Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Power Play Powers Wild Victory

As I stated in a previous blog, if the Minnesota Wild's power play got going, they'd be fine. Well with two of their top offensive weapons out with injuries (Pavol Demitra and Marian Gaborik), others needed to step up. In comes Petteri Nummelin. Nummelin, after spending all of last season and the beginning of this year as a defensemen, was asked to play wing. Nummelin's speed and hands allow him to be a successful forward. His presence was felt early, when he fired a pass from the sideboard to the other side of the net to a cutting Mark Parrish to give the Wild a 1-0 lead. It's good to see Nummelin getting into the lineup. With Sean Hill eventually making his return after suspension, that'll make eight defensemen to fill six spots. Anyway Nummelin can get into a lineup is fine with me, because he can play anywhere. Nummelin had 2 assists on the night, his other coming on another Mark Parrish power play goal. The Wild ended up with 4 total power play goals in the game and added another even strength. Niklas Backstrom was, believe it or not, solid yet again. Backstrom has yet to lose to Edmonton in his career, improving his record to 6-0 and had a streak of 209:15 shutout minutes end with Dustin Penner's power play goal in the 2nd.
The Wild continue to impress. While playing solid defense, they have proved that they can win in a variety of different ways. Want to play a special teams game? The Wild will beat you. Want to play an even strength game? The Wild will beat you. Want to TRY and play an end to end game filled with lots of offense? The Wild posess the talent to BEAT YOU. I continue to say the Wild are the best team in the NHL and will stand by that claim. Call me a optimist but every team has to be scared of what the Wild are doing. They already have 20 points on the season and look to be right there at the end of the season.
The Wild have five days off before playing in Colorado on Saturday.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Wild are Victorious.... FINALLY!

For the first time in a week and a half (five games), the Wild ended a game with a victory. It all started October 24 when Minnesota rolled into Calgary, being the only team left in the NHL without a regulation loss. After dominating play in the 1st, the Wild held a 3-0 lead. The Flames proceeded to score 5 unanswered goals. This game began a streak of 5 consecutive losses for the Wild. Although they did pick up a point in the shootout loss to Edmonton, it was an incredibly difficult week to be a Wild fan. Nicklas Backstrom, Marian Gaborik, Pavol Demitra and Wes Walz were all injured and made things tough for the Wild to play a complete game.
Backstrom returned to the lineup Saturday night and returned to old form, giving up 1 goal on 23 shots. Gaborik and Demitra both returned to the lineup two games ago against the Blues, each recording a goal and an assist in the loss. Gaborik had a phenomenal game Saturday, recording two goals and adding an assist.
The scary thing is that the Wild were outshot 24-16 in the game, yet still managed to win by three goals. Their defensive style of play allows for limited scoring chances. Tonight, the Wild made the best of their chances, adding a powerplay goal, another goal just as a penalty expired, and a breakaway goal. If the Wild continue to play well on the powerplay, they should fine.
Brian Rolston recorded his team leading 7th goal Saturday. Rolston scored via his patented rocket slap shot.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wild Begin Sharp, End Dull

Give the Minnesota Wild a three goal lead and history shows they will not lose. That was before Wednesday night when the Calgary Flames became the first team to beat the Wild in franchise history when trailing by three goals or more. The Wild jumped out to a wicked fast start, scoring three goals (two power play) in the first ten minutes and took that lead into the intermission. Brian Rolston and Mark Parrish both added a power play goal and Wes Walz shipped a goal in as well. This was the best period I think I've ever seen the Wild play. The play was completely dictated by Minnesota and they really had their way. Anything they wanted they got. Oh how quickly a game can change. The Flames exploded for three goals in less than five minutes near the mid point of the second period and you could feel the momentum swing. The Flames came out in the 3rd period and really dominated, and added two goals in the final frame to take a 5-3 victory from the Wild.
It had to happen sometime. The Wild were bound to lose eventually, but you wouldn't think this would be how. The Wild have been one of the leagues best defensive clubs in recent years and to give up five unanswered goals in only two periods is ridiculous. Hopefully this is a wake up call to the Wild and anyone who thinks any kind of lead in any sport is safe. I would never recommend sitting on a lead, and I think the Wild did this a bit as they backed down on their attack. I hope the Wild realize now they're not invincible and that a hockey game is 60 minutes long, not just 20. Minor bump in the road we'll have to see how the squad responds tonight in Edmonton.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Wild Continue to Roll

The Minnesota Wild continue to be the NHL's hottest team defeating the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 sunday night in St. Paul. Dispite giving away a two goal lead late in the 2nd period, the Wild managed to score with three minutes left in the 3rd to get the victory. The final goal was really a fantastic individual effort by Mikko Koivu, who intercepted a clearing attempt along the boards, looked as though he was going to take the puck behind the net and drove hard to the front and jammed the puck past the Avs goaltender. Head coach Jacque Lemaire has really praised Koivu's play this season. I definately agree, Koivu has been one of the Wild's best players. One minor note, Pavol Demitra left in he 3rd period with an undisclosed injury. Lets pray it's nothing serious.

As the Wild continue to play they only look to be getting stronger. Behind the solid play of Backstrom and Harding, the powerplay which was in a 1-22 slump has caught fire, adding two goals in five chances last night and really moved the puck well. The penalty kill, which has been near the top of the league year in and year out, continues to look good. However having said that the Wild have been taking too many penalties for my liking. Brent Burns needs to clean his game up. Too much stick work and lazy play has left him in the penalty box more than actually on the ice. Last week against the Kings, Burns received five minor penalties and added two more last night against Colorado. That is the only knock I have on the Wild at this point; too many undisciplined penalties, extremely odd for a Lemaire coached team. Lets hope we can get it fixed before it comes back to really hurt us.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Watch Out; The Wild Are For Real

Through the first seven games (6-0-1) the Minnesota Wild have failed to score more than three goals in a game. However with the one-two punch of Nicklas Backstrom and Josh Harding (who?) carrying the team that's not a problem. When a team like the Minnesota Wild only have to score only two or three goals per game to get the W it's really scary. With offensive weapons like the Slovakian duo of Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra, goals shoudn't be a problem for these two. Then you have Brian Rolston. So far only two goals on the year, but he's added five assists for 2nd on the team in points behind free agent Eric Belanger who continues to impress. Belanger's three goals is tied for the team lead. The line trio of Rolston, Belanger and Pierre-Marc Bouchard have been pheominal. The three have accounted for almost half of the Wild's offensive production (nine of the 19 team goals). Another offensive bright spot has been the play of defenseman Brent Burns. Burns has played solid defensively but has also shined in the offensive zone, adding three goals.

The story so far this season has definately been the play of the goaltenders Harding and Backstrom. Together they own a save percentage near .960 and have given up a toal of eight goals in seven games including three shutouts (two for Backs and one for Harding). Lets give a little credit to the defensemen as well. The play of the defense has allowed Backs and Harding to make that initial save and clear the puck from the front of the net. Nick Schultz continues to impress me. I always thought of him as an OK player, but in the playoffs last year and from the beginning of the season this year he has shown me that he has a rock solid defenseman. Together Schultz and Kim Johnsson draw the task of shutting down the opponents top line. Judging by the scores, I'd say "Mission Accomplished"

The Wild are at home today (Sunday) against Colorado before traveling to Canada to face Calgary and Edmonton.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Wild Roster: Arbitration Cases

We have already discussed the additions to the Wild from the free agent market, so now it's time to look at who the Wild are bringing back. With arbitration hearings coming this week, the focus shifts to Wild players who were eligible for arbitration this off-season, and how the Wild dealt with each of them.

Derek Boogard - $2.63 million, three year contract after Wild opted for arbitration

The Wild adopted an interesting strategy with Boogard when the organization opted for arbitration. Only four players have been taken down this path, the reason being that it can generate some bad feelings betwixt the player and the organization (see Luongo, Roberto and the Florida Panthers). In Boogard's case though, it seems as though this was merely a move to make sure no other teams signed him away from the Wild. He had the option of choosing a one or two year contract at the hearing, my feeling was that he would go with two years. His value isn't going to change much, and he seems pretty happy with the organization, so stability is one reason a three year deal was so appealing to him.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard - $2.6 million, one year contract

This happened quite a while ago, almost at the same time that players were filing for arbitration. Mostly this contract shows how the Wild perceive Bouchard in relation to their other young forwards (Koivu got a four-year deal). Perhaps the front office is unconvinced that Bouchard is capable of consistently putting up 20 goal seasons like '06-'07. If Bouchard puts up the same or better numbers in the upcoming season, I think the Wild will be much more amenable to a multi-year deal.

Kurtis Foster - $1.025 million, one year contract

It was a little surprising that Foster opted for arbitration this year. He didn't have a breakout season in '06-'07 and it didn't seem that he would be looking at too much of a reward after going through the process. Thus, I wasn't terribly surprised that he was signed before his arbitration hearing, nor was I surprised at the length or value of the contract. This season will be an important one for Foster to determine his future with the Wild franchise. After scoring only 3 goals in 57 games last season, Foster should be a larger part of the offense this year with his big shot.

Josh Harding - $1.45 million, two year contract

The notable thing about this contract is that it is a one-way contract, so Harding will be with the Wild all season. He'll back up Backstrom, although given Lemaire's penchant for playing the hot goaltender, he may see more action than a traditional backup.

Nick Schultz - arbitration (hearing Thurs. 7/26)

This is the only unresolved arbitration case remaining for this offseason. Schultz had a very strong season, playing in all 82 games and playing the most minutes on the penalty kill of any Wild skater. Schultz can only sign a one-year deal if his case goes to an arbitration hearing, due to his previous service time. Obviously, the Wild would prefer to avoid arbitration, but I would be surprised if this one didn't go all the way until Thursday before a deal is agreed upon, either before the hearing, or as a result of it.

[UPDATE - 7/24]: Well, I was wrong about the day, but the Wild avoided arbitration by signing Schultz to a one-year deal for $1.85 million. A raise from last year, but not a long term deal that Schultz probably wanted. He can become an unrestricted free agent after this upcoming season.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Wild Roster: Free Agents

Eric Belanger - 3 years, $5.25 million

Belanger started his career with the Los Angeles Kings in 2000-2001. Over the next five seasons, he scored 63 goals and 87 assists in 323 games (0.46 Pts/Gm). Last season he started with the Carolina Hurricanes but was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers, which was a positive for him. In Carolina, his playing time was decreased and he scored at a bit of a lower rate, 8 goals and 12 assists in 56 games (0.36 Pts/Gm). The Thrashers put him on a line with Marian Hossa and Slava Kozlov and gave him 19:29 average ice time which turned into 9 goals, 6 assists in 24 games (0.63 Pts/Gm). Thus when the Wild called and promised him the chance to play with Demitra and Gaborik, he jumped at the chance.

In addition to being a center who has shown some scoring ability, Belanger has also been a pretty good faceoff man over his career. Faceoffs are something that the Wild have struggled with in the last few years. Lemaire, in a February Star Tribune
article, said, "We're not good enough on faceoffs. [It's] that simple." This was one of the positives of the trade for Dominic Moore last season, and the Wild continue to address this issue this offseason.

Centers (500 F/O min.)
'06-'07 F/O Pct.
Career F/O Pct.
Eric Belanger
Dominic Moore
Mikko Koivu
Todd White
Pavol Demitra
Wes Walz
Wyatt Smith

Sean Hill - one year, $475,000

In the Wild's playoff series against Anaheim, the Ducks overran the Wild with physical defensemen and forwards. This had an apparent effect on the Wild front office, as they only took physical players
in the draft, then they signed Sean Hill, a big, physical defenseman. The most quoted stat is that he was third in the league in hits last season and among the leaders in blocked shots. The physicality has the Wild probably slotting him in a third or fourth defensive pairing once he joins the team.

Ah yes, the steroid suspension. In the playoffs last year, Hill tested positive for a banned substance and incurred the accompanying 20-game suspension. He served one game of the suspension in the playoffs last year, so he will be unavailable through the first 19 games of the 2007-2008 regular season. Hill has
denied that he used PEDs but he will be allowed to practice with the team during the suspension, but not allowed to play in preseason games either.

Steve Kelly - one year, undisclosed amount

Kelly hasn't played in the NHL for quite a while, four seasons to be exact, and he won't spend much time with the Wild this year, barring some kind of miracle turnaround. This signing is probably not even worth the time I spent writing all this. If the season goes according to plan, Kelly will provide depth at the AHL level.

Nolan Schaefer - two years, $1.15 million

The 1 million plus price tag is misleading, it only applies if he makes the NHL squad, which at this point seems unlikely. Schaefer was signed as a third goaltender to replace Josh Harding at Houston, and possibly compete with Harding for a spot on the roster. His only NHL experience came with the San Jose Sharks two years ago, posting a 1.88 GAA and a 5-1 record in seven games.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Wes Walz: A Wild Original

Wes Walz came to the Wild as a free agent signing in the summer before their inaugural 2000-2001 season. Until that point, Walz had been a journeyman, playing with the Bruins ('90-'92), Flyers ('92), Flames ('93-'95), and Red Wings ('95) before spending four seasons playing in Switzerland. Upon signing with the Wild, Walz shed his journeyman label and has been a constant presence in Minnesota. He currently holds the franchise record for games played (427), has played in all 23 of the playoff games in Wild history, and is one of two players remaining from the Wild's first season (Marian Gaborik being the other). It appeared the 37-year old center's time in Minnesota may have ended when he opted to file for free agency this offseason, but the Wild have brought him back for a seventh season in a Minnesota jersey, signing him on Tuesday to a one-year contract worth $900,000.

In the last six seasons, Walz has played many roles. He lead the team in goals in their first season with 18 goals. However, his main role for some time has been a checking line and penalty kill expert. The one-time Selke award finalist for best defensive forward has always been a solid defender. He ranked third last season among Wild forwards in short-handed ice time. Walz has also shown a proclivity for the shorthanded goal, scoring a quarter of the Wild's shorthanded goals throughout their history (16 of 63, 25%).

Walz has seen his role diminish recently as he has slowed a bit. Last season, the Wild's goals against per 60 minutes with him on the ice was 2.22 which was a bit higher than the 2.09 goals against when he wasn't on the ice. Combine that with the more expected drop in offense (2.14 on-ice goals for, 2.37 off-ice goals for). The lack of offense isn't surprising. That's not the role expected of Walz, and even the defense could be more the result of him playing against the opponents top line. So don't expect his role to change too much from what it was last year.

In this deal the Wild locked up one of their longest tenured players for a reasonable price. In Walz, they continue to get a reasonably good defensive center, who is a recognized leader in the locker room. Walz should continue to be a solid third/fourth line center and penalty killer through this season.

Wes Walz career Wild statistics:
Season Gm
2000-2001 Wild
2001-2002 Wild
2002-2003 Wild
2003-2004 Wild
2005-2006 Wild
2006-2007 Wild

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Wild Times: Fernandez Traded; Koivu, Skoula Resigned

Manny Fernandez traded to Boston on Sunday.
The Wild signed Mikko Koivu and Martin Skoula to extended contracts this weekend.

Manny Fernandez was traded to the Boston Bruins for prospect Petr Kalus and a fourth round draft pick.

Kalus was drafted in the second round of the 2005 draft out of the Czech Republic. Last season, Petr got his first stint in the NHL when he appeared in 9 games for the Bruins. He scored 4 goals and added an assist while he averaged just over nine minutes of ice time. He spent the majority of the season in the AHL with the Providence Bruins, where he tallied 13 goals and 17 assists in 43 games while accumulating 110 penalty minutes.

As I mentioned last night, this trade accomplishes a couple of things for the Wild, it frees up space under the salary cap for a possible run at a free agent. It clears up the goalie situation for the near future, and the Wild pick up a physical forward who has demonstrated some scoring ability.

Mikko Koivu was signed to a four-year deal worth $13 million.

The deal is reportedly structured as $2.7 million for the first year, $3.3 million for the next two years and $3.7 million in the final year of the contract.

Mikko was a first round draft pick in 2001 and after developing in the Finnish leagues for a few years, he saw his first NHL action in the 2005-2006 season. This year, in his second season, Koivu played in all 82 Minnesota games, and had 54 points last year (20 goals), improving by 33 over the previous year's campaign (6 goals, 15 assists in 64 games). After the season Koivu played with Finland in the World Championships and scored a key overtime goal against Russia in the semifinals to send his country to the gold-medal game.

This contract doesn't come as any great surprise. The Wild have locked up on of their emerging prospects for four more years. Hopefully, he will continue to improve and increase those point totals throughout the span of this deal.

Martin Skoula was signed to a two-year deal worth $3.6 million.

In 2006-2007, Martin Skoula was a pretty average defenseman for the Wild. He was second on the team in ice time to Kim Johnsson as a defenseman. He played the majority of his ice time even strength or on the penalty kill. He was the fifth choice for the Wild as a defenseman on the power play. He didn’t score a goal last season, but contributed 15 assists (5th among Minnesota blueliners). You can see about where he fit in the defensive corps by looking at the team goals against while Skoula was on the ice.

Defenseman Gm

This contract represents a slight raise for Skoula, as he was paid $1.6M last season. I don’t think this has too much impact on the Wild. The front office probably looked at what defensemen were available and how much they would cost, and figured Skoula would give them enough minutes at a high enough level that they would be better served pursuing a free agent elsewhere.

These were the first of a few new contracts the Wild will be offering this off-season. On the horizon, Wes Walz and Todd White will be on the market as free agents, at which point they are most likely done in Minnesota. Other contracts to keep an eye on are the restricted free agents. Bouchard, Boogard, Schultz, Foster, and Harding have all received offers. If they don’t accept them, they will be headed to arbitration in the near future.

The shortest off-season in professional sports is off and running, I’ll try to keep you updated as the 2007-2008 Wild take shape.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Fernandez Traded

Manny Fernandez has been traded to the Boston Bruins according to Michael Russo's blog at the Star Tribune. The Wild are rumored to be getting Petr Kalus in return.

This accomplishes a couple of things.

- Getting rid of Fernandez contract frees up enough cap space that the Wild are more likely to make a move on the free agent market.

- Backstrom is now the #1 goalie.

- In return, the Wild get Kalus, who scored 4 goals on 8 shots in his NHL stint. In general, it seems he's someone who will be an asset to the Wild in the coming years as a gritty forward with a bit of a scoring touch.

More on that and other Wild (and crazy) news tomorrow.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Minnesota Wild 2007 Draft Class

The Wild were eliminated from the playoffs this year by a physical Ducks team that steamrolled not only Minnesota, but everyone in the NHL on their way to the Stanley Cup. Clearly that experience weighed on the minds of the Wild front office as all their selections were players known for their physical presence. In fact, in the first round, they passed over some smaller skilled players to get the grinding forward they were looking at. The Wild also drafted heavily from the Canadian ranks taking 4 of their 5 picks from the Western Hockey League of our neighbors to the north.

These guys won't be suiting up for the Wild next season (none of the 2006 draft class have even been signed yet), they'll probably remain in their respective leagues for at least another year as the Wild have two years to ink them to a deal. Hopefully, someday in the not too distant future we'll see these guys suiting up for the Wild.

Here's a look at who the Wild drafted this weekend:

1st Round (16th overall pick) - Colton Gillies, 18 years old, 6'3, 189 lbs., Center, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)

The Minnesota Wild traded their first (#19) and second (#42) round picks to the Anaheim Ducks in order to move up three spots in the first round and draft 18 year old Colton Gillies of the WHL's Saskatoon Blades.

"I didn't see it coming." said Gillies, who was thrilled with his future destination. "I had 26 meetings with teams but today's meeting went well and here I am. I've been told that it is an unbelievable hockey city. I'm really excited to be a Wild."

With a couple of other big names still sitting in the audience in Columbus (Cherepanov and Esposito for example), I have to wonder if the Wild could have stayed put and allowed Gillies to fall to them in the 19 slot. But at least one mock draft (ESPN) had him going to Calgary at #18, and indeed it seemed that the Flames had some interest. So the Wild just wanted to make sure they got their man.

"He's definitely one of the best skaters in the Draft. He plays with a physical edge and he plays hard. The way the game is going, you have to have some size up front that can play. We feel that is a need in the organization and we feel he fits that need better than anyone in the Draft. You can't just have big guys that can't get there. They have to be able to skate and they have to play with an edge to them."
-Tom Thompson, Minnesota Wild Assistant GM

In his last season with Saskatoon, Gillies netted 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) while being assessed 148 penalty minutes in 65 games. Saskatoon was a very young team who struggled at times during the season and missed the WHL playoffs, so the supporting cast probably didn't help Gillies out too much. He also played through a couple of nagging shoulder and ankle injuries which may have decreased those point totals as well.

Colton is the nephew of former Islanders winger Clark Gillies (who was the bruiser on a line with Trottier and Bossy) although he's never met the guy. He grew up in British Columbia cheering for the Canucks (we'll have to work on that). He was highly regarded coming into the WHL (drafted 2nd overall in WHL entry draft) but that enthusiasm has tempered somewhat due to back to back low offensive output seasons. Still he was rated the 12th overall prospect by the International Scouting Service.

There may be more difference of opinion on Gillies than on any other player expected to go in the first or second round.

The general consensus is that Gillies is a very good skater, who will lay some hits, work hard, play well in the defensive zone and get physical. People are much more divided on his hockey sense and scoring touch. His skating speed came up again and again as being very special for a player of his size. The difference betwixt the opinion of him in the defensive zone (where he's very good), and the offensive zone (where reviews are mixed at best) is very sharply divided. Some have begun to propose a switch to defense for the young center to maximize the impact of his skills and given the Wild's success with a similar move for Brent Burns, I can't say I would be shocked to see the switch.

Central Scouting Service had this to say about Gillies:

A power forward with great size… out muscles his opponents and has the ability to land punishing hits… has great speed and is very consistent… uses his reach to his advantage and is good on the penalty kill… needs to get better around the net and at times to improve his positioning.

Finally, one last scouting report from NHL Draft Buzz:

Saskatoon’s young Colt is an impressive, towering centerman with elite skating ability… the ease with which he skates is a pure joy to watch … smooth accelerator with powerful crossovers … can blow by guys with straight line speed and can rotate from forwards to backwards at the drop of a hat … plays in all situations: 5 on 5, PK, and PP … already wears an A … is able to make plays on the penalty kill with agility, reach, and hustle … is a burgeoning threat on the rush … looks like a human freight train when dumping/banking the puck and chasing … owns a quick release that is not the most accurate or well placed … has good offensive sense and anticipation when the puck is on his stick … has fairly soft hands, receives passes well, and can stickhandle … adept at processing defender’s gap control and knows when to get rid of the puck … as a result makes some pretty passes from time to time … loves contact and finishes every check hard … is great along the boards with good puck protection and has the acceleration to roll out quickly for an offensive breakout/chance…could stand to think the game a hair quicker as he tends to chase the play a little too often … did not look comfortable or meshed with his linemates, which may have skewed his stats some … needs to be more consistent in driving to the net …can play defense as well, which shows attractive versatility … Gillies is a tantalizing blend of many talents who needs to show a little more confidence and ability to control the game.

2nd Round (no picks)

3rd Round (no picks)

4th Round (110th overall pick) - Justin Falk, 18 years old, 6’5, 211 lbs., Defense, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

A big defenseman out of Snowflake, Manitoba, Justin led Spokane in plus/minus last year while scoring 3 goals and 12 assists and amassing 88 penalty minutes in 62 games. Offense is not his strong point obviously, but he has earned praise for his physical defensive play.

Profile and interview

5th Round (140th overall pick) – Cody Almond, 17 years old (18 in July), 6’2, 194 lbs., Center, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

Either everybody in this draft was 6’2 or that was the Wild’s main criteria as this is the first of three picks who are listed at that height. Another big guy, the center out of Calgary showed some offensive ability leading his team in scoring with 15 goals and 28 assists in 68 games last season for a team that struggled offensively (2.17 goals/game).


6th Round (170th overall pick) – Harri Ilvonen, 18 years old, Defense, 6’2, 187 lbs., Tappara (Finland)

Ilvonen was the only Wild draft pick from the second day present in Columbus, as he expected to be taken in the third or fourth round. Instead he had a long day of waiting before the Wild snagged him in the sixth round. Harri was ranked as the #7 European defenseman (21st European skater overall) in the draft by Central Scouting Services.

Ilvonen is known as a smart player who is a good passer and skater. Another big guy who isn’t afraid to throw his weight around. Apparently he doesn’t have the quickest feet but he scored 9 goals and added 21 assists in 39 games last season while picking up 38 penalty minutes.

Scouting Video (5:30)

7th Round (200th overall pick) - Carson McMillan, 18 years old, 6’2, 200 lbs., Forward, Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

One last big guy, Carson, out of Manitoba, has played two seasons in the WHL with the Hitmen, last season he accumulated 7 goals, 15 assists and 78 penalty minutes in 72 games. Carson isn't afraid to mix it up a bit, as he's already the proud owner of a fight card at hockeyfights.com. That's hard to believe, because he looks like such a nice guy.

Short Bio

There you have it, the 2007 Entry Draft for the Minnesota Wild. The slogan this year must have been "Go big, or go home" because they certainly loaded up on physical players. I'll be keeping an eye on these guys as they develop and in a couple of years I hope to welcome them to the NHL.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

NHL Post-season Awards

My take on the post-season awards from a Wild-eye view:

Hart (MVP)
(143 ballots)

Winner - Crosby (PIT)
Wild - Marian Gaborik (2 fifth-place votes, T-20th)

I was actually pleasantly surprised that Gabby got some votes. He certainly proved he was valuable to the team this year. The Wild were 33-9-6 (1.5 pts/G) with number 10 in the lineup, while going 15-17-2 (0.94 pts/G) without him. Gaborik also finished second to Vincent Lecavalier with 0.62 goals per game in '06-'07.

Calder (Rookie)
(143 ballots)

Winner - Evgeni Malkin (PIT)
Wild - Josh Harding (1 fifth-place vote, T-13th)

That's about right I think. Good start for the young netminder. Hopefully he'll get some more looks this year once the goalie situation settles.

Jack Adams (Coach)
(72 ballots)

Winner - Vigneault (VAN)
Wild - Jacques Lemaire (2 first-place votes, named on 10 ballots, 7th)

I don't know that I would have put Lemaire in my top 3 coaches this year. Maybe if the Wild had won their division, but otherwise it was a solid but unspectacular year for Jacques.

Norris (Defenseman)
(143 ballots)

Winner - Lidstrom (DET)
Wild - Keith Carney (1 third-place vote, 19th)

Wait, did I read that right? Keith Carney!? I don't know what to say, I guess he had the best +/- of Wild defensemen, but my vote would have gone to Kim Johnsson.

Selke (Defensive Forward)
(143 ballots)

Winner - Brind'Amour (CAR)
Wild - Brian Rolston (1 first-place vote, named on 17 ballots, 16th)

I think this award is really hard to pick correctly so I'll just say that the Wild have always relied on defensive play from their forwards and the fact that the team that allowed the fewest goals in the league doesn't have a forward or defenseman in the top 15 of their respective defensive categories strikes me as odd.

Vezina (Goalie)
(30 ballots)

Winner - Brodeur (NJ)
Wild - Niklas Backstrom (1 second-place vote, 1 third-place vote, 6th)

Backstrom was the only goalie given a second place vote besides Brodeur and Luongo. Someone put him ahead of Luongo, and I think that's a difficult position to defend. Luongo should have won and Backstrom probably should have got a few more 3rd-place votes.

Lady Byng

Are you kidding? This had got to be one of the most ridiculous awards in sports. No further comment necessary. (If you must know, Pierre-Marc Bouchard finished 5th in the voting)

Friday, June 8, 2007

Wild Resign Backstrom

The Wild signed Niklas Backstrom to a 2-year $6.2 million dollar contract yesterday, which means that they now have both Backstrom and Manny Fernandez under contract through the '08-09 season. Niklas Backstrom lead the league in save percentage and goals against average, while he and Fernandez backstopped the Wild to a league low 191 goals against in the '06-'07 regular season. And, lest you forget, they also have Josh Harding waiting in the wings as yet another goalie of the future.

Manny Fernandez - 33 yrs old in August ($4.5M in '07-'08)
Niklas Backstrom - 29 yrs old (around $3M in '07-'08)
Josh Harding - 23 yrs old in a week ($450K in '06-'07)

Given Manny's stated preferences, I think I know who I would go forward with, but Riesborough seems to think he can keep everybody.

Something to keep an eye on in the near future, that's for sure.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Class-less Ducks Get Old Fashioned Butt Kicking

Despite yet more class-less acts from the Ducks and horrible officiating, the Minnesota Wild demolished the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 Tuesday at the Xcel Energy Center. The Wild got goals from Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Marian Gaborik, Brian Rolston and Mark Parrish. The Ducks got their lone goal from Chris Pronger on the power play after an absolutely ridiculous roughing call by the referee's, but I will get into that later.

On Minnesota's first goal, Boogaard uses his big body to win a puck battle behind the Anaheim net. He sends a pass to the high slot where Bouchard tries a one-timer. That shot is blocked, but pops right back out to him for another one and this one sails past Bryzgalov and in inciting an eruption from the crowd. We needed that, especially with under 2 minutes to play in the 2nd period.

Finally! The power play strikes!! Pavol Demitra makes a pass from behind the net to Brian Rolston who takes a shot that Bryzgalov gets a pad on, but the puck just lays there and Gaborik and Rolston hammer away until finally the puck is in! 2-1 Wild in a must win game!

Insurance is good! Rolston walks into the zone, drops it to Demitra who slides a pass back to Rolston that just slides off his stick, but turns and fire it at the net and scores from a nearly impossible angle. On a funny note, a fan throws a Duck Decoy onto the ice following the goal.

Mark Parrish finally gets a goal. Petteri Nummelin fires a shot towards the net that Parrish makes an unbelievable tip on for a 4-1 Minnesota lead. Following the goal, Ryan Getzlaf takes a run at Brent Burns and a melee insues. It is Corey Perry, not Getzlaf who ultimately drops the gloves with Burns. Burns holds on until he can finally land a HUGE blow that sends Perry to the ice. One of the best parts of this fights included a "WHOOO!" from Burns as he skated to the box. I love it.

One Man's View
I will try my best not to say something I will regret here, but I may get emotional here. First off lets get to the Wild's 5th goal that was disallowed. Apparently someone was in the crease, but if you can show me a replay that indicates we had a man in the crease I'd love to see it. Absolutely no class shown by the Anaheim Ducks in this game. A lot of chippy stuff happened earlier on in the game, but I will focus in on the 3rd period as to not run this column on. The Burn's incident was just the beginning. The biggest event coming with just under 2 minutes to play in the 3rd. Adam Hall gets tied up with a Duck (not positive of who) and they are about to drop the gloves when Shawn Thorton skates full speed toward the melee and jumps into the fight so It's 2 Ducks against lone Wild player Hall. Everyone on the ice skates towards the players who are tangled up, and Brad May sucker punches Kim Johnsson. Johnsson stays down and is visibily hurt. May receives a match penalty (official definition: The player is ejected from the game and is ordered to the dressing room immediately, and automatically suspended from the league until a hearing is conducted. There are two types of match penalties: a ten minute penalty for deliberate injury to an opponent and a five minute penalty for intent to injure. In each case, 10 minutes is assessed in the player's penalty records. Another player on the offending team serves the penalty for its duration and does not return to the ice until the entire penalty time expires.) and Thorton receives a game misconduct. Can someone please explain to me how you can play a game so great as hockey and show absolutely no class for not only the other team, but the game of hockey as well? The Ducks have shown absolutely no class at all so far this series and they deserved this ass kicking given to them Curtiosy of your Minnesota Wild. The next sweetest thing would be to come back from 3-0 and win the series. But lets not get ahead of ourselves, game 5 Thursday in Anaheim. Game time 9:30pm.

"We Will Fight to the End"

Regardless of how the rest of the series turns out, you know the Wild will not go down without a fight. Exactly how the anthem states, "We will fight to the end, we will stand and defend our flag flying high and free." Rest assured you will see fight from every Minnesota Wild player from here on out. The Wild will look for their first win of the series tonight beginning at 8pm at the X.

You were born to be a hocley player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Special Teams costs Wild

As I eluded to in my series preview, I said timely special teams were going to be the key to this series. Anaheim must have been reading, because they got 2 power play goals along with a shorthanded goal to down the Minnesota Wild 3-2. Francois Beauchemin had both Duck power play goals, helping Anaheim go 2-4 on power plays in the game. Ryan Getzlaf added the back breaker, a short handed marker with just over a minute remaining in the 2nd period. Marian Gaborik and Mikko Koivu had the Wild goals.

Niklas Backstrom did what he could, stopping 22 of 25 shots. The Wild outshot the Ducks 32-25, but the Ducks capitalized on opportunities and the Wild didn't. The Wild went 0-6 on the power play and really didn't get anything set up. Beauchemin gets the Ducks on the board with 6:41 remaining in the first on the power play, blasting a slap shot past the screened Backstrom for a 1-0 Anaheim lead. Gaborik ties things up 1-1, 3:33 into the 2nd period taking a pass from, you guessed it, Pavol Demitra and Gaborik beats Bryzgalov top shelf. Beauchemin strikes again, this time, one timing a Getzlaf pass and beating Backstrom yet again on the power play. As mentioned before, the back breaker comes shorthanded, when Getzlaf makes Martin Skoula looks absolutely ridiculous, going right around him and sliding a backhand short side on Backstrom for a 3-1 lead with just over a minute remaining in the 2nd. For the first time all series long, Pierre-Marc Bouchard shows some flash, picking a loose puck up on the side boards, walks in and shoots one right off the post, keeping the defecit 2 with 10 minutes remaining. Mikko Koivu gives the Wild some hope with just under 5 minutes remaining, getting a rebound and just sliding it under the pads of the Anaheim goaltender. The key to this play is Brent Burns who picks up the puck on the side boards, takes the puck behind the net spins around and puts the puck on net and Koivu jams the rebound home. The Wild get one chance the rest of the game, when Gaborik takes the puck off a faceoff and fires a shot at the net that he definately didn't get all of, and Bryzgalov makes the save.

One Man's View
Let's see, where do I begin? Well lets start with more chipiness from the Ducks. Brent Burns and Chris Kunitz get tied up together, Burns loses his helment and Kunitz pulls Burns hair. Are you joking me you? Instead of fighting you pull his hair, good job, pat yourself on the back after you pull up your skirt. Burns gets an absolute fantastic finish to this incident, landing a wicked right on Kunitz's jaw. You had that coming.

Plain and simple right to the point, the Wild have to capitalize on their opportunities or this series will be over in 4 straight. The Ducks are too good and their power play is deadly. As we found out tonight, so is their penalty kill. 0-6 on the power play doesnt cut it.

Lemaire needs to do some lineup adjustments, in my opinion. While Boogaard brings a physical presence, he needs to consider scratching him for Adam Hall. Hall brings offense as well as a big physical forward. Also, Martin Skoula needs to be scratched. I have never and will never like him. He makes too many mistakes in his own zone, and as we saw tonight Getzlaf made him look ridiculous on the short handed goal. For being labeled an "Offensive Defenseman" he doesn't do much offensively. Maybe Petteri Nummelin can get the power play off the ground again. Only downside to Nummelin is he is extremely small and is out-muscled easily, but something needs to change.

The Wild tightened things up defensively tonight and for the most part limited the Duck's chances. They have to stay out of the box and cannot take retalitory penalties.

I'm still very optimistic about the series. I watch these two games and think, "Wow the Wild are not playing good at all," yet they have lost both games by only a goal. Regardless they are still down 2-0 in the series, but the Wild haven't played their best hockey as of yet, and when they do, the Ducks better watch out. Problem is, Game 3 is a must win for the Wild, so they better start playing their best hockey and fast. The Wild coming home can be exactly what the team needs. Get the crowd behind you, gain some momentum, win these 2 games at home then steal one in Anaheim and come back to Minnesota and finish it off. The Wild are capable of winning 4 straight, heck they won 9 straight towards the end of the season. Wouldn't suprise me, but they need to start playing better and together and they will get this done. Sunday 7pm at the X the place is going to be rockin'!! My prediction for the rest of the series is as follows; Minnesota uses the crowd and wins these 2 games at the X, using the momentum steals one in Anaheim, and finishes off the Ducks at home in game 6. It's a stretch, but I've got to be optimistic.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Wild Fall 2-1 In Series Opener

In a hard fought game both ways, the Minnesota Wild dropped the series opener of the best of 7, 2-1 in Anaheim. The Wild got phenominal goaltending from Niklas Backstrom, who made 32 saves and kept the Wild in the game, especially in the third when they were outshot 12-6. Each team hit 2 posts.
After a scoreless opening period that featured a great breakaway save by Backstrom on Scott Niedermayer, Minnesota strikes first in the 2nd. Marian Gaborik walks into the zone, drops it to Kurtis Foster, who slides it back to Pavol Demitra who rips a wrist shot top shelf glove side. Demitra, usually calm after scoring, throws his arms up and pumps with excitement. Big first goal. Anaheim answers just under 4 minutes later when Teemu Selanne takes a lob pass from Francois Beauchemin (try saying that 3 times fast) walks in all alone on Backstrom and puts one five hole to tie the game at 1. Wild get a tremendous chance at the end of the period. Gaborik comes out of no where, splits the defense, gets hooked, still gets a shot off that hits the post. The Ducks take a penalty, but it is an absolutely terrible power play by the Wild who can't get anything set up till the final 20 seconds of the period.
In the 3rd, it is the Ducks who dominate, but it's the Wild with the best 2 chances. First, Brian Rolston takes a great tip pass from Mikko Koivu, who drives the net, throws it out front where a Duck defender just gets a stick on. With 7:25 to go, the Wild get an unbelievable chance that glances off the post and is knocked out by Duck netminder Ilya Bryzgalov. Branko Radivojevic feeds the puck from behind the net to Stephane Veilleux in the slot who snaps a shot right past Bryzgalov and off the left post. Just 2 minutes after the hit post by Veilleux, Dustin Penner receives a pass, races in with Kim Johnsson, out muscles him, gets a shot off that Backstrom saves. Penner then shoves Johnsson into Backstrom, and with the puck just sitting there, the Ducks get 3 or 4 good wacks before finally burying it for a 2-1 lead with 5 minutes to play. The Ducks control the biscuit for most of the final minutes to hold on the the victory.

One Man's View
I'm going to start off with some ranting. Ever since I've followed hockey I've had extreme respect for the Niedermayer brothers (Rob and Scott), but tonight I lost respect for both of them. First, Scott takes an absolute vicious slash at Todd White after the two collided. What kind of baby slashes another player because he gets hit? That's bush league and something you typically see when 6th and 7th grades lace up the skates. Guess that's the type of class we're going to be dealing with in this series. Second, brother Rob gets absolutely stapled by Nick Schultz on a clean hit, that Niedermayer and the Anaheim fans are obviously upset about. Rob is still obviously upset with Schultz, when, following a whistle, Rob jaws at Schultz for no reason and the two have to be seperated. Let me ask you guys something; Are we watching a hockey game or Tiddlywinks? Welcome to hockey boys where you will get hit; deal with it. You two acted like 2 year old girls after routine checks. Grow up.
Finally my take on the actual game. This is exaclty the type of game the Wild wanted to come out and play, a close physical game. Although they lost, they got solid play from Backstrom which was a must if the Wild want to win this series. In these first two games, all the pressure I believe is on the higher seed, who gets home ice advantage. The Wild really need to pick it up defensively, especially the D pairing of Nick Schultz and Kim Johnsson who were out for both of the Duck goals. They also allowed many chances that Backstrom came up huge on. The Wild can use the day off, re-focus, and come out in Game 2 and send a message early, possibly get a quick goal and really take it to the Ducks. Game 2 Friday night, I can't wait.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Anaheim(2) - Minnesota(7) Series Preview

Series Schedule
Wed, April 11 9:30 p.m.at Anaheim (KSTC 45)
Fri, April 13 9:30 p.m.at Anaheim (KSTC 45)
Sun, April 15 7:00 p.m.at Minnesota (FSN North)
Tue, April 17 8:00 p.m.at Minnesota (KSTC 45)
*Thu, April 19 9:30 p.m.at Anaheim (FSN North)
*Sat, April 21 TBD at Minnesota (TBD)
*Mon, April 23 9:00 p.m.at Anaheim (KSTC 45)
*if necessary
-- All times Central
-- All Games also shown on TSN

Anaheim Game Breakers
1. Teemu Selanne
2. Scott Niedermayer
3. Andy McDonald

Minnesota Game Breakers
1. Marian Gaborik
2. Brian Rolston
3. Nicklas Backstrom

Series Preview
Arguably the best matchup of the entire first round in the NHL. During the regular season, these two teams met four times and each walked away with a pair of victories. Each of the four games were decided by just one goal and each team managed a total of 10 goals in the series. This series is going to be a defensive struggle, most certainly coming down to the 3rd period or possibly overtime. "We've had some pretty good games against them. It's been a battle; it's been a 60-minute game, sometimes 60-plus minute games. I don't expect anything less in the playoffs," said Mark Parrish.

The Wild enter the playoffs as one of the NHL's hottest teams, riding the solid play of goalie Nicklas Backstrom, who has taken over the NHL lead with a 1.97 goals against average. The Wild are sure to have their hands full with Ducks defensemen Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, especially when the games are in Anaheim where the Ducks will be able to match them against the Slovakia studs (Gaborik and Demitra).

In the playoffs teams are not able to ride simply one line. To make a successful Stanley cup run, teams must get timely scoring, along with a balance from every line. The Wild are an extremely scary team for that reason. Mark Parrish and Mikko Koivu, each with 19 and 20 goals respectively make up Minnesota's "3rd Line" if that is what you want to call them. Wild coach Jacque Lemaire has shuffled Adam Hall and Branko Radivojevic in with those two. Unfortunately I believe either Hall or Derek Boogaard will be scratched, meaning Hall, who I believe is the best fit for the other 3rd line spot, may get shafted if Lemaire thinks he needs Boogaard in the lineup. Radio is also a good choice for that line, however I think Hall has shown great chemistry since being traded from the Rangers to the Wild with that line.

Special teams will be key. In the playoffs, in comparison to the regular season in past years has shown a drop in the number of penalties called, meaning less chances and more emphasis on making your chances count. The Wild ranked 6th in the NHL on the power play at 19.0 %, while Anaheim tied for the 2nd best power play in the league with 22.4%. Minnesota posted the 2nd best penalty kill in the league at an 86.0% success rate. Anaheim was not far behind, ranking 5th at 85.1%. Both teams have phenominal special teams, and will need timely goals, along with penalty kills, to swing momentum and possibly take over the series.

Probable Goaltenders
Jean-Sebastien Giguere (36-10-8) 2.26 GAA, 91.8 Sv%
Nicklas Backstrom (23-8-6) 1.97 GAA, 92.9 Sv%

Anaheim X-Factor
Ryan Getzlaf
Getzlaf's line will be counted upon to produce with Selanne's line getting special attention. Getzlaf had 25 goals and 33 assists for 58 points this season.

Minnesota X-Factor
Mikko Koivu
Koivu had a solid season with 20 goals, a career high. Special attention will be given to Gaborik's line, as well as Rolston's, leaving the door wide open for Koviu to have a big series.

If Minnesota can steal a game in Anaheim, watch out. The Wild are almost unbeatable at home, boasting one of the league's top home records. The Wild played extremely well on the road in the last half of the season as well. I just don't think the Ducks have the depth to compete with the Wild. Their top 2 lines are talented, but what if they are shut down? Where do they turn? The Wild can answer those questions with Koivu and Parrish on their 3rd Line. Wild in 6.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Bring on the Ducks!

In an essentially meaningless game Saturday night at the X, the Minnesota Wild defeated the St. Louis Blues 5-1. Four of the five Wild goals were from guys you wouldn't expect. Wyatt Smith (former Golden Gopher) scored his 2nd and 3rd goals of the season, Wez Walz normally known as a defensive forward, scored once, and Branko Radivojevic scored only his 11th on the season. Pierre Marc-Bouchard joined the 20 goal club as well.
Unfortunately because of the Easter holiday I was with my extended family so I missed the game. The fact that their playoff opponent was determined before the outcome of their game Saturday night I really didn't feel a need to try and find a television to watch the game on. I can't give a write up for this game, but check back Tuesday when I will break down the entire series with the Ducks, as well as give my prediction.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Wild Shutout Oilers 3-0, Again.

For the 2nd consecutive game, the Minnesota Wild shutout the Edmonton Oilers 3-0. Nicklas Backstrom recorded his 5th shutout of the season, turning aside 22 Oilers shots. The win puts the Wild at 102 points, a franchise record. The Wild set another record Thursday night, running their shutout streak to a consecutive 146:33, snapping the old mark of 132:52 (2003).
The Wild got on the board 6 minutes in, with Mark Parrish taking a great centering pass from Mikko Koivu. Coming straight from the bench, he walked down the slot and fired a wrist shot for a 1-0 Wild lead. Boogaard should get some credit, camping his enormous body in front, creating havoc on the Oiler goaltender.
In quite possibly one of the goofiest plays of the season, Keith Carney, known as a "stay-at-home" defensive specialist, breaks down the left side and beats Markkanen short side for a 2-0 Wild lead with just over a minute to play in the 1st. After intercepting a pass in the neutral zone, Carney races the other way. Boogaard almost collides with him, and jumps out of the way (if you haven't seen a replay, i would recommend it). After the goal, Carney is tripped and lays on the ice, almost seems out of breath, as teammates celebrate and laugh with the veteran defenseman.
In a game the Oilers seem they will not come back in, Marian Gaborik steps in and adds yet more insurance, taking a great pass from Wes Walz through the neutral zone. Gaborik takes two strides and is well ahead of the Oiler defenseman, makes a move that makes Markkanen looks foolish. Wild lead 3-0.
With the Wild win, they put pressure on Vancouver to win at home against Colorado, which they didn't. The Avalanche defeated the Canucks 3-1, keeping the divison hopes for the Wild alive.

One Man's View
Do you have any idea how it feels to hit 3 pipes, and be stuck at 19 goals on the season? I don't, but Pierre Marc-Bouchard does. Trying to become the 5th Wild player to do so, Bouchard missed 3 goals by a total of 3 inches. Regardless, Bouchard has had a phenomenal season, and won't need 20 goals to get praise from this guy. What else is there to say but another win against an Oiler team that has only won 1 game since the last February trade deadline? A win is a win, however.

Looking Ahead
Unless the Canucks go on a "losing streak" (i know it's hard to believe they can do that), it looks as though the Wild will be matched up with the Anaheim Ducks if they do not win the division. At this point, I don't care who the Wild face because it should be them afraid of us, not the other way around. The Wild are one of the hottest teams in the NHL at the best possible time of the season. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Wild Reach 100 points for first time in franchise history

The Minnesota Wild reached the 100 point mark for the first time in franchise history, defeating the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 Tuesday night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The Wild were again lead by goaltender Nicklas Backstrom, who turned away 25 shots for his 4th shutout of the season.
Mikko Koivu opened the scoring with 4 minutes remaining the 1st period, one-timing a Marian Gaborik pass for his 20th goal of the season, the 4th Wild player to reach that mark on the season (Rolston, Gaborik, Demitra). The Wild dodged a bullet at the beginning of the 2nd period, killing off a 5 on 3 and avoiding a potential disaster.
Someone needs to tell the Wild the longer they keep these weaker teams in it, you're begging for them to get a cheap goal, and keeping me nervous in a game I shouldn't be nervous about. Kurtis Foster (with help from Derek Boogaard's skate) scores with 2:22 left in the 2nd period to give the Wild a 2-0 lead, which stands as the buzzer sounds to end the 2nd.
Branko Radivojevic gives the Wild yet more insurance with 14:09 to play as he comes down with Pavol Demitra on a 2 on 1. He gives Demitra a look, then fires a wrist shot top shelf to beat the Oiler goaltender.

One Man's View
Backstrom, Backstrom, Backstrom. The possible playoff run the Wild can make will rest on his shoulders. The Wild have firepower, and will score goals and if Backstrom can play solid the Wild have to be one of the most feared teams in the Western Conference.
I'm going to talk about something I really don't pay much attention to. Tonight, Derek Boogard absolutely demolished Zach Stortini of the Oilers. After Radio's goal (referring to Radivojevic), Stortini lines up right next to Boogaard at the faceoff circle. They start jawing before the puck is dropped, and you know it's on. Puck drops and so do their gloves. Stortini tries to get in close to Boogaard eliminating his reach advantage, but Boogaard creates separation and lands 3 vicious blows as they both fall to the ice and the referee's step in. My question: Boogaard is 6'7 250 pounds, what makes you think you have a shot in a fight against him? Why do they insist on fighting him? He makes fools out of everyone who fights him.... yet they keep coming back, whatever, I enjoy it!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Avalanche Still Alive

DENVER (Ticker) -- Peter Budaj proved it's not how you start but how you finish. Budaj allowed a goal on the first shot he faced but slammed thedoor thereafter, and defenseman John-Michael Liles and rookie Paul Stastny scored power-play tallies as the Colorado Avalanche remained alive in the playoff chase with a 2-1 triumph over theMinnesota Wild.Entering with a 10-0-2 record in his previous 13 starts, Budajwas beaten by fellow Slovakian Marian Gaborik's shot -Minnesota's first of the game - just 81 seconds into the first period, putting Colorado in a 1-0 hole."We knew they would come out hard because they lost their lasttwo," said Budaj, who tied the franchise record of 10 wins in amonth set by Daniel Bouchard in February 1981. "I'm pretty surethey weren't happy."But the 24-year-old netminder turned aside the Wild's final 23shots, including just one during a 40-second, 5-on-3 power playfor Minnesota early in the third period, to help the Avalancheimprove to 12-1-2 in their last 15 contests."I think we matched their start," Budaj said. "I think weoutworked them a little bit. It was a big kill in the thirdperiod on the 5-on-3."With the win, Colorado (41-30-7) pulled within five points ofCalgary for the eighth and final postseason berth in the WesternConference."It was big," Stastny added. "Especially after they scored realearly. I think we bounced back pretty well.""It's what we needed," Liles said. "Hopefully, we can get somehelp tonight."Unfortunately for the Avalanche, the Vancouver Canucks could notaccomodate, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Flames (43-25-10) topush Calgary's advantage back to seven points with four gamesremaining.Facing the league's second-best penalty-killing unit (85.9percent), the Avalanche cashed in twice during the middlesession to erase the early 1-0 deficit. Liles scored his 14thgoal of the season at 4:25, matching his career high set lastseason, and Stastny tallied nine minutes later to put Coloradoahead for good."We had a lot of power plays, and obviously the first one was abig one to tie it up," Stastny said.It marked just the 10th time this season Minnesota allowed morethan one power-play goal in a contest."A couple of funny bounces," Liles said. "Our guys werebattling out there, and that's the big thing. A lot of times,it's just outworking their penalty kill.""We talked about discipline before the game and we didn't taketoo many, but with a team that has a power play like that, youcan't take those kind of penalties," Wild defenseman KurtisFoster said. "They capitalized on their power plays and wedidn't."Milan Hejduk and rookie Wojtek Wolski each recorded an assistfor the Avalanche, who are in danger of missing the playoffs forthe first time since 1993-94, when the franchise was known asthe Quebec Nordiques.Rookie Josh Harding made 30 saves for Minnesota (45-26-8), whichhad its five-game road winning streak snapped in losing itsthird straight overall. With the loss, the Wild remained threepoints behind the Canucks (47-24-7) for first place in theNorthwest Division with three contests left on their schedule."I felt pretty good out there," Harding said. "Obviously on thetwo goals, I could look back and see what I could have donedifferent, but the whole team played pretty well. We just cameout on the wrong side of the score."Colorado defenseman Brett Clark was called for holding just 26seconds into the contest, and Minnesota converted less than aminute later as Gaborik beat Budaj to the stick side with awrist shot from the left faceoff circle for his 29th goal of theseason.But the Wild were stymied the rest of the way, and the Avalanche- who own the second-best power play in the league at home -converted two of their three man-advantage opportunities in thesecond period to grab the lead."You give them three power plays, what do you think is going tohappen?" Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire asked. "That's whythey came back.""Anytime you are undisciplined, it's going to hurt you,especially against a team that is very good on the power play,very good at home on the power play," Wild defenseman KeithCarney said. "I think that was the only bad thing. We stillhad a chance."With just three seconds remaining on Derek Boogaard's chargingpenalty, Wolski completed a cross-crease pass to Liles, whodirected the puck past Harding less than 4 1/2 minutes into thesession to knot the game."(Defenseman) Ken Klee made a great play at the blue line tokeep the puck in and put it back down low," Liles said."Basically, it was three forwards and myself crashing the net,and I ended up being the guy who was open for kind of a tap-inrebound. They don't get much easier."Colorado jumped ahead with 6:33 to go in the period, whenStastny grabbed the puck during a scramble in front andbackhanded it into the net for his 26th tally."Hejduk had a good chance before that and hit the crossbar,"Stastny said. "Then it was a couple of bounces here and there.It landed on my skate and I kicked it up, and it turned out tobe a big goal and a big momentum boost.""I think they had a couple of lucky bounces," Harding said. "Butwe have to work for those bounces. Usually, the team that isworking harder gets those bounces. I lost the second one, andthe first one, I made the first stop and the guy had an emptynet."The Avalanche, which tied the franchise record of 11 wins in amonth set in January 2004, nearly doubled the lead with 6 1/2minutes to go in the third. But Harding came up with a big saveon Mark Rycroft's breakaway chance to keep the Wild's deficitat 2-1.

One Man's View
I apologize to anyone expecting a write up of my own. Between me getting my school stuff in order, work, coaching a hockey squad, recently getting sick (never any fun) and doing this i've been really busy so again my apologies to all my readers.
In regards to the game, it was just one of the those nights for the Wild. You run into a goalie (Budaj) who has a phenominal game. Unfortunately for the Wild in two of their last three contests they have run into a hot goalie, which has cost them a chance to take over the division. Minnesota has hit a minor bump in the road that shouldn't be anything to worry about. Although it is considered a "losing streak" they played solid saturday in Colorado. One positive note to report: The Calgary Flames beat the Vancouver Canucks, keeping the door open for the Wild to possibly take home the division before this is all finished. I am extremely pumped for the start of the playoffs.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Slow Start Costs Wild

The Calgary Flames defeated the Minnesota Wild 4-2 Thursday Night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The Wild dug themselves a hole they couldn't climb out of, falling behind 2-0 just 90 seconds into the game prompting the exit of Niklas Backstrom.
Backstrom’s been playing great and he’s played a lot of games and he had a couple bad bounces, so I said let’s take him out,” said Lemaire. “I wanted to see if the team would respond and I didn’t want him back there if they couldn’t."
Brent Burns answered for the Wild taking a pass from Marian Gaborik and blasting it past Calgary net minder Mikka Kiprusoff for his 8th goal of season, this coming on the power play. After the horrendous start, just a one goal deficit going into the 1st intermission would have meant a whole new ballgame, but Calgary captain Jarome Iginla made sure that didn't happen, taking a great pass from Daymond Lankow and burying it with only 12 seconds remaining in the 1st period. After a scoreless 2nd, Calgary jumped to a three goal lead in the third period when Iginla completed the hat trick taking yet another great pass, this time from Craig Conroy. The Wild cut the deficit in half yet again with just under 7 minutes to play when Mark Parrish tipped home a Kim Johnsson shot for his 18th goal of the season. Mikko Koivu also picked up an assist. Jacque Lemaire said "The Kick in the Pants" may just be the eye opener the Wild needed as they prepare for the playoffs.

One Man's View
Unfortunately I had to work so i missed the entire game. Basing my opinion on highlights and the write up on Wild.com, the Wild played sluggish for most of the night and when you play a team like Calgary you cannot play bad and win. Maybe this IS what the Wild needed. Prior to the game Minnesota had picked up points in 16 of 18 contests. This sluggish performance hopefully can open Wild player's eyes, have a good Friday practice before taking on Colorado in Denver on Saturday. Lets hope Lemaire can get them back on track, which i don't worry about for a second.

Looking Ahead
The Wild travel to Colorado on Saturday for their final road contest of the season before returning home for a 3 game home stand against the Oilers (2) and Blues, two teams who are guaranteed to miss the playoffs. When you trail a division the only thing you can do is win. Do not worry about that first place team take care of your business. Problem is the Canucks seem to pick up a point in every game as of late, which makes it difficult to catch them, however not impossible. If the Wild take care of the games they should win, we could see a division race come down to the final Saturday of the season.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wild fall to Flames 1-0 in a Shootout

In a game that was completely dominated by the Minnesota Wild in every aspect except on the scoreboard, the Calgary Flames won 1-0 in a shootout Tuesday in St. Paul. The Wild out shot the Flames 38-24, including 14-5 in the first period which featured a Mark Parrish goal being disallowed and complete domination by the Wild. Flames goaltender Mikka Kiprusoff was the obvious number one star stopping anything and everything the Wild threw at him. Niklas Backstrom was as impressive, stopping all of Calgary's 24 shots, including an incredible toe save with under a minute to play in regulation to help Minnesota gain at least a point. Despite the loss, the Wild clinched a playoff spot with Vancouver defeating Colorado. The Wild currently sit 6th in the Western Conference with a franchise record 98 points. Calgary and Minnesota will play again Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center.

One Man's View
A few things upset during the review of the Mark Parrish goal in the first period. First off the game had tremendous flow and pace. You not only blow the call (and given the replays we were shown on television i think you all can agree) but you slow down the game and ruin a teams momentum (which in this case happened to be the Wild's). Secondly why should a call need to be forwarded to Toronto (who ends up making a final decision) to determine whether a goal should or shouldn't stand? Football has a simple system; you need conclusive evidence to overturn the call on the field. Shouldn't hockey do the same? At least if there was a replay which showed obvious and conclusive evidence to overturn the goal show the fans. We should have a right to know and see why a call was overturned. If there was no other view, and the replay officials made a decision based on the replays we were shown on television, then I'm sorry but the replay officials should be fired because there is absolutely no way you could tell me you saw that puck hit off of Parrish's stick and that his stick was over the crossbar.

Looking Ahead
The Wild will play host to the Calgary Flames again Thursday before traveling to Colorado for their final road game of the season. They then finish up with two games at home against division rival Edmonton. The season finale will be Saturday April 7th against the St. Louis Blues. The Wild have a real shot to take down the division. Their final three games are against non-playoff teams, all of which are home games. The Wild are 26-11 which ranks towards the top of the western conference. Some keys down the stretch for the Wild is to get their special teams rolling. Special teams play a huge roll in the playoffs and can make or break a team. The Wild rank 10th in the NHL on the power play and are 2nd in the NHL when it comes to penalty killing. Obviously home ice advantage would be ideal, but the Wild have played solid on the road the past month and will be a force to be reckoned with regardless of the venue.