I am not trying to illuminat(i) your minds here at all. That kind of stuff is for the network news guys, PBS and CBC.
This is just too perfect for the Canucks and their run through the Xcel Energy Center. Its been a personal horror show for the back up tonight ( though, interestingly enough, he has 3 straight shutouts at home versus the Wild.), what with a 7.00 GAA in the last three here. So, maybe Grand Wizard Vigneault played the averages, or maybe it was just time for Cory Schneider to take the crease. He had some big saves tonight, but come on. He only had 24 shots.
My favorite stylistic tool is the A-B-C's, but that, I have decided, is only for the big games. The rivalry tilts. The Wild just think the Canucks are a "rival". Get in line there Wild fans. We have some others a little further up the food chain that hate us much much more than you.
So, in honour of the above and luck at the Xcel or the lack of it, here's the thirteen points to ponder tonight.
- OK, the Dave Bollands and Canuck haters of the world, hands up who has ever taken a shot off the ankle? Klein can bring it too, so that was probably close to 100 MPH. Ahhhh, I can see the hands coming sheepishly down. Truth is, without getting too hyperbolic about it, that performance the day after he was felled blocking a shot was heroic. How'd he do? Well, with his new biggest buddy with the feathery hands filling the Burrows position on a Sedin rush perfectly, he made an amazing reaction to Byron Bitz's pass and hit it out of the air and onto the line before sweeping the puck home for what turned out to be the winning goal. It was certainly the prettiest goal of the night. Hank had his brother playing well, and Bitz looking like Big Buf' the way he held off guys on the boards down low. But even though you know he was probably hurting, and will have the foot in the ice soon ( if not now ), the captain led by example. 16:07 TOI ( 2:13 PP ), a GWG, 2 shots, 2 takeaways,and a 6 for 9 faceoff performance. Well done Hank. Let's put that "toughness of the Twins" BS to bed now, shall we?
- It did not look like it was going to start out too well in the Canucks least favorite arena at the (is it a symbol!???!!) 00:13 mark of the 1st period. Alex Edler made one of his few mistakes right off the hop, jumping the line and getting chipped. Sami Salo was solid tonight as well, but he gave Heatley way too much room while covering the 2 on 1 that developed, and he was able to make a nice move around Cory Schneider's pad and stuff it in for the 1-0 goal. Thank goodness the Wild then reverted to form and tried to sit on the lead. Against the Canucks. With 59:47 to go. OK then. The rest of the blue line? Well, Andrew Alberts made some good plays, but was beaten badly by Setoguchi for the only other goal to beat Schneids. He was credited with 1 hit in 17:07. Kevin Bieksa was a +3, best of the night, but had one of those reverses to no one that forced a huge save. He also got involved in that silliness at the end and threw his glove at Clutterbuck, and had 12 PIM. He also had an awesome assist ( such a skill getting that shot to the net with a guy on him for Manny Malhotra to perfectly tip ) A shot, a block and a hit finished off an eventful night. Dan Hamhuis threw his first hip check of the night with less than 10 minutes to go on Cullen, which may have, in the Wild minds anyhow, been something to be upset about. It was clean, but that puck was a bit of a ways away! +2, 3 SOG, (1 miss), 1 block, 3 hits, a giveaway and a team leading 21:32 TOI ( 2:01PK / 335PP ) on a penalty kill that goes 1 for 4, and was very good, but for the Setoguchi late goal. They were all solid overall, but you know what, I thought Aaron Rome missed Keith Ballard ( on the radio they said his neck, and doubtful for the Calgary game ). He had a couple blocks, and he and Alberts had some "moments", but they were mainly recovered on, and he did have 2 blocks and a hit. The penalty that got Seto's PP goal was debatable, but whatever right?
- Except for a few shifts with the Twins after a penalty kill, Byron Bitz was the first line forward, and he played like it. The shove that resulted in his goalie interference penalty was much the same as a couple later on that Heatley (x2) and Johnson (?) took advantage of to get a solid bump on Cory Schneider. In addition to that pretty pass that may have surprised some that think "fighters have no hands", he was credited with a hit, a shot, and a giveaway. But that belies the trouble that the Wild had with him down low and in front of the net. It forgets how he seems to be figuring out the cycle of the Twins pretty damn quickly. Get this guy in front of the net on the 2nd power play! He really must be thanking the hockey gods. How about the reward for all that work rehabbing after four surgeries? Better and better. Thanks GMMG and Moneypuck.
- Speaking of the Ginger Jesus, how good was the goaltender tonight? Well, he only had 5 shots to deal with, but his reactions were bang on. After the early goal, he made a sparkling save on Setoguchi on a power play not long after that was one of those quick little pad saves while under control that are a hallmark of his game. He handled a bunch of traffic ( his own guys did well with it, but sometimes it was a lot of bodies in a little space ), and Heatley using a check by Alberts as he got by him as carte blanche to just keep going. The puck did not go in there, somehow, because he was so strong standing up to it. Minny had a 9-7 edge in shots in the second ( the last five minutes was the only time they looked dangerous ) and a 10-4 edge in the third. There was some big saves to be made. They were all made under control on the first shot, more often than not. Gold Star for Cory, we'll see you next week versus the Oilers (?) .
- Mike Yeo totally and utterly ripped his team. He went off on the shooters, mocked them for trying to play talent for talent with the Canucks, and was pretty amazingly honest. Brutally so. Basically said his team has "sucked" the last two months. If I can find the clip, I'll throw it in the comments.
- Here is how I saw the kerfuffle at the end. With less than 30 seconds, the referees just did not take control of the game. Yeo must be "Old School", as he had knuckledragger Brad Staubitz on the ice, and he went to the bench and after Lapierre, Cody Hodgson, and anyone else that was around. For his troubles, he was speared by Lapierre. Let me say I don't condone that, but, unless someone can show me a better replay, it did not seem that hard. Maybe it was the where and not what. How about getting Staubitz off the ice? The result was Cal Clutterbuck being an ass ( probably because Mad Max kicked his ass. Damn right I am going to crow about that. Max wins so few of them ), after losing that fight. It was not needed, the whole "kerfuffle" could have been avoided by the refs (perhaps, maybe it still happens ) sending a message just before. I doubt anything more comes of it. Perhaps some fines.
- I had to go get a bandaid after getting a cut on my typing finger reaching into a package of crackers, and my Mac crashed twice because of that damn Flash 10.4 / 10.5 problem. Don't tell me shit don't happen! ( just reading that after watching Hank and his injury, I feel pretty wimpy. I'll STFU and play through it.)
- Marek Zidlicky cannot help his team? Really? How in the hell is this guy getting sat out so often. He was the team leader with 4 shots ( and he had a few good ones. The Wild have a better option on the point I guess. ) He was one of the few ( like Greg Zanon, who would be a good trade target if they keep falling, for someone ) who was a plus ( +1) on a blueline that ...well, was not that good, and led that blue line in ice time.
- Mike Gillis had another interesting interview on TEAM before this game ( this afternoon ). He likes Steven Reinprecht, thinks Jordan Schroeder is figuring it out, and has some interesting points on HBO 24/7 and the Winter Classic. Hint ; rain is not a good thing for one here. Nice to know there are options, the way guys like Burrows, Edler, and Kesler took shots tonight ( 15 blocks ) Alex Edler blocked 4 of them.
- Speaking of Ryan Kesler, it is sure nice to see him in Beastmode again. The guy took some time getting it going, but he now has 18 goals, has scored in I think it is six straight now. Even if that was an empty netter, it was a great cookie for a guy that had a great game. The Wild could not handle the KesLORD all night long along the boards. How in the heck he did not get credited with at least one takeaway tonight is one of the vagaries of how stats are scored in buildings I guess. Here's what he did get credit for ; 1 goal,+1, 3 shots ( and hard ones amongst them ) 3 blocks and 1 hit in a very full 18:59 that featured a 1st period where he went 7 of 7, then 10 of 12, and finally 12 of 17 on a night where he was matched up with Saku's little brother all night. He was a beast. Regardless of the 3 shots and 14 of 25 draws that Mikko somehow got credited for.
- My Mac hiccups meant I lost the first and second period final stats, but after the Canucks dominated both the hits and faceoff categories in the first, whether partially by the play, and partially by the stats guy, the final tally was 30-30 on faceoffs, and 22-22 on the hits. But the most telling stat for the Wild tonight was 14 giveaways to only 8 for the visitors. The Canucks were better on the puck all night.
- I know that folks were wondering about the lines, but once again AV had some inspired choices. Cody Hodgson was fine with Lapierre and Mike Duco, and probably deserves an assist on that Lapierre goal. That line was solid enough, and the way the kid held the puck gives me every confidence that he would have flourished with more time. He had 13:13 ( come on, dad was in politics, he is a young Freemason for sure! ) TOI, and his +1 and 1 of 2 shots on net and 4 of 11 on draws somewhat clouds how the kid seems to be so "on the puck" at both ends. Sure, mistakes will happen with the rookie. You might make a few when you have that skill. But I liked his game positionally all night. Besides, that 4 of 11 was helped by a large portion of Manny Malhotra's 7 of 14 wins being in the defensive zone. When he did not ( and without digging out the numbers ) the large majority of the wins on the penalty kill draws resulted in a dump out. Nice hands at the other end for Manny on that tip as well.
- The Canucks face a Flames team that is desperate and it will be on Hockey Night In Canada, for the first time in a long time. Let us all join hands and pray that does not include Mark Lee.