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Best Wild Week Ever

by Staff Writer / Minnesota Wild

 Just because Nick Schultz got schooled in Bubble Boy does NOT mean last week wasn’t the Best Wild Week Ever. (cr. Bruce Kluckhohn)
Some folks within the State of Hockey legion (not many) noticed that this column was missing last week.

You can quit with the mock applause. I don’t know why you people think that’s so funny.

Despite the eternal optimism that we hold so dearly here at Best Wild Week Ever, it was tough to justify a week of three losses in four games, with the team away from home entire time, as an exceptional week. There was nary a Hockey Unplugged appearance or hospital visit, and two of the losses (to Philadelphia and Buffalo) were enough to make us question why sports were ever invented.

We think it’s best to move on and never bring that week up again for all of our collective sanity.

This week on the other hand, well, it was an entirely different story. In fact, I personally challenge anyone to dispute that the week of December 12 through December 18, which featured two rousing one-goal victories and several public player appearances, was the Best Wild Week Ever.

In the words of the Wild’s national anthem singer, Mike Schmidt, “please join me” in recapping the Best Wild Week Ever.

Monday, December 12, 2005

 Say hello to Foster the Snowman, who is doing just dandy considering the frigid conditions last week (cr. Pat).
Coming off a tough 3-2 loss the night before at home to the Buffalo Sabres, the Wild squeezed in a practice at the Xcel Energy Center before boarding an eastbound plane. There was a delay in takeoff as a one of the plane’s tires was replaced.

It was a rather auspicious start to the Best Wild Week Ever, but hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day. We’ve got six more days, and three games to go.

On drab and dreary Wild days like this, we recommend constructing your own Wild team made of snow as Pat, a season ticket holder from St. Louis Park whose gender remains withheld, took the time to create as evidenced on the left.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The early returns on the last week were looking strong to very strong after a stirring 4-3 road win over the Islanders of New York. Fans without the NHL Centre Ice package missed seeing a game that had a little bit of everything. But sometimes, Wild fans like to kick it old school, and they had the chance to do that on Tuesday if they tuned into 830 AM WCCO on the radio dial, to catch the call of true legends of the airwaves, Bob Kurtz and Tom Reid.

The Wild looked like 1979 Canadiens in the first period, jumping out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Marian Gaborik and Captain Willie Mitchell. But for half of the second period, the boys morphed into the Oakland Seals as the two-goal lead transformed into a one-goal second period deficit faster than you can say Mattias Weinhandl.

 Arron Asham does not show the look of a man who is having the Best Wild Week Ever.
Not to worry, Gabby bagged his second goal of the night, followed by Marc Chouinard’s backhanded game-winner with two seconds left in the second period. Shortly thereafter, Islanders right wing Arron Asham melted down and flipped out at the referees, who were not entertained when he took an unprovked run at Kurtis Foster, then shattered and threw his stick in disgust, drawing a total of 16 penalty minutes in a three-minute span.

High-quality entertainment provided by Asham. We’ve got five days to go, but I can pretty much guarantee that Arron Asham did not have the Best Wild Week Ever.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Following the Tuesday night thriller, the Wild returned home after spending most of the past two weeks on the East Coast. It was high time to start re-connecting with the fans that the players missed so very much while toiling in hotels and strange bathrooms.

 Pierre-Marc Bouchard (center) and Nick Schultz (second from right) made a new friend on Wednesday, but not with Mike Greenlay (right). (cr. Bruce Kluckhohn)
Wild defenseman Nick Schultz and winger Pierre-Marc Bouchard wasted no time in pounding the pavement, as they awoke from slumber and made a B-line for Children’s Hospitals and Clinics in downtown St. Paul. While there, the two Wild youngsters hung out with some cuter youngsters in the Wild Teen Room at the Hospital.

The players walked around to various rooms to visit the kids and spread some holiday cheer. But it was Schultz who needed to cheer up the most after more than one youngster in the Wild Teen Room pasted him in Bubble Hockey.

Brent Burns and his homepage-poll-winning hockey hair put a capper on the evening by appearing on Call of the Wild, which was taped at Sgt. Pepper’s in Oakdale.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Minnesota kicked off a three-game homestand by hosting the Boston Bruins, who had never defeated the Wild in five all-time meetings. That changed after Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the “B’s,” who did everything short of banking the puck off a referee’s elbow into the net.

In our ongoing quest to be positive here at BWWE, we always say that Wild got shafted in every loss because of “bad bounces.” Usually, it’s a copout or an excuse, but this time, we mean it.

The first Bruin goal came after the puck ricocheted off the Zamboni door and into the crease while Manny Fernandez waited behind the net to play the puck. The second Boston tally came at the hands of Sergei Samsonov, literally. Samsonov appeared to knock a floating puck in with his hand, but a review of the goal allowed it, as the replay crew said it was not intentional. Finally, Marco Sturm deflected a David Tanabe shot off his upper body and in to provide the game-winner for the “B’s.”

Looking back, it was a minor setback in the Best Wild Week Ever.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Wild defensemen Willie Mitchell and Kurtis “Bananaz” Foster got into the Holiday mood with another Hospital visit. This time, the Gillette Specialty Health Care in Region’s hospital was the destination for spreading good will.

Like their Wednesday counterparts, Foster and Mitchell visited with groups of children and their families, handing out gifts and signing autographs. Mostly, it was just a chance to chill with kids who can’t get out to see their favorite hockey players.

“The hospital can be a lonely place,” said Mitchell. “If we can brighten their day in some way possible, it’s worth it to us.”

Saturday, December 17, 2005

 Kurtis Foster’s overtime game-winner triggered a raucous celebration inside Xcel Energy Center. (cr. Bruce Kluckhohn)
There was a lot of hullabaloo surrounding Saturday night’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. After all, Montreal is the NHL’s most storied franchise, thanks in part to Wild coaches Jacques Lemaire and Mario Tremblay, Wild President and General Manager Doug Risebrough and Wild Coordinator of Amateur Scouting, Guy Lapointe. That quartet has their names on the Cup a combined 23 times.

There was little or no talk surrounding the coaching staff prior to Saturday’s game, however. The buzz entering the contest was the first-ever NHL meeting between Wild center Mikko Koivu, and his older brother, Saku, an All-Star center for the Canadiens.

By the end of the most exciting Wild victory of the season, it was Brian Rolston and “Bananaz” Foster who stole the show. Rolston figured in on all four Wild scores in a 4-3 overtime victory. He scored two and set up two others, including Foster’s game-winning missile during a power play in overtime.

Anyone at Saturday’s game will back me up when I say that was the perfect second-to-last-day of the Best Wild Week Ever.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Wild closed out the week with a practice at the Xcel Energy Center to prepare for Monday’s meeting with the Dallas Stars.

Wild fans had the go-ahead to sleep in on Sunday, as they earned it in putting forth a great effort over the week, helping to make it the Best Wild Week Ever.

With that, let’s find out…

…Who had the Best Wild Week Ever?

 Don’t look so shocked Pierre-Marc! You’re easily having the Best Wild Week Ever! (cr. Bruce Kluckhohn)
Pierre-Marc Bouchard. It’s the season of giving and the season of sharing, so who else would have had the Best Wild Week Ever than the guy who could have an instructional video on giving and sharing. Bouchard showed his unselfishness on the ice last week, picking up four assists, including three on Saturday night, to up his team-leading total to 19.

He also showed his willingness to take time to make a hospital visit to brighten the day of his fans at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics in St. Paul.

On behalf of everyone you’ve shared with Pierre-Marc, thanks for making last week the Best Wild Week Ever!

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