in feet, behind intended players, winding up on oppositions players' sticks, you name it -- and the game basically went downhill from there. Rob Blake had 3 assists, and Ryane Clowe assisted twice, as nine different Sharks helped themselves to the school of free points, courtesy of the porous Wild effort.

The only bright spot of the game was Guillaume Latendresse's 25th goal in a Wild sweater, coming near the end of a San Jose power play, when Latendresse was finally able to put one past Evgeni Nabokov. Other than that, 'Nabby' didn't really have that much to do, as the tight San Jose defense (frequently putting all five players between the red line and their own blue line, especially in the third period) basically shut down the Wild to win the game. The win is San Jose's 3rd in 3 games vs. the Wild this season.

Niklas Backstrom, returning for his first start in two weeks, had 13 saves for the Wild. The Wild now vacate the 'X' for the rest of the week, beginning with the Next Game: at Philadelphia, Thursday, March 25, 6:00 PM Central (7:00 PM Eastern) Time, Wachovia Center. (Wild TV: FSNorth (includes FSWisconsin); Flyers' TV: CSN-Philly (in HD); XM Radio, Ch. 207)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Talk about Chuck: Kobasew's two goals douse Flames 4-3

Wild win, put smooth effort in otherwise disjointed contest

By Wild Road Tripper

This is the Chuck Kobasew that Minnesota Wild fans had hoped would be coming to Minnesota this fall, when he came to the team from the Boston Bruins.

Kobasew's two goals led the Wild to a 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames, another team vying for the eighth and final playoff spot in the NHL Western Conference, in front of 18,411 Sunday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild win, coupled with St. Louis' loss to Nashville, means the Wild will end the day no worse than seven points behind eighth-place Detroit as the new week begins.

The game was very disjointed, especially in the second half of the game, after Mikka Kiprusoff relieved starting Flames goalie Vesa Toskala, who won two weeks ago when Jarome Iginla went wild on the Wild, scoring three goals in that game. But, that was then, and this is now.

Oh, what a difference a fortnight can make.

Shortly after Kiprusoff relieved Toskala, Daymond Langkow took an Ian White shot off his neck, and the game had to be stopped while Langkow was stabilized, and then taken off on a stretcher (later reports indicated that Langkow was responding and had no problems with movement). Later in the early stages of the third, another long delay developed after Guillaume Latendresse tried to check Calgary's Jamal Mayers thru the penalty box door, a play which while perfectly legal, caused nearly a 15-minute delay while part of the penalty box door glass frame was removed. Additional damage was caused to the door itself, as the door was dislodged from the rest of the sidewall at the hinges; this will need to be repaired between now and the next game.

Andrew Brunette and Latendresse also scored for the Wild, who are now 4-2 at home since the Olympic break ended. The month doesn't get any easier for the Wild, however, as there are playoff teams as opponents in three of their next four games, beginning with the Next Game: vs. San Jose, Tuesday, March 23, 7:00 PM Central (5:00 PM Pacific Time), Xcel Energy Center. (TV: Versus, TSN2 (both in HD); XM Radio, Ch. 237)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wild Death Spiral Watch: Wild blow two-goal lead; Jackets win 4-2

Who declared it 'Rick Nash Night' at Nationwide?

The Minnesota Wild's salute to the 'Bataan Death March' went thru Mid-Ohio Friday night, as the Wild managed to stave off victory, as two goals scored 27 seconds apart in the latter half of the third period, propelled the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 4-2 victory over the moribund Wild Friday night, in front of 16,419 at Nationwide Arena.

Rick Nash scored the game winner, and an empty net goal at the end of the game to lead the Jackets, who end the season series 2-2 against the Wild, each team winning its' games at home. Nash's empty netter was his 30th of the season.

Mikko Koivu did accomplish his 20th goal of the season in the first period to open the scoring for Minnesota, who have now lost 4 of their last 6 games away from St. Paul.

It was also the NHL debuts for two Wild rookies: forward Casey Wellman, who added an assist to Minnesota's second goal as he split the Jackets' defense, stole the puck and then passed to Chuck Kobasew for the tally. But after then, the Wild stopped working. Stopped skating, Stopped everything.

And then, there was defenseman Justin Falk, who left the game after a concussion shot to the head delivered by Columbus' Andrew Murray at 4:27 of the second period, for which absolutely no penalty was called by either referee, Brad Watson or Stephane Auger. The referees also missed R. J. Umberger's goaltender interference with Josh Harding on Columbus' second goal, as Umberger backed into the blue crease area (as confirmed by TV replay,) as Kris Russell took the shot while the Wild were being called for a James Sheppard penalty.

The future does, indeed, look bleak for the local sextet, as the most points after tonight they could earn is 96. 95 points are what most experts figure will be the playoff 'magic number', so does the march to the 'Tragic Number' begin Sunday afternoon? We will see what happens in the Next Game: vs. Calgary, Sunday March 21, 2:00 PM Central (1:00 PM Mountain) Time, Xcel Energy Center. (Wild TV: FSNorth (in HD); Flames' TV: Rogers SportsNet-West; XM Radio, Ch. 206)

-- WRT

P.S.: Would the party who commented in last night's blog about going to Philadelphia please re-comment your e-mail address? I lost it this evening. Sorry. -- WRT

Thursday, March 18, 2010

FANG-tastic Flop: Preds out-everything Wild, win 5-0

Out-hustled, out-played, outshot by 3-1 margin, Wild lose by season's largest score

The Minnesota Wild, playing like they should have never stepped off the plane, were totally blown away by the Nashville Predators Thursday night at the newly-renamed Bridgestone Arena, as the Wild laid their biggest egg of the season, losing 5-0 to the Predators in front of an announced 16,615.

Ten different Preds tallied points on the evening, while Marek Zidlicky led all Wild players into the dungeon with a -3 on the game, as the Wild see their 3-game winning streak snapped as St. Louis won (at the Rangers), placing the Wild back into 11th place in the Western Conference.

Not even the goaltending of Josh Harding was effective tonight, as Harding was pulled in favor of Wade Dubielewicz for the third period. Sadly, the third period was a carbon of the first two; no Wild puck movement, no shots for the first half of the period, no life at all in the team itself.

All that being said, it was just as well that the game was not telecast locally by the Wild, as all their normal outlets were busy with other programming, a situation which will continue for the Next Game: at Columbus, Friday (tomorrow), 6 PM Central (7 PM Eastern) Time, Nationwide Arena. (No Wild TV: Jackets' TV: FSOhio; NHL Network-US (both feeds in HD); XM Radio, NHL Home Ice, Ch. 204)

-- WRT

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Enjoy the next two Wild games...without 'Dumb and Dumber'

The next two Wild games (Thursday night at Nashville, Friday night at Columbus) will NOT be carried on Wild-controlled TV channels, Which, for those of us who are critical of their inept, babbling broadcast duo, Dan Terhaar (a.k.a. 'Dumb') and Mike Greenlay (a.k.a. 'Dumber'), will be an extra-special treat, as we Wild fans who do use alternate channels to get Wild games will now actually be able to listen to someone else do the talking.

Thank God.

Now, it's not what it sounds, they didn't use one of George Carlin's 'Seven Dirty Words' or anything like that. The Wild's two regular TV outlets -- Fox Sports North and KSTC-45 -- are both televising other events that night, as the WCHA Final Five college tourney takes over FSN, and the Minnesota State High School Girls' Basketball Tournament screams at you on '45'.

OK, you DirecTV people, you even get to get in on this fun, as neither game will be on the hated Versus channel (recently released, after the courts ruled that Comcast has to treat all other providers equally. Do you hear that, Ed Snider??) Here's where to find it:

Thursday at Nashville -- DirecTV Ch. 781 (Ch. 781-1 in HD).

Friday at Columbus -- NHL Network, DirecTV Ch. 215

All other cable/satellite providers, please check your on-screen channel line-ups for these games.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Havlat greases the skids as Wild lube Oilers 4-2

Goal, assist by Martin Havlat lead Wild to third straight win

By Wild Road Tripper

You knew the way he was playing, Martin Havlat would have a stellar night. And, he brought his linemates right along with him. How could you tell? Look at waiver-wire wonder Andrew Ebbett.

The Minnesota Wild ran their consecutive win streak against the Edmonton Oilers at Xcel Energy Center to a gaudy 13 straight, with a workmanlike 4-2 win over the worst team in the NHL's Western Conference Tuesday night, before an announced crowd of 18,474.

The Wild had ten players scoring points tonight -- nine forwards and defenseman Greg Zanon -- as the Wild won their third straight game, to stay within six points of idle Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. Both Havlat and Ebbett scored a goal and added an assist to each other's goal, to lead their team in scoring. Josh Harding turned in a 34-save performance for his third straight win, moving him to within one game of .500 at 8-9.

Antti Miettinen and Chuck Kobasew also scored for the Wild, who now look at two games back-to-back on the road which are totally winnable games. We hope.

New Wild center Casey Wellman, just signed earlier Tuesday as a free agent from UMass, participated in warm-ups but was scratched, as was call-up from Houston Justin Falk. Wellman's parents were involved during the game, however, as the arena's 'kiss cam' focused in on Mom and Dad, with their newly-signed son sitting between them.

The Wild now are in 10th place in the West, six points behind eighth-place Detroit and nine points behind their opponent for the Next Game: at Nashville, Thursday, March 18, 7:00 PM Central Time, Bridgestone Arena. (No Wild TV; Preds' TV: FSTennessee (in HD); XM Radio, Ch. 238)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Beat Down Sunday: Wild double up, punch out Blues 4-2

As Koivu, Harding shine, Boogaard wins fight, but you'd never know it by looking at him

By Wild Road Tripper

To look at the face of Derek Boogaard as he left the ice following his first-period scrap with St. Louis Blues enforcer D.J. King, you'd never know that Boogaard's Minnesota Wild was, at that very moment, en route to a 4-2 win on Sunday evening at Xcel Energy Center, before an announced 18,580 who were just as happy for Boogaard, as for the rest of the squad.

After all, Boogaard was doing what he is paid to do -- enforce -- and the rest of the Wild, most notably goaltender Josh Harding (36 saves) and Mikko Koivu (goal, two assists) were doing what they get paid to do -- that is, win hockey games -- as the Wild gain a needed two points to place them still on the cusp of the fast-fading Western Conference playoff chase. The Wild win against St. Louis, coupled with Dallas losing at home to Colorado, now finds the Wild in 11th place in the West, six points behind eighth place Detroit, with 14 games left to play this season.

Boogaard's face looked like he had been in a fight, but King's head was primarily used as a) a helicopter beanie holder, b) a punching bag, or c) a conveinent place to put ice after the fight was over. The correct answer was d) all of the above, as Boogaard went around and around with him (literally, they kept sticking and moving thru the zone) until King's helmet was in the corner, he was behind the net, and the linesmen were just happy it didn't escalate into worse.

(The fight rates nearly even, with a slight advantage to Boogaard, according to

The game? Oh, that. Yeah, yeah, let's talk: Andrew Brunette started the scoring 1:54 in as he tipped a Cam Barker shot past starting St. Louis goalie Chris Mason. Guillaume Latendresse had a textbook tip-in goal in the first period from a Martin Havlat give-and-go. The Koivu goal was a beauty, also, insofar as he didn't give up on the bouncing puck in the slot when the first shot didn't get by the St. Louis defense. Even Antti Miettinen managed a 'pretty' goal, when Koivu's backhand pass in the slot in the second period found Miettinen alone against relief Blues goaltender Ty Conklin.

Is this a case of too little, too late? Or are Wild fans just resigned to the fact that this team will not make the playoffs, no matter what they do, and should just ride it out until the NHL Draft in late June in Los Angeles, and the start of Free Agency on July 1st?

Face it, the Wild are 3-2-2 since coming back from the Olympic break, and that just won't cut it. They are entering a stretch that in the next three games they could easily pick up six points, as they take on the two worst teams in the West (Edmonton, Tuesday night at home, and at Columbus on Saturday) and a team which they have defeated each of the last two seasons on the road (Nashville, Friday night away) in the next six days. The schedule becomes considerably tougher after that point, so for the Wild, this week is critical to answer this burning question:

Will they finish low enough to aim for the draft? Or high enough to be in the playoffs?

We'll talk later.

Until then, let's remind you of the Next Game: vs. Edmonton, Tuesday, March 16, 7:00 PM Central (6:00 PM Mountain) Daylight Time, Xcel Energy Center. (Wild TV: KSTC-45; Oilers' TV: Rogers SportsNet-West; XM Radio, Ch. 237)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sabre-Rattling: Wild shuffle out of Buffalo with 3-2 win

Sometimes, it just takes a hot goalie, some puck luck, and some timely offense to get out of a horrendous losing streak. When you do it against one of the NHL's top 6 teams, all the better. Such was the case on Friday night at HSBC Arena, where the Minnesota Wild took a three-goal lead into the third period, and held on to snap their disasterous four-game losing streak by defeating the Northeast Division-leading Buffalo Sabres 3-2, as 18,690 mostly Sabres fans looked on in somewhat stunned disbelief.

Josh Harding, playing his second game in as many nights, made 43 saves to preserve the victory, which, depending on the results of the Nashville-Anaheim and LA Kings-Dallas games, will put the Wild either into 11th or remain in 12th in the NHL's Western Conference. Andrew Ebbett, Guillaume Latendresse, and Andrew Brunette scored for Minnesota, and ex-Gopher Thomas Vanek scored both Buffalo goals.

The Wild were without a number of players; Brent Burns (hip), Niklas Backstrom (groin), and Shane Hnidy, who did not go on the road trip (leg) were all scratched due to injury; Wade Dubleiewicz was recalled by the Wild from the AHL Houston Aeros for Backstrom, whose groin tweak is day-to-day.

The Wild, following their March pattern, now come home for the next two games, starting with the Next Game: vs. St. Louis, Sunday, March 14, 5:00 PM Central Daylight Time, Xcel Energy Center. (Wild TV: FSNorth (includes FSWisconsin); Blues' TV: FSMidwest, all feeds in HD; XM NHL Home Ice, Ch. 204)

-- WRT

Remember: Set your clocks AHEAD one hour before going to bed Saturday night!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Demolished in the 'D': Wings crush Wild, 5-1

In a city whose residents know all too well how to demolish what has been built over time, the Detroit Red Wings practiced Detroit's second favorite activity -- demolition -- with a 5-1 dismantling of the Minnesota Wild at Joe Louis Arena Thursday night before an announced crowd of 19,327.

The current Wild theme of not showing up to start the game began 2:25 into the contest as Johan Franzen started the show with a deflection into the goal behind last-minute starter Josh Harding, thrust into the start after Niklas Backstrom had come up with what head coach Todd Richards called 'a tweaked groin' in the pre-game.

We'll save the details for the likes of Chip Scoggins, Minneapolis Star-Tribune Vikings beat writer, who is filling in on this two game road trip for Michael Russo, who luckily had arranged to take this road trip off after his Olympic adventure.

Let's leave it at this: the difference in the game was the fact that the Red Wings are on the cusp of the playoffs, and the Wild are not. The Wings played like the playoffs were in their future, and the Wild played like they had already searched thoroughly, looking ahead for April warm-weather times.

To make matters worse, Wild leading scorer Guillaume Latendresse did not come out for the third period, as he was clobbered by an errant Brian Rafalski stick in the back of the neck, late in the second period. Latendresse was taken to Detroit Medical Center for observation.

If you dare, the Next Game: at Buffalo, Friday (tomorrow), 6:00 PM Central (7:00 PM Eastern) Time, HSBC Arena. (Wild TV: FSNorth; Sabres' TV: MSG-Buffalo; XM Radio, Ch. 206)

-- WRT

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

WRT's View: Time to start the Funeral Dirge for moribund Wild

By Wild Road Tripper

Let's all face facts, Minnesota Wild fans. Your 2009-2010 season is officially over, especially after last night's disasterous, Andria Doria-esque rollover at home by blowing a two-goal third period lead to the otherwise hapless Florida Panthers.

The fact that this was even allowed to happen shows that the players have already made their travel arrangements for April 12, the second day after the regular season's last game vs. Dallas.

And, as a season ticket holder and fervent Wild fan, and one who will be getting even more squeezed next season by a $5/seat per game increase, two words described my feelings about this team right now.

Pissed. Off.

The game last night was just a microcosm for the season in general, as the way the Wild rolled over and played dead for the better part of 55 minutes last night generated the following thought:


Andrew Brunette looked as if he needed a walker to skate up and down the ice with; in my mind, he has never, ever looked older than he has the last week or so. Antti Miettinen? Maybe they should go get a barn picture, and hang it in goal to give Antti a target to shoot at. He has missed more goals than he has scored.

While linemates Martin Havlat and Guillaume Latendresse have clicked very nicely, thank you, that line needs a legitimate NHL center. And no, that answer is not Andrew Ebbett. And who really is our third and fourth-line centers? Does anyone know?

Owen Nolan stayed here because he was promised that the roster would get better. After last night, when he was lined up with Houston call-up Petr Kalus and Sheppard, I'm sure he was wishing he would be with Alex Ovechkin and Co. in Washington, or lined up with Devin Setoguchi in San Jose. Anywhere but with this bunch of minor-leaguers.

And then there is the question of all the dead weight still on this roster. While GM Chuck Fletcher has done major surgery to lop off loads of the deadbeats off the roster, he knows he still has a lot of work to be done. Shane Hnidy, John Scott, about half of the Houston Aeros' roster, all need to be exorcised. And then, there is the single biggest poster child for exorcism since Linda Blair:

James Sheppard.

The consensus amongst most (not all) Wild fans is that he is the ultimate waste of a roster spot. Sheppard was mis-scouted, drafted way-y-y too high, molly-coddled, mis-handled, and mis-promoted through the organization, which has now made him a mis-fit here in Minnesota. He is not a bad player, given the right set of circumstances. There has to be a team in need of a big power forward out there somewhere.

His faults: He has absolutely NO motivation to work at his game. He is as slow as any player in the NHL. He has next to no puck sense; you normally can count on him for 3-5 bad (or, outright wrong) plays per game. This guy really could use a change of scenery. Now, having said all that, the best solution for both sides, in my opinion, is simple: addition by subtraction. Fletcher may not like this, but you really need to cut ties with this guy, and both go your separate ways.

And soon. Like this summer. Before the free agency season ends on July 1. It might not be the best move, but it ends the tragedy which is the relationship between Sheppard and the fans, the organization, and the management.

The brain trust in Downtown St. Paul knows they have their job cut out for them after this season ends. It just isn't fair to the fan base not to try to get better; the previous Wild administration tried 'something for nothing', and look where it got them. The 'bargain basement' days of the Wild need to end. This summer. Or else risk alienating the fan base.

Until then, happy sucking, Wild. You now reap what you sow.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Aim Low, Boys; It's only the Panthers!

Gutless, putrid, embarrassing Minnesota effort leads to shootout loss, starts lowering the coffin on Wild season

By Wild Road Tripper

The Florida Panthers were given a very special gift for being tonight's participant at Xcel Energy Center.

The gift? Two points in the standings, courtesy of a team that has lost its' will to win a hockey game.

The Minnesota Wild, in true Minnesota fashion, took a two-goal lead into the third period of tonight's game in front of an announced 18,191...and promptly went out and blew the hell out of it. Two Florida goals in just under 11 minutes tied the game in the third period, and then Cory Stillman ended the torture, by a score of 3-2, for the 'Team of 18,000', by finally ending the nightmare with the lone goal of the four-round shootout, a shootout which, in the opinion of this blogger, should rightfully have never even been allowed to happen.

I can go on and on about how there were goals scored, etc., and how Niklas Backstrom would do well to contact an attorney, as he should sue the players in front of him for non-support. Even after both Shane Hnidy (leg) and Brent Burns (hip) left the game due to injury, the Wild still proved they could disappoint.

There were new lows for shots in regulation (9), a tie for overall fewest shots in a game (11), the second time the Wild has taken a two-goal lead into the third period, and so on. But, this is the most telling stat that I could come up with:

There were as many broken sticks (7) as shots on goal (also, 7) until 8:45 remained in the third period. This means there had been 51:15 played, and only seven shots in goal. Seven. Against a Florida Panthers' team of few real stars, and many career 3rd and 4th liners.

This is a classic embarrassment for the Minnesota franchise which vowed to be that much better, on the ice and off, than their other pro counterparts. To play a game like this one, with pretty much your season on the line, against a team which has shown they can be as bad as any in hockey when pushed, in your own building, on regional free TV, when you are in the middle of your season ticket renewal drive, is beyond any possible scope of human comprehension or understanding of how successful businesses draw fans (and, their money, necessary in today's sports landscape of escalating salaries) in the middle of this downturned economy.

As if the Wild needed help alienating any more of their upper-level faithful, most of whom are seeing their season ticket prices raised $5/seat per game, this squad comes out and quite frankly beat themselves this evening. They didn't need the Panthers around to do that.

New Ulm High School would have gladly done the honors, but they were busy next door at the State High School Boys' Hockey banquet at Roy Wilkins Auditorium.

Too bad for the Wild. Because New Ulm would have provided a better challenge...

and if you care to stomach it:

Next Game: at Detroit, Thursday, March 11, 6:30 PM Central (7:30 PM Eastern) Time, Joe Louis Arena. (Wild TV: FSNorth; Detroit TV: FSDetroit; NHL Network-US; XM Radio, Ch. 237)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Iggy Pop: Iginla's hat trick singes Wild, Flames win 5-2

Second straight Sunday afternoon heartbreaker for Minnesota hockey fans dooms Wild

By Wild Road Tripper

You just knew it was going to be Jarome Iginla's day Sunday afternoon in St. Paul, after the Wild's 'Propaganda Minister', Kevin Falness, started talking about how Iginla hadn't scored a point vs. the Minnesota Wild this season, and had not found twine vs. the Wild in nearly two years.

All that came to a crashing halt, as the Calgary Flames officially put the Wild's playoff chances on life-support, after a 5-2 drubbing before 18,217 at Xcel Energy Center, on the day when the Wild celebrated the 400th consecutive full house (albeit with NO presents) in team history.

Iginla not only ended his drought, he started a flood. His three goal, one assist afternoon put the Flames only one point behind the Detroit Red Wings for the 8th and final playoff spot in the NHL Western Conference. The Wild loss, combined with Detroit's win in Chicago, now means the Wild are 7 points back of Detroit with 18 games remaining in the season. The Wild now actually have a two game losing streak going into a stretch of 4 games, a pattern which will repeat itself virtually the rest of the month of March.

If there was any doubt as to how the game was going to go, all that was decided just 19 seconds into the game when Rene Borque's tip-in of a Steve Staios shot went past a screened Niklas Backstrom for a 1-0 Calgary lead, the fastest goal after the game's start ever scored against the Wild. The Flames were never even brought close after that. Iginla's afternoon was his third all-time hat trick against the Wild, his eighth career game-winner against the Wild, and his 28th, 29th and 30th all-time goals against the Wild. He now leads all NHL players in game-winners against Minnesota (surpassing Colorado's Joe Sakic) and now has 53 all-time points against the Wild. Iginla also assisted on Sidney Crosby's Olympic gold medal-winning goal last Sunday afternoon in Vancouver, when Canada defeated the USA in overtime, as well.

Lost (or, almost so) in all the Iggy-love, is the fact the Guillaume Latendresse scored twice in the second period, to bring the game to within 3-2, as close as the Wild would get all afternoon. Latendresse now has 20 goals with the Wild since coming from Montreal Nov. 23rd, 13 of which are in the friendly confines of the 'X'. He surpasses Andrew Brunette as the leading goal scorer on the Wild (Brunette has 18, all with the Wild this season). In addition, Cal Clutterbuck was injured early in the first period (initial reports are a charleyhorse) and he did not return.

Next Game: vs. Florida, Tuesday, Mar. 9, 7:00 PM, Xcel Energy Center. (Wild TV: KSTC-45; Panthers' TV: FSNFlorida (in HD); XM Radio, Ch. 207)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Slick Ending: Comrie's SO goal greases Wild, 2-1

It was fan appreciation night in Edmonton Friday, but the Edmonton Oilers took the biggest giveaway away from the Minnesota Wild at Rexall Place in the shootout, as a Mike Comrie backhander meant the Wild lost by a score of 2-1 in front of 16,839.

Mikko Koivu and Marek Zidlicky scored for Minnesota in the shootout, as ex-Gopher Ryan Potulny and Gilbert Brule also scored for Edmonton.

Jeff Deslauriers single-handedly willed the Oilers to the shootout, as he robbed several Wild players in the last minute of OT to take the game to the shootout session.

The game started with the only goal of the first period coming from a Comrie wrap-around nearly half-way thru the period. The Wild only had one shot in the first 10 minutes of the game.

The second period was Guillaume Latendresse doing unto Edmonton what Edmonton did unto him earlier, a wrap-around which glanced off Oilers' goalie Jeff Deslauriers' skate and into the net, tying the game at one-all.

The third period was nearly a free-for-all as the referees (Kelly Sutherland and Olympic referee Dennis LaRue) stopped calling anything at all, save for an Owen Nolan goalie interference penalty at 14:01 after he was pushed over in front of the Edmonton goal. Niklas Backstrom saved the day when a Gilbert Brule back-door play was robbed with just over 2 minutes left in regulation.

Overtime began with the Wild charging into the Edmonton zone, as Koivu and Latendresse having clear chances and coming away empty-handed in the first minute. The Wild actually lost ground in the West, as both Detroit and Calgary won Friday night, as the Wild are still in 13th in the West going into Sunday afternoon, and the Next Game: vs. Calgary, 2:00 PM Sunday, Central Time (TV: KSTP-5 (in HD).

-- WRT

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Roasted: Kiprusoff shows Olympic form as Backstrom shines, Wild shutout Flames

The same form which Calgary Flames goaltender Mikka Kiprusoff showed in the medal round of the recent Winter Olympics, was shown again on Wednesday night in the Pengrowth Saddledome against the Minnesota Wild.

With a similar result.

Niklas Backstrom, who bailed out Kiprusoff in that semi-final Finnish loss to the USA, made 29 saves as the Wild defeated the Flames 4-0 in front of 19,289 booing and jeering patrons, the third win of the season for the Wild versus the Flames, and their second straight in an arena which, until this season, has traditionally been a house of horrors.

Mikko Koivu and Andrew Brunette each tallied a goal and an assist, and Martin Havlat and Kyle Brodziak also chipped in as the Wild moved to 66 points, 4 behind eighth-place Detroit. Owen Nolan, rumored to be on the trade block until Wednesday's trade deadline, also chipped in an assist, setting up Brodziak on a textbook give-and-go which beat Kiprusoff for what would be the game winning goal.

Two defensemen -- Brent Burns and Cam Barker, Barker playing his second game for the Wild following his Feb. 12 trade from Chicago for Kim Johnsson -- each were a +3 for the night, as the Wild closed to within four points of eighth-place Detroit for the final playoff spot in the NHL Western Conference. But with the schedule featuring match-ups of teams the Wild must get ahead of playing each other, night after night, one must pose the question:

Is it too little, too late?