GOPHER FB defeated and WILD Captain Mikko Koivu hits a milestone! 

Marc Elliott

 The Captain hits 1,000 games and  700 points in a 3-2 WILD win!
The Captain hits 1,000 games and 700 points in a 3-2 WILD win!

MINNEAPOLIS… I didn’t have a good feeling about the Minnesota Gophers-Wisconsin Badgers game all week. When the Gophers football team faced the powerhouse Penn State earlier in the season, I didn‘t think for a moment that entire week leading up to the game that the Gophers were not going to prevail. For this game? My intuitions, my “gut” feelings, psychic powers, whatever you wish to call them, none of them were giving me the power vibe. But in front of a sold-out stadium the Gophers struck first. On the 2nd play of the game the Gophers Tanner Morgan completed a perfect strike to Rashod Bateman and he ran it in for a score. After that, not so good signal number one was that the Badgers were containing the Gopher ground game which is one of their hallmarks. 

Not so good signal number two was that whenever the Gophers were going downfield on pass plays that would have gained significant yardage they missed on many of them. In spite of that the score stood at 10-7 Wisconsin at the half. And then the Badgers made a few more adjustments at halftime then did the Gophers and they slowly took control of the game and a deflated, mostly pro-Gopher crowd of 53,756 were “taken out of the game” as the theory goes. The Badgers play calling and execution were better, they ran some unique plays at just the right moments and succeeded with them, and the Gophers made some uncharacteristic mistakes that negated any chance they may have had at a comeback win. 

Wisconsin took the score up to 38-10 before the Gophers got a late score to complete the game for a final of 38-17. But it has to be said that the final score was not indicative of how this game played out. The Badgers outclassed the Gophers in pretty much every phase of this contest. Right up until it was time to get Paul Bunyan’s Axe and celebrate the win. After retrieving the Axe and thrusting it in the air the Badger players thought it would be a good idea to apply salt to the Gophers wounds and go to midfield and make believe they were “rowing the boat” with the Axe. Of course that was a direct, in your face jab at Gopher Head Coach PJ Fleck and his mantra that everyone involved with the team, coaches, players, fans and so on help support the team and give that effort their all. 

OK. I get it. To win the game with a berth up for grabs in the Big Ten Conference Championship Game is a big deal. To throw some dog duty on the ground and then rub your defeated opposition’s face in it is a big deal as well. It’s a big deal because it is a public demonstration of a lack of sportsmanship and class. Perhaps they didn’t like it last season when the Gophers proudly displayed the Axe after their win at Camp Randall. I can only hope that there was no behavioral deficiencies on display that day from the Maroon & Gold. And if there were? I’d have to think there would have been some major rump chewing from Fleck and his staff afterward. I can’t say how the Wisconsin staff handled this, or if they even did. In an era whereby crass, tasteless behavior seems to come from many places, even from places you wouldn’t think it would, this isn’t a surprise. It’s still a disappointment though. 

Prior to that, no Badger fan am I, but I’d be remiss to say that they haven’t built one of the top twenty programs in the land. And certainly they have dominated the Gophers now winning 22 of the last 25. However, after Saturday’s win the all time series stands at 61-60-8 for the Badgers. This means that the Gophers at one point had a series lead of 57-39-8. It also means that the red clad revelers from Madison might want to learn a little humility, because I think they are in for a big dose of it come Saturday night in Indianapolis... 

MINNESOTA WILD CAPTAIN Mikko Koivu played in his 1,000th NHL game this Sunday past, all with the Wild. He is only the 55th player in league history to play his first 1,000 games with the same team. In a small bit of irony, the opponent Sunday was the state’s former NHL team, the Dallas Stars. Koivu got an assist in the game for his 700th point and then got the GWG in the SO for the extra point. I’ve seen few players of Koivu’s caliber take the amount of fan negativity on social media as Koivu does. I know because it seems like I have been defending him against alleged fans that do so for well over ten years now. The comments range from he’s not an elite scorer, doesn’t seem to be “rah-rah” enough to be a team Captain, he wouldn’t be a number one, two or three center (pick your season) on any real good NHL clubs, he doesn’t hit enough, or they don’t like his contract and so on. 

From my vantage point the criticisms are misguided. There isn’t an opposing Coach, GM, scout or player in the league that wouldn’t tell you that you your opinion is a pile of road apples. That’s right, people that are actually getting paid to be in the NHL, not sit in the stands and criticize that which they don’t know that much about. I’ve said this a million times before, but the Captain isn’t all flash and dash, he isn’t a scoring machine, won’t jar your bones with his checking or give a locker room speech like Knute Rockne. But if you want to win a crucial faceoff, shutdown an opponent’s top scorer, or simply play a substantially solid 200 foot game, Mikko is your man. Like most of scandinavian heritage, he’s not showing up at the rink anytime soon with pom-poms in hand, but if you are looking for superb consistency in a player who will show the way to others by example, you can’t go wrong with Mikko Koivu, it’s as simple as that.  

Congrats Mikko, this fan is proud that you are a big part of our team... PEACE

WILD DATA; The ATHLETIC; 20th, trending for 90 points, with a 40% chance at the playoffs and a 1% chance for a Cup win. The SAGARIN; 18th on a 12-15 record, 2-7 vs top ten, 2-11 vs top 16 with a #1 ranked difficulty of schedule. NHL STANDINGS; 6th in the Central on a 12-11-4 record for 28 points. 79GF, 86GA, -7 differential. 7-1-2 @ H, 5-10-2 @ A. 1-0 in SO, 6-1-3 in L10, streak of 3W. 6th of 9 in Western Conference Wild Card, (2 qualify) 12th of 15 in the West, 22nd of 31 in the NHL, only 3 points from a WC position. 19th in GF/79, 22nd in GA/86, 10th on PP/20.7%, 18th on PK/81% and 15th in PIM’s/217. This week; @ FLA, @ TB, @ CAR, OVER & OUT!