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Best Wild Week Ever

by Staff Writer / Minnesota Wild

As Clay Matvick said on the most recent edition of my favorite reality show, Minnesota Wild Country, you never want to come to grips with the fact that your team is “playing out the string.” Unfortunately, with playoff hopes dashed, the Wild are indeed “playing out the string” as spoilers.

However, if playing out the string can mean inducing ulcers in the stomachs of Oiler and Canuck fans whose teams playoff hopes ride on every game, well that’s just a feather in our proverbial caps, is it not?

The Wild finished the week with a 2-2-0 record, but again, those are just meaningless statistics. Plus, as you’ll find when you read ahead, the Wild got a win on Monday that won’t be entered into the record books.

Read ahead and you’ll soon realize that the week of March 27 through April 2 was the Best Wild Week Ever. No April foolin’.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Although it didn’t get much ink in the local papers, and the announced attendance was just slightly under the usual 18,568, the Wild came away with a huge victory on Monday at the Xcel Energy Center. The big club had an “off” day, but Wild employees (we call ourselves Wild JV) took on local marketing agency, Olson and Company, on Monday afternoon.

 In an effort to intimidate the Wild JV, Tom Chorske donned full uniform for the not-so-friendly game on Monday.
The Olson’s wanted this one, as evidenced by their team putting on the foil and tabbing ringer Tom Chorske as the designated “guy who’ll score when he wants to.” But the Wild’s roster, which is littered with former high school players, was too much for Oco., which couldn’t overcome an early eight-goal deficit. Once the Wild JV fell back into its defensive shell, it was able to frustrate the visiting team. The Wild JV doubled up Olson with a 44-22 victory, which was much closer than the score would indicate.

Goaltender/Xcel Energy Center Marketing Director Peter Johns, earned Star of the Game honors after stopping 148 out of 170 shots.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Obviously worried about the office minions threatening to take their jobs, the Wild varsity players turned in a big-time performance on the road in Edmonton, Alberta. Minnesota was going for an unprecedented fourth straight victory at Rexall Place, which was the Wild’s home away from home this season.

Wes Walz got the Wild on the board first with a shorthanded goal, but the Oilers responded with two power play tallies later in the period. Some might fret at the one-goal deficit staring at the Wild going into the third period. There certainly would be good reason, considering the Wild hasn’t exactly found the “clutch” goal enough this season. But Oiler-killers, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brian Rolston quickly erased that deficit with two huge goals. Rolston actually cashed in again, but for the 432nd time this season, the officials found a way to wave off a Wild goal, citing Kurtis Foster for interference.

It didn’t matter. The Wild took that adversity, put it in that little pocket inside their breezers, then held off the Oil for a solid road victory.

The celebration was limited, considering the team had another game in less than 24 hours in a whole other city, but the boys slept soundly on the plane knowing that they took a major step towards having the Best Wild Week Ever.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Wild began a two-game series in Vancouver on Wednesday, hoping to bounce the Vancouver Canucks out of playoff contention. For those of us who stayed up until 10:00 PM just to watch the opening faceoff, we were treated to an array of Nick Schultz body checks, one of which crumpled Todd Bertuzzi against the end boards, and another of which caused Bert to threaten to “take his head off.” Basically, it was the usual fun and games when these two teams get together.

The good juju came to a screeching halt with six seconds to play, however. That’s when Anson Carter punched home a power play goal to propel the Nucks to a 2-1 win. The Wild was incensed enough with itself and with a borderline call on Mikko Koivu in the final two minutes, but when Alexandre Burrows flipped a puck at Wes Walz when the final buzzer sounded, the captain was furious.

If the Wild could somehow rebound from this one on Friday, you can chalk it up to Burrows indiscretion. While this one was disappointing, a little revenge on Friday would go a long way toward making this the Best Wild Week Ever.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

On Thursday, the Wild geared up for the rematch with an early morning practice at General Motors Place.

In the meantime, several television crewmembers did some research for the game on the slopes of a mountain in Whistler. Word from the West is that Mike Greenlay, who was apparently too cool to use skis, turned in an epic face plant after losing his balance on a snowboard. When he regained his footing, all that was visible were his goggles.

If picturing a 6-foot-4, 240-pound goaltender-turned-color analyst doesn’t brighten your entire week, I don’t know what will.
Friday, March 31, 2006

There was hype, hullabaloo and any other H-word you can think of surrounding the eighth and final

 Mikko Koivu’s shootout goal on Friday went a long way toward making last week the Best Wild Week Ever.
meeting of the year between the W’s and the V’s. With the words that were thrown around between the two clubs to the media-types, you would have expected a Slap Shot-type brouhaha during pregame warmups.

That never happened. In fact, the lack of cheap shots and trash talk was somewhat eerie, but not unwelcomed. Instead, we were treated to the dazzling performance of Manny Fernandez, coupled with Marc Chouinard’s second period power play tally, which forced a scoreless overtime session.

In the Wild’s first shootout against a Northwest Division opponent, Mikko Koivu pulled out his favorite forehand-to-backhand trick, and roofed the only goal of the bonus round.

Just like that, a three-game road trip was finito, and the Wild had picked up four of six points.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

The Wild returned home from its weeklong road trip on April Fools Day, and headed directly to its practice rink in Minneapolis to prep for the mighty Red Wings. The boys relinquished the Xcel Energy Center to their co-tenants, the Minnesota Swarm. Now, normally we focus strictly on hockey here at BWWE, but we have to mention the Swarm’s Minny-miracle comeback on Saturday night against the Toronto Rock.

Trailing 9-2, the Swarm rattled off the next eight goals for an amazing 10-9 victory, which enhanced its playoff chances tremendously. The Swarm is now tied for second in the East division with just three games remaining. Not only is this the Best Wild Week Ever, but it just might be the Best Swarm Week Ever as well.

Sunday, April 2, 2006

The Wild shot for a winning week on Sunday against the mighty Red Wings, who were towing along their hefty 50-15-8 record into the loading dock at the Xcel Energy Center. The Wild did its best to suppress the high-powered Wings attack, and the best way to accomplish that is throwing a hot goaltender between the pipes. Fernandez was brilliant for the fourth straight game, making 34 saves, but a stellar netminder and a top-ranked penalty kill can’t guard against unbelievable playmaking.

Steve Yzerman, possibly playing in his final game in St. Paul, set up two beauties in the second period, and that provided enough insurance to compensate for goals by Bouchard and Marian Gaborik.

So there you have it. The Wings escaped with a 3-2 win the Wild couldn’t solidify that winning week, but fortunately, the Best Wild Week Ever had already been etched in stone. All we have to do now is find out...

…Who had the Best Wild Week Ever?

 If he keeps this up, we may have to rename the Best Wild Week Ever Award as the "Manny Fernandez" Award.
Manny Fernandez. As Minnesota struggled to score goals in previous weeks, Fernandez struggled to find the wins he was racking up earlier in the season. Some wondered if he could handle the duties of a number one goaltender.

To that, Mr. Fernandez said “Sacre bleu!” last week and he smothered those thoughts like he would a loose puck in his crease. After stopping 114 of 122 shots in four games last week, winning twice, running his consecutive start streak to a club-record 13 games and visiting with Bob Kurtz and Tom Reid on WCCO Wild Sunday, Fernandez is easily having the Best Wild Week Ever for the second time in his career.

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