Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Thoughts on a 4-point weekend

Back-to-Back wins leave Wild fans wondering, 'Could this be for real?'

Two down. And only 46 to go.

As the abbreviated NHL season of 2013 unwinds across North America, three things are becoming apparent:

1. The Vancouver Canucks are in serious trouble. As are the Detroit Red WingsNY Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, and any team whose games are shown on NBC twice in one weekend.

2. The Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues are as good as advertised. And, the Calgary Flames are as bad as feared.

3. The Minnesota Wild are living up to the lofty expectations to which the franchise is being held to by their fans. So far, anyways.

The Wild, having dispatched the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 Saturday night, then turned around and then made Zach Parise's first goal with the Wild stand up to a 1-0 win Sunday night against the Dallas Stars, in no small part due to the shutout work of Josh Harding, backup goalie extraordinaire. Harding's 7th career shutout came with 25 saves against a Dallas team who had won at home the night before.

So, what to think? Or, is it just too early to have any opinion whatsoever?

The next six games should separate wheat from chaff, as the Wild play the Nashville Predators, Red Wings, Blues, Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago Blackhawks, and Anaheim Ducks. In the next ten days. With three of those six games in St. Paul. After eight games, or 1/6th of the schedule having been played by then, the cream should rise to the top in the Western Conference.

At least, we HOPE it will. The contenders and the pretenders will sort themselves over the first half of this abbreviated season; then March and April should be about playoff positioning.

All this, while teams are still trying to sort things out. The lack of a real pre-season has not helped any team. The West, especially, is already starting to sort itself out. That's why winning early is key. Every win now is worth two (or more) in April, in my opinion.

So, Wild fans, sit back, and relax. Until the next game. Because it will come sooner, much sooner than even WE are ready for.

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