Minnesota Wild….Fork….Stick? and Stanley Cup Battles Rage Forth!

Marc Elliott

BEAR RIVER…. It’s Monday evening. Usually I would commence work on a story on Sunday and mentally build it in the preceding 3 to 4 days, sometimes more then that depending on the topic. I also kind of held off, waiting in rapt anticipation of what may or may not happen in tonight’s all important NHL tilt. For the first time in the history of both of these NHL teams, the Minnesota Wild and the Dallas NorthStars are meeting in the Stanley Cup tournament. Thus far our former team has had their way with our current team. They arrived in the Capital City fresh off of a 2-1 win in the Big D on Saturday night, earning themselves a 2 games to none lead in the best of seven series. Game one was a 4-0 whitewash over a fairly listless Wild club.
When I use the word “listless” it was basically the most understandable descriptive I could put in here, and probably the cleanest as well. The Wild effort, or lack thereof, was that bad in Game one. Fan angst after that debacle, and then even after Game two was at fever pitch. Alas, as easy as it would be to do so, I don’t want to write a “hit” piece here. (I’ll save that for the post-season ?) No, the Wilds problems are well documented and because I spend a great deal of time on NHL Network TV and Radio as well as watch as many games per week as I can, I have heard this club dissected multiple times by a vaunted array of experts and analysts and probably you have too. The team is weak at the center position, the 4 to 6 D positions are thin, the 3rd and 4th lines are thin, Goalie Devan Dubnyk is not having the same magic he exhibited last season when he got here and so on.  And there is even more, but man oh man…..
I had a fan telling me on Sunday that the Wild are one of the smallest teams going. So, I did what I usually do when I think I am debating with someone who doesn’t have the facts at hand. (Not that I always do, but a lot of times have a basic grasp) So I asked this fan if they knew that for a fact. Hesitation set in and right then I knew I was right to question him. I usually save that tactic for politics! The truth is that the Wild are 21st in weight, 19th in height and 15th in age. They are kind of firmly ensconced in the middle 3rd when it comes to that data. And is it some kind of valid determining factor for anything? A real big or small player or two on a roster can sway that data quite heavily. If you have a Zdeno Chara, a Dustin Byfuglien or a Johnny Gaudreau on your team you know this. We have a “Granny”, and no, I don’t believe he skewed the age average on the team.
The Wild’s current dilemma though has nothing to do with size or age or anything of that ilk. It has to do with heart, and effort, and backbone. It has to do with the theory that if you are a member of a team, nothing is bigger then that. Nothing. For the last 3rd of this season, and the post-firing of former Coach Mike Yeo we are getting bits and pieces of stories involving some major locker room power struggles, power and philosophical strife between star players and Yeo and a room divided between star and aging veterans and up and coming young guys. This team isn’t exactly a band of hockey brothers stepping onto that rink in the jungle. I can FEEL why this club is right where it is at.
About 15 years ago a former business acquaintance whose son was a WCHA player told me about how the team had been utilizing visualization and affirmation to improve their play and it had positive effect. From that point forward I have been deeply intrigued by the effect of mental abilities on performance. So, how do you think the Wild mess IS effecting their game right about now? Why were they not engaged in the all important Game One of the greatest tournament on the entire planet? I mean, that game was a disaster….
Right now though the Wild are in gamer mode. After allowing old nemesis-new NorthStar Patrick Sharp to score twice in the first five minutes of the 1st period, this team has awakened. I mean, I’m rubbing my eyes and everything. It must be noted that Sharpie has appeared to have figured out Duby, Duby, Du. The Wild got one back late in the 1st, then tied it early in the 2nd and went ahead late in the period. Reality set in though when Jason Pominville took a penalty at the end of the 2nd to allow the N-Stars to begin the 3rd on the power play. Can they hang on here and make it a series?? We shall see, I am hoping…
IN OTHER SERIES; the STL Blues have gone up on the Blackhawk’s 2 games to 1. I picked STL and I have had questions about the Hawks since late Jan…. Nashville went into the Duck pond and took both games in Anaheim for a 2-0 lead. I took ANA but I could see the Preds going past Round 1 too… The Shark likewise went into the Kings house and are back home with a 2-0 lead. To me, the Kings didn’t look like a team building up for the tourney late in the year, and the Sharks really, really owe them one on the chin. I went with SJ in this series…
The NYR didn’t look so good in G1 versus the Penguins, but they put a power display on the Pens on Saturday afternoon. They are at 1-1 going into a Tues eve dinner affair…. The Winged Wheel went back home limping with a 0-2 deficit to the Tampa Bay Bolts. Home cooking tasted good for the Wings as they won Sun eve 2-0 after putting Pete Mrazek between the pipes…. The Capitals put a beat down on the Philadelphia Flyers tonight 6-1 to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series. The Isles took the FLA Panthers in G1, but the Cats rebounded in G2 for a win. Last night in the 1st NHL playoff game in Brooklyn the Isles came away with a 4-3 OT win to go up 2 to 1 in this series…
It is now 4-3 Wild with 6:15 left in the 3rd. Do you have a light sweat on your brow yet? I do… PEACE