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HIBBING…. The Fan Jr. is 25 today, I’m on the verge of retirement, Social Security and advancing arthritis and all I can say is Holy Schnikees!! Happy Birthday William! It was a crisp North Shore Saturday morning and his Mom’s water broke right after daybreak, and we loaded up the Volvo 740, dropped off his Big sis at a neighbor in Larsmont and raced down the expressway to St. Luke’s for the big event. I almost always took the scenic route home so if I was spending one second on the four lane you knew something big was up. It was a long day with a great ending! Just about 4 years to the day post birth the big guy had skates on for the first time. It’s all Men’s league and pond hockey now, but that’s the best isn’t it? Love you Billy!
THE MINNESOTA WILD had an intriguing West Coast roadie last week, beginning with a 5-2 meltdown versus the LA Kings, followed by a dramatic 3-2 OT win against the Duck of Anaheim, followed by even more drama in San Jose Sunday eve in a 4-3 OT victory over the Sharks. Against ANA the club was up by a 2-1 tally before the Ducks tied it up setting the stage for a second consecutive OT winner by Wild D-man Matt Dumba. This was a bit of a frustrating game to watch for me as the Ducks have such a depleted roster due to injury that they are suiting up half of their AHL roster to compete every game. They are slowly regaining some players, but have lost the most man games in the league this year due to injury. And for them it appears to be one step forward one step back. Last night their Captain Ryan Getzlaf played his first game in about a month and a half and Forward Corey Perry left the game in the 1st period with a LB injury. He didn’t return and as of early this AM there is no word yet on the extent of the injury. My feeling though is that due to the Ducks current situation the Wild should have had this game locked down from the beginning, and did not.
Sunday night versus the Sharks the Wild built up a nice 3-0 lead at one point and then some sloppy play and poor penalties allowed the Sharks to eventually creep back in and tie the game, get it to OT and then the Big Swiss National, Nino Neiderreiter, had to step in and save the day and the West Coast swing. Of course, I like Double N, he is a good young man and who doesn’t like his post gamers when he is talking about controlling the “pock” and the like? The funny thing is, when he gained control of the biscuit right before getting the GWG, I am hollering at the TV (it hasn’t answered back yet) NINO! Where have you been all night? And then BAM! After letting out a big yell, I burst out laughing! OH, you are right THERE. Post-game Coach Bruce Boudreau called it a “character win” for the team. Well Double B, I’m feeling you. I get it. There are a lot of egos to massage from your position in the scheme of things, but hey, in my book a character win would have been locking this tilt down when you had them 3-0. Just sayin’….
The boys take on the Calgary Flames this eve in St. Paul. I am not sure what to make of this contest. Both teams are somewhat enigmatic in their play so far this year and pro sports bettors will tell you not to bet on the home club their first game back when returning from a long road trip. I would like to think the Wild could handle the Flames if they are on their game, but we don’t know which team is going to show up on any given night. I have seen the Flames twice in the past week or so, once in their smackdown-comeback-smackdown at the hands of provincial rival and nemesis Edmonton (a 7-5 loss) and then Saturday night in a 4-2 win over Vancouver. Like the Wild you know in your heart that they are better then they have shown but inconsistent in their play. When I watch the Wild I see a club that is frequently not playing to the level that I believe they are capable of, yet I see 5-6 players a game that just aren’t contributing much. Ouch.
ARE THE RED WINGS leading a renaissance of on ice hockey fighting? Over the past couple of weeks they have been involved in two tilts that have featured multiple fights, some of them simultaneous in nature. They are having a rough go of it in the W-L column so this could be what they do for excitement! We’re losing, but don’t dare screw around with us! WHY DO THE BLACKHAWKS continue to obtain high rankings in the various ranking services? They aren’t that good in my book. They are 14-16 and listed at 12th and at 6th in two of my favorite lists. They have no shootout wins and 5 OT losses. Sixth? Are you serious? The core is aging, there is not much defensive depth and outside of the up and coming Alex Debrincat their youngsters are not young Kane and Toews. I need an explanation here.
I HAVE SEEN several LA Kings games so far this year and I must say that former UMD Bulldog Alex Iafallo has been nothing short of impressive. He has played in every game (31) and has 10 points on 2G and 8A. He is a plus 9 on a much improved team. He has settled into a wing spot nicely with King Captain Anze Kopitar. Former Wild netminder DARCY KUEMPER is the backup to Jon Quick here and has put up some nice numbers furthering my theory that the Wild totally mishandled him while here. It was always my thought that the club played him so infrequently between starts that Kuemps could never get into a natural goaltender’s rhythm. He is 5-0, has a 1.88 GAA and a .942 SV%. You can’t put those numbers up playing once in about every 18 games….
THE ATHLETIC; WILD @ 16th with a 52% chance at the playoffs. THE SAGARIN; 12TH on a 15-14 record, 4-9 versus the Top Ten. NHL STANDINGS by points percent; 15th @ .569%, 5th in the CENTRAL, TIED with CHI and ANA at 9th in the playoff race for 8 spots…. PEACE