One of the few teams who's name is an adjective not a noun, the Minnesota Wild try to do things differently. They led the Northwest going in with a 5 point lead on the home team. They got there with goaltending and a persnickety adherence to the defensive game. But come on. You cannot lead forever without being able to score, and the Wild have not been able to do that lately.
You have to wonder why they would adhere to that system even when down 3-0 in the third, but hey, Mike Yeo is an NHL coach and I am not. The Wild had some good jump in the first, (or, perhaps as Luongo alluded to in his in arena first star interview, they "didn't have their legs" in the opening period after a long flight ), but Roberto Luongo was most definitely on his game early. Also in the middle and at the end.
In honour of the Wild doing things differently, I'll try doing that too after the break. The ins and outs of the latest win, from A-Z.
NHL ( lots of clips as usual. Thanks NHL.com )
A - is for Andrew Alberts, the oft misunderstood giant. I sometimes think its the size that looks anything but graceful getting there. But he does get things done. He made some nice plays, worked well with Sulzer more or less, and after feeling the pressure in the first, recovered well. +1, 1 block, 2 hits and a fight that he must have enjoyed, from the smile on the way to the box.
B - is for Burrows. The guy just plays the game hard. Forecheck. Gotcha coach. Penalty kill? Engage Terror Twin mode. Dominate with the Twins? No problem coach, thats just fun. Thank you again for putting me with those guys. 1 goal (a very pretty one ), +1, 1 hit and a team high six shots.
C - stands for Canuck hockey, which this team ( in the last two periods ) played. The Wild came hard, they always do. But they had no match for the puck possession game the Canucks play. But its not just fun and games. They get you out of your seat, but Canuck hockey includes hitting. They led that stat 13-11 after one, 25-19 after two, and 31-25 at the end. The fourth line led the way with 10 hits, with Weise leading the way with 6.
D - well, that's Daniel, one of the Sedin Twins. He may have looked like the guy with "33" on his back with 3 assists tonight, but that has always been a misconception about the Twins. One's a passer, the other a shooter. No, they are just hockey players, superstar ones. His pass on the Henrik opening goal that tantalized the defenseman but was JUST out of reach was wonderful, but did he not look like his bro' on that Kesler goal?
E- Edler. Dude just gets better and better as a player. His absolutely perfect poke check on Cullen on a break was the catalyst for the power play goal that opened the score. It got him an assist, he was a +1, he had 2 SOG, a block, and 3 hits in a solid game.
F- Yep, I said Fuck. So did Alexander Sulzer, Andrew Alberts, and Dan Hamhuis. All three had at least one egregious turnover. The stats guy said the team had 7 giveaways in that first ( they ended the night with a 9-1 edge in that negative stat. But they also led in takeaways at 7-5 ). All three of those guys also went back to the goaltender and sticked the pads as they said "thanks".
G - Goals goals goals. 4 of them tonight, and was there a "garbage goal" in the lot? Henrik Sedin's goal and two helpers put him into a tie with Kessel for the NHL scoring lead, but I wanted to highlight this one below. Check closely for the slick head fake before the pass right on the stick of the Dane goalscorer...
H - Cody Hodgson. The Franchise. Silent G. CoHo. Cody Godson. He leads the team in nicknames, and is fast becoming a bigger and bigger part of the team. His ice time that everyone looks at with such glee? He had 15 minutes of even strength ice time, and had 15:49 in total. 5 out of 6 draws won tonight. An assist shown above for it's coolness. 3 SOG, and even a hit. Hell, AV even got him out with the second line guys after a special teams shift!
I - I love watching the Sedins play hockey. I love watching the Sedins play hockey with Alexander Burrows. Oh hell, here's that goal too.
J - Jed Ortmeyer. Not for his game, he had an OK one in that regard, I guess. But how in the hell does he not get a penalty for getting his stick into Jannik Hansen's feet on a long race for the puck in the corner? Is the NHL happy with people getting their legs broken or other catastrophic injuries as the result of that shit? Beaker was OK, but come on ref. Once again the reffing was uneven. Though the Canucks were 2 for 3 on the PP, and the Wild 0 for 1, so maybe I'll just shut up.
K - Has to be for Ryan Kesler. His goal was one of those that penalty kill coaches will point to in video sessions, but come on coach. If Schultz does not pay attention to him a bit, he does something else or tries one of those around the front goals on Backstrom. It is something though. Oh hell, here's more video. Check out how Daniel gets the guy looking at him and then almost "gives the nod" to Kesler for the goal he blasts in.
L - Luongo. The man is plugged in. Whether it was the save on Bouchard with the how do you do with the glove, or the one early in the game off a defender turnover where he made the save from the top of the crease, and batted it out of the air with the stick, I love when I see Luongo play with flair. Because he is in the game when he does. There were a bunch of giveaways in the first ( 7 ) where Lui just gave the resulting shooter nothing to shoot at. He was on. 6-0-1 in his last seven now, and the 1.5 ish goals against in that time going in went down tonight.
M - Mark Mancari, he is the one. He may be on his way back to Chicago before tomorrow is done. Andrew Ebbett looks to be ready, and Mark, while his foot speed looks improved since the pre season, is probably the logical choice with the fleet Wings on the docket next. But he was pretty good as a 4th liner tonight, in both ends. They looked to be under pressure, his line, but when they were, they kept it mainly along the boards. He had 3 hits (0/2 on draws ), and was not perfect, but I liked The Stanchion's favorite player tonight.
N - No. No. No Dany Heatley. Mike Yeo should slap his nose with a newspaper. He took a dumbass penalty to take his team off their one power play with a high stick on Burrows, and while he had a couple shots, and a surprising 4 blocks, he just does not look like the game breaker the man once was. Maybe he really, really, really misses Mikko Koivu.
O - is for the Offensive Zone. This game went 13-9 in shots for the Wild in the 1st, 13-9 for the Canucks in the 2nd, and they sawed off 11-11 in the final stanza. But who looked better in the offensive zone? The Wild had 16 blocks ( to 8 for the home team ), and they played hard in their own end as usual. But it is the artistry and talent of the deep deep forwards and defenders for the Canucks that continually jump into the play which overwhelms opponents. Overwhelming opponents in the offensive end. Alliteration is cool.
P - Is for points, of which the Canucks score a lot. The 3 point performances by both the Sedins not only has Henrik at 39 points, but his bro is only 1 point behind. Hank has 30 helpers to lead the league there too, while his bro sits third there with 25 assists. Balance too. Daniel has 13 goals, Burrows 12, and Hansen a surprising to some 11. But with Hank and Higgins both at 9 goals, Kesler 8, and Hodgson and Salo both sitting at 6 right now. That is 8 guys that will break double digits for sure ( and most of them will probably get 20 goals ), and it is not beyond the pale to suggest this team could have even more balanced scoring than last year.
Q - always a toughie. Quota. The Canucks continually fulfill their quota of face off wins no matter what. The nice surprise of Silent G getting 5 of 6 wins is solid, but after the Wild had a 9-8 edge after one, it was 18-16 after two for the home team, and 31-25 at the end. Manny Malhotra won 3/4 after twenty, 4/6 after forty, and then pulled away, losing just one draw in the final period to go 9/12. It sure helps, and they need more of that against the Wings.
R - Raymond. After taking a puck to the face and going off, AV answered the worries of the possibly, but not certainly, mainly female fans by saying "he looks like a hockey player now...pretty boy" while almost laughing at this blemish on his farmboy good looks. But you know, even though this was one where a puck just got him, Mase might get even a few more battle scars ( if people can catch him! ) with his newfound desire to go to the tough areas. Only a shot and a hit on the stat sheet, but he was very good at finding the spots to fill in the cycle with Kes and Higgy.
S - Sedin. I have said plenty above about them. But it has to be said again. Thanks Burkey. You definitely got the best players available in the 1999 draft. Oh, and for Sulzer. He was efficient in the German style. +1, 1 SOG, 2 blocks and 2 hits. He played well for someone not on the starting roster for a month.
T - Take a look at the standings. Being 3 points behind the Wild with a game in hand is more fun than 7 points back. This game also ( even though they will deny it ) sent a message. "We're coming. Let's see you guys stand up to the pressure, or become this year;s Avalanche". Hell, the Thrashers ( T for the defunct team!) looked like world beaters last year too. How'd that turn out? Not to sound to boastful as a Canuck fan, but our team has been here before, and knows what it entails. Not sure about the young Wild.
U - Underwhelming. The top line for the opponents tonight without Mikko Koivu was underwhelming. Perhaps that had something to do with their opponents though. The Kesler line got the bulk of the time, but there were shifts that the Hodgson line was a checking line tonight and did well, and even one shift where the 4th line was out against the Cullen line. Not to say they did not create chances, but how often did you notice them after that first period?
V - Value. Alexandre Burrows is a player with outstanding value to the team, and the next on that list of great bang for the buck players on this roster may just be Jannik Hansen. He is doing it without the help of identical Swedish superstars for the most part as well!
W - Dale Weise had a team high 6 hits in just over 11 minutes, 3 more than his line mate in a little less time ( Mancari had 10:35, and 2 less shifts ) He even got some work with the second line when Raymond was getting stitched.
X - Degeneration X? Are they done? Can Triple H convince the showstopper to come back off the farm? And WTF does any of it have to do with hockey? ( nothing, X is hard too )
Y - Youth. The Wild had a few guys you would need a program to know, but they seem to just plug in another guy. Its funny, we make fun, but it is a good team, and they play hard, but even with the young guys, it is funny how they get themselves ramped up to play the Blue and Green. Their fans hate us, so they do. Sometimes, that is enough. On nights like tonight, it most definitely was not. They were game. But talent won out tonight.
Z- Zut Alors, I'm over 2000 words. Gotta go! Are you looking forward to playing the Wings as much as me? It is usually such pretty hockey when these two teams get together. Until then.