Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thoughts on the Playoffs: First Round

With the first round of the playoffs nearing their end, and the second round starting at the end of the week, let's look back at the series that were: (Updated 11:00 PM Sunday):

Western Conference:

San Jose vs. Colorado: The Sharks managed to stop the first round exit snowball that has plagued this franchise over the last three seasons. The Sharks still have problems, especially after the Marleau-Heatley-Thornton line leaves the ice. Not a lot of other offense there. Dan Boyle will be haunted by the 'own goal' which won Game 4 for the otherwise offensively-challenged Avs, who rode the hot goaltending hand of Craig Anderson as far as they could. Look out for the Avs next season, folks, especially if they make a few signings in free agency. Now San Jose awaits the lowest remaining seed, which might even be worse than the Avs were, as it will likely be the winner of the series we talk about next.

Phoenix vs. Detroit: The Coyotes, to their credit, did what many better teams were not able to do, and actually walked out of Joe Louis Arena with two wins in this series. That probably was the high water mark of the series for the overachieving 'Yotes. The Red Wings have awoken from their winter slumber, and they are back to playoff form, or so we thought until they mailed it in during Game 6. Game 7 Tuesday night in the desert. Let's see who wins, as the winner will most assuredly face San Jose in the next round, and the Sharks aren't looking forward to either of these teams showing up next week.

Chicago vs. Nashville: If familiarity breeds contempt, the Predators are hockey's most contemptuous team. The question for Nashville fans? Which Preds team will show up? The ones who were world beaters in Games 1 and 3? Or the ones who were egg beaters, like Games 2 and 4? Game 5 last Saturday was a disaster for Nashville, as the Hawks scored the game-winning goal in OT, while playing shorthanded. The Hawks, on the other hand, look like they are as disinterested as any team playing another team not on their same level. Antti Niemi seems as if he is doing OK, as the goaltender for the otherwise goalie-lacking Blackhawks. All three games in Nashville have still had tickets available day of the game, an NHL playoff rarity.

Vancouver vs. Los Angeles: This series degenerated into the Kings vs. the Sedin twins, and the Sedins won, especially after Game 5's 7-2 blowout in Vancouver. Sedins then haunted STAPLES Center by scoring the series-winner with less than 3 minutes remaining in the third in Game 6. Jonathan Quick was hung out to dry more often than wet wash after three days of rain. LA scored the majority of their goals on the power play after Vancouver felt they were going to rule-break their way to the next round. Can't wait for the Canucks to be eliminated, so we can watch 18,810 people in GM Place try to destroy the arena, after the 39th season with no Stanley Cup parade on Robson St., but it will have to wait for the second round before the anguish begins. Watch the Kings for 2010-2011; they will be a very scary team to play against. Next year.

Eastern Conference:

Washington vs. Montreal: The Canadiens are still in this series despite themselves. Benoit Pouliot is showing, once again, that Chuck Fletcher did the right thing by trading Pouliot for Guillaume Latendresse, as B-b-b-Benny only has one assist thru the first five games of the series; even worse, ex-Wild Marc-Andre Bergeron is a Skoula-esque -8 thru those same five games. The Caps need to develop some semblance of a defense in front of Semyon Varlamov; the last time anything in Washington was left that unprotected, the British burned down the White House. Mike Green of the Caps should be sued for non-support. Even with all that, the lilliputian Habs are not long for this series.

Philadelphia vs. New Jersey: The Devils couldn't muster up the stones to compete with the in-your-face Flyers, who were just as happy to throw a dirty hit as they were to make a play. Jacques Lemaire's Defense uber alles style just didn't stand up, especially as they added the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk and ex-Wild Martin Skoula, considered the death knell for a team's playoff chances. Not every game can end 1-0 New Jersey, JL. Devils were eliminated for the fourth straight season in front of their home fans. When will someone stand up to Kimmo Timonen, much less Daniel Carcillo? The Flyers' defense, especially Chris Pronger, will have to be dealt with in the next round as well.

Buffalo vs. Boston: This series is hard to get a hold on. For the Sabres, the loss of Thomas Vanek was as much a rallying cry as a blow to the active roster. Taken out on yet another dirty hit, the Sabres' leading scorer (and, former Gopher) has not been in the lineup since the first period of Game 2, and that has not helped the Sabres' chances. On the other hand, Ryan Miller has shown why he really is one of the top 5 goalies in the world. When your leading scorer after five games only has 4 points (Patrice Bergeron), you've got problems scoring. Again, Zdeno Chara is stepping up, big time, like he hasn't done in years. Times and series like this are reason why the Bruins signed him as an UFA several seasons ago. Tukka Rask is clearly showing he is the No. 1 goalie in the Hub.

Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa: With more replays than your average NFL season, this series slowly ground to a near-halt in Game 6 Saturday night, as numerous calls to Toronto were made for various reviewable situations. Finally, the end came for the Sens, as ex-Wild Pascal Dupuis put Ottawa into its' annual 'why can't we ever win?' summer funk. The Pens started to look like they were getting into playoff form as the series dragged on, but how bad a toll will the three overtime games in this series take on the offensive stars of this team? With New Jersey eliminated, and Buffalo/Boston not settled yet, the Pens don't even know when -- or where -- they will play their next game. Very unsettling.

My own opinions: (Let's see if I'm right)

West: Detroit (5) vs. San Jose (1) -- San Jose blows it to hell after this series. Red Wings in 6.

Vancouver (3) vs. Chicago (2) -- Speedy Hawks blow by Sedins and Luongo. Hawks in 6.

East: Philadelphia (7) vs. Washington (1) -- Hardest one to call. High-flying Caps vs. hockey's dirtiest team (Flyers). Very slight edge to Washington for goaltending. Caps in 7.

Pittsburgh (4) vs. Buffalo (3) -- Miller and Buffalo defense vs. Pens, STK and Geno. Defense: even. If Vanek returns, Sabres in 7. If not, Pens in 6.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Where do the Wild go from here?

A look at what should be this summer's 'to-do' list for Minnesota's NHL team

Well, we're all still here, one week after the end of the Minnesota Wild 2009-10 season. And, as the roster goes off into the four winds for the next five months, can we stop for a minute and look at what should be the course this team needs to take throughout the summer?

I'd like to think that the rebuilding that started with absolutely nothing last summer continues this summer, as the Wild team management takes yet another look at the roster, in order to find places where to improve.

In my opinion (only, since no one else writes here) this is what the Wild need to do in order to consider the summer successful:

1. Get James Sheppard off the roster -- by any means necessary to do so.

The fact of the matter is that Shep has more than worn out his welcome with the Wild, and the Wild cannot afford a roster spot for as woefully-underachieving a forward as the enigmatic Sheppard, who is the latest poster child for the 'I'll play when I want to play' attitude. He doesn't even attempt to hide his disdain anymore. He doesn't make his linemates better; on the contrary, his linemates are frequently changed, so as to not influence them with his bad habits and attitude.

The second-worst first-round draft choice ever by the Wild (only A.J. Thelen, who never played one minute in a Minnesota uniform, was worse) Sheppard, a restricted free agent this summer, will be available to anyone once the Wild make a qualifying offer to him (10% over last year's contract), but in my own opinion (again) I wouldn't even go that far. With a $1.4M cap hit in '09-10, it's time to cut the cord and say 'buh-bye' to the biggest drain on cap space this team has.

At this juncture, I wouldn't care that the Wild even get anything back in return for Shep. Any draft pick or player (preferably an UFA which we could get rid of July 1st) would definitely be a bonus. Just move Shep off the roster.

2. How 'bout a center?

The Wild definitely need additional help at center, a point which was frequently driven home when Martin Havlat and Guillaume Latendresse did not have a third man to play along side them. A good quality center will probably come at a fairly high cost -- either current players, draft picks, or probably both -- but what will GM Chuck Fletcher be willing to part with to improve the team's scoring punch? Will Fletcher do what his counterpart in Calgary, Darryl Sutter, did and trade his best young defenseman (Dion Phaneuf) away for what was supposed to be more scoring punch in the big swap with Toronto? Will Fletcher do that with, say, Brent Burns or Nick Schultz?

I don't know how long you can continue to depend on the likes of Andrew Ebbett and Kyle Brodziak to play minutes one line combination above their skill level. Give them credit, they both tried valiantly, both of them playing thru injuries at one time or another in January and February. But the fact is that Ebbett is too small in the center position, and Brodziak just doesn't have a lot of puck luck. The Wild need another big-time center, and quickly, as the window for this group could open very soon. They need to be ready when it does.

As for the rookies, like Casey Wellman, who were centers in college? They can have their shot in camp, but to stay up with the 'big club', they have to display talent. And, keep away from Shep.

3. Re-sign Guillaume Latendresse and Mikko Koivu.

Latendresse, a RFA this summer, deserves another contract in Minnesota, but which way to take it? Short-term, so as to see if last season's goal total was indeed a fluke? Or long-term, so the Wild can take advantage of a lower cap number over a longer term? Whatever way the organization and the winger agree to take it, the career of Latendresse rejuvenated itself in Minnesota, after he languished on the fourth line or pulled press box duty in Montreal. The trade of Benoit Pouliot for Latendresse was widely regarded as one of the best trades of last season. Time to reinforce that view with a new contract.

Koivu, named the full-time team captain a few weeks after the start of the season, is one of the 'face of the franchise' figures of the Wild. He has tried -- sometimes, tried too valiantly -- to strap the team onto his back. Sadly, with all the dead weight the former management of the Wild saddled this year's team with, it was frequently too much for him to deal with. The best all-around forward currently on the roster, Koivu will be an UFA after the 2010-2011 season. July 1, 2010, is the CBA-agreed to date for pending UFA's to begin negotiations with their current clubs. I wouldn't wait too long after that to begin negotiating his new deal.

4. Should they stay, or should they go?

The Wild have a number of decisions to make for the 2010-2011 season regarding player personnel, as they have 4 UFA's to be on the roster now, and another four after next season. Here's what they (again, in my own opinion) should do?

Stay: Boogaard, Brunette, Earl or Ebbett (not both).

Stay (if HE wants to): Nolan

Go: Hnidy, Scott, Sifers, Miettinen, whomever does not stay between Earl and Ebbett.

The Wild can do better than those who would not return, and those that do will be asked to do more than they did last season. Boogaard needs to be used more than 4-6 minutes a game; he could be a major disrupter in front of the opponent's net if he is parked in front of the crease. Who knows, he may even score a goal.

Brunette still has value, especially in the garbage-goal category he has become famous for.

Earl and Ebbett, are essentially two of the same; smallish, 3rd/4th-line forwards who you should be able to keep but for contract purposes.

Hnidy and Scott were fill-ins for the defense while Tyler Cuma and Marco Scandella were finishing their careers in Junior 'A'. They will compete for ice time come September. Sifers, although somewhat impressive, pales in comparison to the new kids.

Miettinen, although reaching a career high in goals, could have had 15-20 more had he only had better aim. Do we need to put a barn picture in the net for him to aim at? His contract is $2.5M in 2010-11, and he will be an UFA after that. Get value for him while you can. His is not as vital as Koivu by a long shot, but the fact is that you need to get younger as well as more talent up front.

5. Review the medical policies and procedures.

Part of the problem with the myriad of injuries this past season is the under-reporting of their severity. Burns was 'day-to-day' with his concussion, as an example. Better medical procedures and better reporting may -- MAY -- equal fewer and lesser injuries. And when severe injuries do happen, have a plan for calling up players from Houston, please. And, get them there the shortest possible route (Houston to Edmonton -- via Toronto -- is not exactly the most direct path, as a late-season example).

Now I could go on, and on, about 'they did this wrong' and so on, but this organization is still just going into their first full off-season together, having been put together in the Spring of 2009. That fact is conveinently forgotten by Wild fans who criticized Fletcher and his staff for moves made during this season. They may not be all on the same page yet -- but they're getting there.

And we hope it continues.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The 'Six-Pack of Suck', 2009-2010 edition

Six games which made -- and broke -- the Wild season

By Wild Road Tripper

The Minnesota Wild, by all definitions, was a .500 hockey club this season. Finishing as close to .500 as was possible (38-36-8), the Wild dug themselves a hellacious hole with a 0-8 road record pre-Halloween, including 0-4 against the Pacific Division before the end of Teachers' Weekend in Minnesota (Oct. 17th). When you have so many targets of opportunity to say that this team was bad, picking six games where they really stood -- or, in this case, stank -- out was really a challenge.

But, when you have as many games that went bad on them as this team did, you also could almost do a 12-pack of Futility, or a Case of Calamity. In this case, however, we'll leave it at six (in deference to those in the organization who may actually be as frustrated as we fans are). Sadly, four of the six are against the NHL's weakest division this season -- the Southeast, the division where only one team (President's Trophy winner Washington) even made the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

So let's take a trip down memory lane, and relive six of the nightmares in a nightmarish season:

(in chronological order)

1. Nov. 12 at Tampa Bay: Lightning 4, Wild 3 (SO). The Wild took a 3-1 lead against the NHL's second-worst team at the time into the third period. After Steve Downie scored at 9:17, the two teams actually played a tight-checking game until Marek Zidlicky took one of the laziest penalties of the season, a hooking minor, at 18:42. With 15 seconds left in regulation, Ryan Malone scored to send the game into OT. Despite outshooting the 'Bolts 4-0 in the extra session, the game went to a shootout, where Vinny Lecavalier scored the eventual game winner, in a game which should have never gone to that point.

2. Nov. 15 at Carolina: Hurricanes 5, Wild 4 (SO). Was the barbecue outside RBC Center that tempting? Or was it the warm Carolina afternoon? Whatever it was, the Wild decided to take the first half of Sunday afternoon off, as the 'Canes scored the first three goals of the game (two of those on the power play), as six penalties in a row were whistled against the Wild, all of them in a 16 minute period stretching over the latter 4 minutes of the first period, and the first half of the second. Robbie Earl and John Scott scored twenty seconds apart; Earl scored again to tie it early in the third, but no more goals were forthcoming, as Jussi Jokinen scored in another shootout which should have never been allowed to happen.

3. Dec. 7 at Phoenix: Coyotes 2, Wild 0. This game single-handedly managed to put extreme confidence into the 'Yotes, as two goals by Phoenix, 44 seconds apart, decided the outcome of this game. The Wild only had 3 shots on goal in the third period. The loss snapped the Wild's season-high 5-game winning streak. Fortunately, there were only 8,981 in attendance to see this embarrassing game.

4. Jan. 14 at St. Louis: Blues 1, Wild 0. T.J.Oshie's goal, 26 seconds into the third period, stood up as the futility level of the Wild reached new heights. Josh Harding stopped 36 of 37 shots, as the Wild only managed a measly 19 shots against Blues goalie Chris Mason. Adding to the frustration in this game, was the fact that the Blues were shorthanded for 4 of the game's first 8 minutes, and the Wild failed to score during either advantage. With the Wild starting a 3-road-game-in-4-night trip, this was definitely not the way to start out January's longest journey.

5. Feb. 12 vs. Atlanta: Thrashers 3, Wild 2. Dumb penalties and lack of focus doomed the Wild in this game, not to mention being out-shot 15-3 in the second period, as the Thrashers scored the only goal in the last two periods. Marek Zidlicky and Shane Hnidy were both sent off on penalties in the last two minutes of the first; Nik Antropov scored on the resulting 5-on-3 with 14 seconds left in the first period, and then the frustration ramped up in the last two periods as the Thrashers out-shot the Wild 25-12 over the last 40 minutes. The booing at the end of the second and third periods was noticible throughout the 'X', as the Wild let two easy points slide away.

6. March 9 vs. Florida: Panthers 3, Wild 2. The worst shooting team in the NHL -- the Panthers -- looked like they were big-time snipers on this Tuesday night, as both of their two shots on goal in the third period found twine, as the Panthers came back to take a two-goal lead way from the Wild, who had out-shot the Panthers by a 3 to 1 margin going into the period. In the third, the 18,191 in attendance at the 'X' let the Wild have it, as the team stood back and watched as their lead, and their last hope for the playoffs, evaporated before their very eyes. This was the third game in a four game losing streak (2 in OT, 2 in regulation) which sealed the Wild's post-season fate.

So, that's it. Nine points that slipped away where the Wild either out-shot the opposition by a significiant margin, or had a lead in the latter stages of the game, and then let it slip. Granted, it still might not have been enough to make the playoffs, but a little effort -- 'compete level', as head coach Todd Richards would say again and again during the season -- would have gone a long, long way in these six games.

Would it have made a difference? Probably not, as the Wild ended the season against Dallas in probably the worst physical shape the roster had been in throughout the club's existence. If they had made the playoffs, they would not have been more than a No. 7 seed anyhow, and would have been lucky to have won one game in a series.

In the pre-season, I had the Wild not to make the playoffs, but to be a No. 9 or 10 seed. I wasn't expecting a No. 13 placement; but again, I didn't have the Phoenix Coyotes in the playoffs, either. IMO, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has shown he is not afraid to try and tinker with the roster, in order to make the roster that much better. Looks like there is still tinkering to be done.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

MoDo'd Over: Wild lose finale in SO as Stars shine, 4-3

Modano brought to tears twice by appreciative Minnesota hockey fans

By Wild Road Tripper

It was the final game for the Minnesota Wild tonight at Xcel Energy Center, as the 2009-2010 season drew to a close. Normally, that would be the big event if your team was not going on to the playoffs. Normally, the last game would be a chance to say farewell to the local hockey club as they swing into their summer hiatus.

Saturday night, 19,109 -- announced as the sixth largest crowd in Wild regular-season history -- saw as abnormal a finish as the NHL can provide, with a four-round shootout which featured a future Hall of Famer, both teams' leading scorers, and a rookie in only his 12th NHL game. And then, there was Jamie Benn and his shootout winner, the only goal scored by either side in the four-round shootout, as the Dallas Stars completed the comeback with a 4-3 shootout win to end the NHL regular season for both teams.

And then, there was what happened after the game.

Mike Modano, ending his 20th NHL season and weeks away from age 40, was voted the No. 1 Star of the Game. He celebrated it very appropriately, at least for being in Minnesota.

He came out in a white late-80's Minnesota North Stars jersey -- the ones that he wore at the late, lamented Met Center -- to a second standing ovation, having been given pucks to sign and throw out to the lower bowl crowd. He was still wowed by the response after the game when he faced the press post-game (link:

It was a fitting tribute to the only No. 1 overall draft choice of either Minnesota NHL team to make it long-term in the NHL. Twenty seasons is a very long time. 1,538 points, more than any other U.S.-born player in NHL history. And now, it could be all over. Modano was also feted during a TV timeout in the first period, as a Wild-produced video (link: celebrated his career as fans, players and even the game officials cheered for well over three minutes.

As for the game itself, Mikko Koivu and Steve Ott each scored twice, as the back-and-forth nature of this game made it only moderately entertaining knowing that this game was the end of the string for both teams. Rookie free-agent signee Casey Wellman also scored his first NHL goal, tying a team record for fastest goal from the start of the period, :09 into the third (tying Brian Rolston for that Wild team record). Neither had anything of consequence to play for going in: the Wild will pick 9th in the NHL Entry Draft June 25-26 in Los Angeles, and the Stars will draft either 12th or 13th (depending on results of Sunday's games).

The Wild will disperse on Monday (physicals) and Tuesday (exit interviews) with many, including head coach Todd Richards, destined for the IIHF World Championships in Germany which will begin at the end of April.

With six regulars out of the Wild lineup (Zidlicky, Nolan, Havlat, Latendresse, Harding, and Sheppard) the Wild were down to the bare minimum -- 18 players, 2 goalies -- as they limped across the finish line to close out their ninth season of play. They looked like a tired, beaten-up bunch of hockey players. They've played like it for weeks, tho. And that's the hard part.

Next Game: Next season. Schedule TBA (expected schedule release date: July 14th).

(BTW: This blog will continue all summer long. So, keep reading!) -- WRT

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Wild, Flames play woeful game; Wild win 2-1 in SO

Final road game of the season...and it looked (and played) like it

The Minnesota Wild, in their final road game of 2009-10, did what many said they would never do - win all three games in the same season in the Pengrowth Saddledome - as the Wild doused the Calgary Flames 2-1 in the shootout, as Brent Burns and Antti Miettinen both scored on Mikka Kiprusoff to seal the fate of the Flames, in their last home game before 19,289 bummed patrons.

In the first period, the only goal was a Chuck Kobasew deflection of a Casey Wellman shot after Burns set the play up by driving well into the Calgary zone, then passed to Wellman whose slapper was deflected by Kobasew past Kiprusoff to make it 1-0 Minnesota.

The second period was a very plodding, slow, torturous affair, the only action being the Nigel Dawes rebound goal after Niklas Backstrom made a great save on Dawes' first shot. The Wild had several power play opportunities, but no such luck for the Wild.

In the third period, the highlight was the shot by Calgary's David Moss which caught Niklas Backstrom up high. Backstrom was replaced by Wade Dubielewicz, the ex-Islander signed as a backup earlier this season who had been called up solely because Anton Khudobin, the goalie in their system they wanted to use, lost his passport at the AHL All-Star Game and has yet to replace it thru the Kazakhstan Embassy in Washington; as such, he cannot cross the USA/Canada border. James Sheppard also suffered a knee injury late in the third period after being checked into the boards by Robyn Regehr.

OT was as uninspired as the rest of the game. Not much to say about that, either.

Let's all end this season at the Next Game: vs. Dallas, Saturday, April 10, 7:00 PM, Xcel Energy Center. (Wild TV: FSNorth; Stars' TV: FSSW; XM Radio, Ch. 237)

-- WRT

Monday, April 5, 2010

Don't forget us! Oilers 4, Wild 1

Edmonton's Rexall Place has become the equivalent of its' southern Alberta cousin, the Pengrowth Saddledome, for the Minnesota Wild. A house of horrors, where strange things just seem to happen, no matter what position either team is in the standings.

Monday night was no exception, as the Edmonton Oilers jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead and went on to thoroughly beat the Wild 4-1, as the Wild loss streak grew to four games (three in regulation, one in OT) as the NHL's 2009-10 schedule winds down. The Wild end their season with an 0-fer Edmonton (just as the Oilers have an 0-fer in St. Paul.)

What was important for Wild fans, however, was the fact that they played the entire game without two of their top six defensemen (Nick Schultz, Marek Zidlicky) and one of their better forwards (Owen Nolan), and then lost Guillaume Latendresse and Martin Havlat during the game to injuries as well.

This was a classic game between two teams with absolutely nothing to play for. Really chippy play, no crisp passing, very little discipline by either team, as they were both indeed playing out the string. And it showed. Now, only one more road game remains this season, and it's the...

Next Game: at Calgary, Thursday, April 8th, 8:00 PM Central (7:00 PM Mountain) Time, Pengrowth Saddledome. (Wild TV: FSNorth; Flames' TV: Rogers SportsNet-West; XM Radio, NHL Home Ice, Ch. 204)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Wild 'kiddie corps' almost pull it off, push Canucks to OT

Salo scores in OT to clinch Northwest Division for Canucks

The Minnesota Wild came into a post-Olympic rebuilt GM Place in Vancouver Sunday night, looking for some spark to ignite the last week of the 2009-10 season. The Vancouver Canucks tried to douse any chance of that, scoring into an empty Minnesota net with 54.3 seconds left in the game. Or so they, and 18,810 Canucks patrons, thought.

That's when the Wild kids came in to help save the day. And, they almost did, losing to the Canucks 4-3 in overtime, as the Canucks clinched the Northwest Division title, and the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Western Conference playoffs.

Cody Almond, on call-up from Houston, scored with 41.1 seconds left in regulation, then Antti Miettinen scored with 19 seconds remaing in regulation, to send the game into the OT where Sami Salo scored, after yet another load of BS was delivered by Alex Burrows, as he was the 'victim' of a phantom high-stick call against Greg Zanon, after Burrows lifted Zanon's stick into his own visor.

Ryan Kesler scored shorthanded in the first period, as the Canucks were serving a penalty as Kevin Bieksa raced up the ice, with two Wild players (Martin Havlat, Marek Zidlicky) unable to stop the seemingly inevitable, as Kesler zoomed by Mikko Koivu to receive Bieksa's cross-slot pass.

Kyle Wellwood tipped a Kevin Bieksa screen shot from the point to score late in the second period, as four players (two from each team) all wound up in front of Niklas Backstrom, who was totally helpless to stop Bieksa's shot.

Andrew Brunette finally lit the lamp for Minnesota as he put away the rebound of yet another wide shot by Miettinen at the 10:00 mark of the third period. However, the fate of the Wild was sealed as Alex Edler' s 170-foot shot found the empty net with 54.3 seconds left. Or so we thought.

Next Game: at Edmonton, tonight (Monday), 8:30 PM Central (7:30 PM Mountain) Time, Rexall Place. (Wild TV: KSTC-45; TSN (in HD); XM Radio, Ch. 206)


Friday, April 2, 2010

Final Bite: Sharks officially eliminate Wild with 3-2 win

San Jose officially starts Minnesota Wild golf season

By Wild Road Tripper

Who is Logan Couture? And, what will he mean in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

The call-up from AHL Worcester scored the game winner with 3:51 remaining in the game as the San Jose Sharks once again defeated their favorite 'chum' -- the Minnesota Wild -- 3-2 before 18,584 on the first half of 'Fan Celebration Nights' at Xcel Energy Center.

Manny Malhotra (he lives!) and Scott Nichol also scored for the Sharks, who now have won 5 of their last 6 since thumping the Wild 4-1 on March 23. The 'compete level' as is the catchphrase of Wild head coach Todd Richards, was up, way up, over the dismal effort of Wednesday night's game vs. Chicago. Unfortunately, the result was the same.

And, with the loss, the Wild were officially eliminated from playoff contention as their 'tragic number' came up tonight, at home, in their second-to-last home game of the season. As the final week progresses, it will be interesting to note how the teams in the East are doing; going into tonight, the Wild will draft tenth in the June NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles.

So, let the speculation officially begin. The Wild are done like dinner, just in time for Easter. And, speaking of which:

Next Game: at Vancouver, Easter Sunday, April 7th, 9:00 PM Central (7:00 PM Pacific) Time, General Motors (nee-Canada Hockey) Place. (Wild TV: KSTC-45; Canucks TV: Canucks' PPV (including select theatres on BC Lower Mainland); XM Radio, Ch. 208)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Tommy-Hawk-ed: Wild shutout at home by Chicago, 4-0

Fourth-Liners have field day against disinterested Wild

By Wild Road Tripper

If the Minnesota Wild would have shown any semblance of what head coach Todd Richards says is a 'compete level' on Wednesday night, that would have been absolutely the right thing.

As the score indicated, however, they didn't, as the Chicago Blackhawks showed the third-worst team in the Western Conference what it takes to actually be in the running to win the Western Conference, as the Hawks dismantled the Wild 4-0 in front of 18,933 at Xcel Energy Center.

The Hawks' fourth line comprised three of the four goals, as Tomas Kopecky scored twice, with Ben Eager adding a goal and two assists of his own, as the Hawks snapped a three-game losing streak (two of those, to the otherwise hapless Columbus Blue Jackets) as the Wild continue their win one, lose one theme of the final weeks of the 2009-2010 season. The Wild are now 3-3-0 in their last six games, and are 3-7-1 against the Central Division since New Years' Day.

The Wild keep up with the 'face the best in the West' week as they close the homestand against the San Jose Sharks in the Next Game: Tomorrow night (Friday, April 2), 7:00 PM Central (5:00 PM Pacific) Time, Xcel Energy Center. (Wild TV: KSTC-45 (in HD); Sharks' TV: CSN-California; XM Radio, Ch. 207)