The Minnesota Wild? They sure as heck don’t fear change. In fact, Wild players were all for some changes when it came to road play last week. The club had lost 10 straight games going into a week in which all four games would be played in unfriendly confines.
Only a severe change in fortunes would constitute the Best Wild Week Ever, especially with the lack of player appearances and fan events. Lo and behold, things changed for the better, and three straight road wins were enough to supply us with yet another Best Wild Week Ever.
Monday, January 8, 2007
Typically, a Wild road trip will start out with a practice in the road city. Head Coach Jacques Lemaire likes to get his team’s feet moving after spending a few hours on a plane. Players would prefer to practice at home, and then fly out so the rest of the night is free, but Jacques wears the hat and the whistle.
On Monday, the players got their way because of a scheduling snafu. In another welcome change, the team practiced at Parade Ice Garden in Minneapolis, and then headed due northwest to Calgary, Alberta.
Some players commented to the Minneapolis Star Tribune that a stellar road performance might loosen Lemaire’s stance on road practices.
“We’d probably have to win all four games,” said Kim Johnsson.
Here’s Lemaire’s stance:
"You sit on the plane two, three hours. You eat on the plane. You get in and you eat, you feel all stuffed up. Then maybe you go have a big dinner, then the next-day breakfast. You go for a [morning skate], then you go back for a big lunch and then you want to play at night?"
Bring on the four road wins!
Tuesday, January 9, 2007
The Wild’s road losing skid stretched to 11 games after a sound thumping courtesy of the Calgary Flames. Chronic party pooper Jarome Iginla wasn’t even there, but Miikka Kiprusoff picked up the bad vibe slack. Kiprusoff earned a shutout, while the Flames pushed the Wild around for around 60 minutes.
Derek Boogaard was injured in a fight, and Mark Parrish suffered a lower body injury. That is not the way you want to start out the Best Wild Week Ever, and I fear that the only thing that might turn things around would be three straight road wins.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
If the Wild was going to end this nonsense on the road, some changes needed to be made. Nothing drastic. Perhaps a call down to Houston would reverse the fortunes. With that in mind, hard-working winger Joel Ward was summoned from the Houston Aeros to join the big club for the second time this season.
Does the new guy have what it takes to turn this into the Best Wild Week Ever?
Thursday, January 11, 2007
| Why does it still feel so good when the Wild beats the Canucks? Exhibit A. |
With the departures of Todd Bertuzzi, Dan Cloutier, Marc Crawford and Jarkko Ruutu, the bad blood between the Wild and the Vancouver Canucks has thinned out considerably. That said, the win to snap the road-losing streak could not have come against a better team.
I can’t put my finger on it, but beating the Canucks makes me smile. I don’t get the same amount of satisfaction when the Wild beats Calgary or Edmonton, or even Dallas. Perhaps the reason is that Matt Cooke is still causing trouble and yapping away. It could also be how Vancouver fans throw tantrums at each and every call that goes against their team. However, it’s tough to blame them. We actually went back and researched every penalty that was ever called against Vancouver, and the wrong call was made by the referee 100% of the time. Oh well. We’re none of us perfect.
Stevie Wonder could have called this game and the result would have been the same. The Wild thumped the Canucks to the tune of 5-2, courtesy of two goals by Marian Gaborik, and one each from Brian Rolston, Branko Radivojevic and Wes Walz.
The Wild hadn’t won on the road since November 16, a span of nine Best Wild Weeks Ever. The gorilla was off the back, and now, two more road wins doesn’t seem all that difficult.
Friday, January 12, 2007
One win on the road was nice, but another huge game awaited the Wild less than 24 hours later. You don’t want to feel overly proud of yourself when you know that Patrick Thoresen and the Edmonton Oilers are waiting for you in another divisional matchup.
Coming off a big win, the Wild took awhile to find its legs against the Oilers. On nights like this, it’s beneficial to have a spectacular goaltender and a lightning-quick game-breaker in your corner. The Wild
| Move aside Ryan Smyth. This week belongs to Manny Fernandez and the Minnesota Wild. |
now has both.
Manny Fernandez turned away 32 of 34 Oiler shots, and dazzled in the process. He kept Minnesota in the game until Gaborik could get the team on the board in the second period. Rolston and Keith Carney followed up with goals, and Gaborik put the stamp on the victory with an empty-netter.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Can you imagine the last two seasons without Brian Rolston? We have been ridiculously spoiled here in the State of Hockey, being able to watch this guy do his thing each and every night. Even on his off nights, Rolston seems to always rise to the occasion to bag an important goal.
For his efforts, he received a much-deserved honor on Saturday, being named to the Western Conference All-Star Team. This will be Rolston’s first-ever appearance at an All-Star weekend, and we’ll finally be able to clock his patented howitzer if he’s selected for the Hardest Shot contest at the SuperSkills competition.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Two wins were secure, and we locked up a player in the All-Star Game, but the BWWE staff crunched the numbers, and it was determined that a win in Chicago would be the only possible occurrence to solidify the Best Wild Week Ever. A single point wouldn’t do it.
It did not look good midway through the second period as Chicago built a 3-1 lead. Once again, it was Manny and Gabby to the rescue. Gaborik cut the lead to 3-2 with a shorty in the second, and Walz banged in a Pierre-Marc Bouchard pass for the tie. Fernandez was superb, stopping 38 shots, including six in overtime.
In the shootout, Pavol Demitra scored before Fernandez stopped two shots, and we’re pretty sure he stopped the third one too. Denis Arkhipov put one under the Wild goaltender’s pad, and as Fernandez rose to his feet, the puck kept trickling toward the goal line before he kicked it out. The refs signaled goal, but our good friends in Toronto were ever so helpful.
They took a look at the video review, and determined that the puck never crossed the line. In keeping with the week’s theme, they changed the call. The BWWE staff also took a look at the play through our rose-colored glasses, and we came to the same conclusion. Thumbs down to the goal. Thumbs up to the person…
…Who Had The Best Wild Week Ever?
| Brian Rolston can now drink the special water reserved only for All-Stars. It’s like $2.00 a bottle. |
Brian Rolston. There was a long list of worthy candidates this week: Marian Gaborik and his five goals, Manny Fernandez and his three wins, the team plane flight attendants who had some happy passengers for a change.
But none of those people were selected to participate in their first-ever NHL All-Star Game this week. Brian Rolston was picked, and that played a major role in his selection. His three points in Vancouver, and his goal in Edmonton also had a hand.
But what put Rolston over the top was his comment to the Star Trib on Wednesday: "As the go-to guys, that’s our job. Produce, bottom line. We have to help change this team from being fragile, bring our intensity up and get a little toughness in our game, and the lead guys have to do it."
The result was the captain leading his team to three straight road wins, and we haven’t typed that sentence here at BWWE in a long, long time.