Sunday, December 19, 2010

Road Warriors, Home Alone

Two very different movies. Two very different settings. Two very different results.

Sounds like the Minnesota Wild of late, doesn't it?

On the road, away from the distractions of family, home, expectations of their own fans, etc., the Wild have quietly built a 3-1-1 December road record. The only game in which the Wild looked bad was the blowout last weekend at Anaheim (not entirely unexpected, given the Wild's history at the Arrowhead Pond/Honda Center), where the Ducks relentlessly gave the Wild a well-deserved 6-2 pounding.

On the other hand, when the Wild are at home, in the Xcel Energy Center, they proceed to continually lay more eggs than an Eggland's Best contractor farm. They relax, play with absolutely NO urgency whatsoever, let the other team get out to a lead, then get beat by continuing to not play well, and basically anger their most loyal followers, their biggest stakeholders, their season ticket fan base, by their continued lack of offensive punch.

The Wild are a paltry 1-4-1 in their last six home games, for a grand total of three -- THREE -- points in the standings. Three points at home, while the rest of the West administers drubbing after drubbing. There is no rhyme nor reason for this. The good teams -- the teams that will actually make the playoffs in April -- play their best hockey at home, where the fans are friendly, the routine familiar, the cooking not in a restaurant (recent call-up Jared Spurgeon notwithstanding), the bed after the game their own.

Maybe the Wild and the Minnesota Vikings -- the NFL's 'prodigal sons', who may never go home (to the Metrodome) again -- should change places. The Wild should stay on the road, and the Vikings should move into the 'X' and play. The Vikings have only one road win since October, 2009, and that was two weeks ago against Washington. Maybe the Vikes should just play at home, and the Wild should go on a 50-game road trip to end their season.

Then, the Wild might just have a shot at the playoffs. Maybe. Or, maybe, just maybe, the Wild should really get the act together, come out during the holidays and beat some of the upcoming teams, teams that they SHOULD BE ABLE to defeat in regulation time.

The next five home games for the Wild:

Calgary, Monday (Dec. 20) -- this is the same Flames team that YOU JUST WON against in the Saddledome. Put some effort into this, and sweep the back-to-back.

Detroit, Dec. 26 (Sunday) -- play better than you have in your last month at home. This will be the first game for both teams after the Christmas holiday break. What better way for Wild fans to celebrate the end of the Christmas holiday, than to boo the hell out of Todd Bertuzzi, instead of their own team? Or, to watch as the 'X' is over-run with Red Wings fans, a good number of whom will spend the entire day coming down from Michigan's UP.

San Jose, Dec. 29 (Wednesday) -- this is NOT the San Jose team of the recent past. This team is beatable, but you have to shadow the Sharks' top line (Thornton-Heatley-Marleau) to keep the Sharks in check. But, at least they no longer have Evgeni Nabokov to worry about in goal.

Nashville, Dec. 31 (Friday, New Years' Eve) -- too bad this opponent doesn't generate the same excitement as the evening. In a party mood, this crowd probably will be more amped up than either of the teams will. Nashville head coach Barry Trotz will have his New Years' Eve costume on ... Oh, wait: that ISN'T a costume? That's his real face??

Phoenix, Jan. 2 (Sunday) -- Just hours after the end of a disasterous Vikings season, the Wild's season could very well also end, if the Wild don't pull a win out of this game, as the Wild will end their 5-games-in-8-days holiday hockey marathon, with the final visit this season by the up-and-coming Coyotes, who have shown that they can beat any team on any given night.

So win now, boys. Because after the Phoenix game, 8 of the next 11 Wild games are back in the 'friendly confines'...of the road.

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