Turkey Week And Hockey Talk!

Marc Elliott

MOOSE LAKE…. I just got done watching the Minnesota Wild best the Nashville Predators by a 4-0 whitewash. This was the tail-end of a back to backer for the Preds but I’m not shedding any tears for them. (they lost 4-0 in Columbus last night) In fact, dare I say I am getting downright disturbed by their current style of play. Under the 16 year tenure of former Coach Barry Trotz the Preds played a very structured game, played hard, but weren’t particularly known for the cheap stuff, (well maybe Shea Weber had a reputation) or hacking and whacking with their sticks.

How things have changed. Weber looks like a windmill out there at times with his stick, James Neal appears to have a little bit of Matt Cooke in him, and they are both complimented by others in the lineup. The last time the Preds visited St. Paul they handed the Wild their only home loss (3-2) of the season and Neal injured Wild star Zach Parise on a questionable play. (personally I think it was a dirty play) Tonight’s contest may have been, years back, billed as a return “bout” of sorts with no holds barred. Alas, the game has changed and the Wild don’t even have one player on the roster that you would regard as a strictly “enforcer” type of player, even though I think they could still use one at times.

After some early push in the 1st from the Preds, the Wild finally notched one at 13:07 on a Ryan Suter goal. The boys never looked back. The firmer a grip the Wild got on this tilt, the more shenanigans the Preds let loose with. Shea Weber, I never realized how much cross checking and stick work came out of this guy per game. Likewise from D-man Barret Jackman, the former STL Blues player. Jackman laid 7 crosschecks in a row on Charlie Coyle before the refs could finally find their whistles. And I am starting to think that Weber is the new Chris Pronger, that’s his style.

At any rate this was the type of game the Wild needed after a disaster of a road trip that saw the team go 1-2-1, or basically 1-3. The only game they won was the first one against the last-in-the-league ranked Carolina Hurricanes. And the Wild had to come back in that game and force an OT to get the victory. An OT loss to the Dallas Northstars followed and then a poorly played game versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, (4-3L) followed by another so-so performance against the Boston Bruins. (4-2L) The Wild were scored on 1st in all four of the road games.

One final word on the Preds. In the past they have always played a good, hard, honest brand of hockey. That’s how Coach Trotz wanted it. What is behind their new style? Try Head Coach Peter Laviolette. When he won his Cup years back with Carolina I didn’t see this in his team. In his stint with the Flyers I did. And now that he is back in the league I think he brought some “Philly” with him to the Music City…..

I SAW AN INTERESTING ARTICLE earlier today and it was a good piece debating who were the top five choices to be hoisting the Stanley Cup in mid-June. First off, the Wild weren’t one of the five. The summer time, off-season chatter was that the Wild were a strong possibility to be one of those teams, however, with the season now at least 19 to 20 games in for every club in the show, the play of the Wild along with some real road game inadequacies have shown that they still have some work to do to be considered to be at that level. In my opinion they aren’t too far off of that list, but if this is win, place and show, they are probably still at the “show” level.

After the Carolina win and the OT loss in Dallas the Wild crept up in the daily Sagarin rank to 8th position in the league from 14th.  Prior to the Nashville win they had dropped to 11th. After 19 games the club is 11-5-3 for 25 points and are in 3rd place in the Western Conference Central division. The final tilt of an 11 game sked tonight is the Chicago Blackhawk’s versus the Vancouver Canucks and if the Blackhawk’s win they will leapfrog the Wild to 26 points. Just about halfway through the 3rd period the Canucks are holding a tenuous 3-2 lead.

So, who are the 5 teams on this “list“? Here it is, in 5th are the Washington Capitals, 4th are the Blackhawk’s, (which I really disagree with) 3rd are the Montreal Canadiens, 2nd has the Dallas NorthStars and in 1st and the most likely team to win the Cup (if you believe these articles) is the New York Rangers. Not a bad list overall for whatever it’s worth, but I don’t see the Hawks on there right now, and I can’t see them on it later in the year either. But woe is me, the Hawks just tied their game on a mad shift by Patrick Kane, who got an assist on an Artem Anisimov rebound goal extending his points streak to 15 games. But hold your horses Baba-Louie! The Canucks have just scored 2 goals in 2:01 to take a 2 goal lead late. Maybe the Wild’s 3rd spot is safe for tonight….

IN THE EARLY SEVENTIES a handsome, well built, tanned and athletic looking fellow burst on to the Twin Cities wrestling scene. It was clear from the start that he was brought in to be a “bad guy” or heel in wrestling parlance, and it was also clear that he was going to play that to the hilt. Aided by an equally despicable manager, these two guys went on to become two of the most infamous, most disliked performers in the history of Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association. Nick Bockwinkle, managed by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan could get fans so worked up that an auditorium sellout was virtually guaranteed every time they were the headliners on a wrestling card.

Bockwinkle, 80 years old, passed away in Las Vegas last Saturday. I will touch base on this in the upcoming weeks. And friends, even though I lost my father this year, and our 16 year old canine buddy, the list of things I have to be thankful for is so long I can’t believe it! I hope yours is too and that you will remember to have gratitude in your heart everyday. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours…. PEACE