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Happy Home Opener State of Hockey legion! And of course a Happy Navy Day to all of those in Peru, especially those in the Peruvian Naval Service who are following their favorite hockey team tonight, the Minnesota Wild (or Salvaje). Welcome back to live in-game commentary everybody. Some of you may have stopped by in the preseason for a few of these commentaries, but we all know the preseason counts for used chewing gum, as do preseason in-game commentaries.
Now, to the bakers dozen of you that are repeat customers of this Wild.com feature, you might notice that this year's commentaries are presented by Sun Country Airlines. Before you go and call me a sellout and banish yourselves from wild.com forever, please remember two things: 1) I can easily be bought, and 2) this wild ride known as in-game commentary is free for your enjoyment, so let's not get greedy. Now, do me a favor...no, do yourselves a favor...and go book a trip to some warm and exotic locale. Tell them the in-game commentary writer sent you. It will probably not get you anything, but it might lead to a nice convo.
Now then, let's get to the reason you're here, which is to read about how the Wild is going to chew up and spit out the Columbus Uglies...or Blue Jackets as they are known in some circles. It's the Home Opener for the good guys, and if you're knowledgeable in Wild history, you're well aware that the flying W's have never lost a home opener. Nevah! So don't expect that to change tonight, seeing as how Niklas Backstrom
is in between the pipes. I've been studying his every move during pregame warmups to the sounds of Jay-Z rocking the mic right, and he's what I like to call "dialed in." It's going to be a long night for the coffers wearing the red, white and blue.
I'm pleased to report that the boys in the lineup are relatively healthy. Apple Valley's own Mike Lundin
(back) is the only player who will sit out because of injury. Matt Kassian
and Justin Falk
are going to be watching from up here in the Al Shaver Press Box tonight.
If fashion is your thing, you'll be happy to know the Wild will sport the green third jerseys, because the Home Opener is a special occasion. The Blue Jackets are just going with the road whites trimmed in red and blue with the flag-draped star on the chest.
The sweet Opening Video tease is done (you can watch that above), and every player on the roster has been introduced with the usual suspects (Koivu, Setoguchi, Heatley, Clutterbuck, Backstrom and Bouchard) getting the loudest ovations. Now it's time to pay tribute to two fallen teammates, Derek Boogaard and Pavol Demitra...
That was very nice.
Now, it's time for the Smith family - you know them as the twin brothers that got jobbed out of 50K because one brother took the shot in place of the other - get the consolation prize of declaring "Let's Play Hockey." Well done, boys. Let's go!Period 1
18:50 - MIN 1 - CBJ 0 - It's going to be a good year goldarnit! If we can keep this scoring pace up all year, we're going to set some kind of record. It's the "second" line that gets it done, and it's a Minnesota kid that puts the good guys on the board. Pierre-Marc Bouchard gains the zone on an odd man rush, and he's got Matt Cullen rolling to the net behind the D. The pass is pure, and Cullen goes upstairs for the pretty finish. This huge crowd was primed to explode, and they are getting rowdy, hey hey, rowdy. Woo!
17:29 - The Koivu line is looking to keep pace with Cullen's group, who sent a message in their first shift. Looking like a man possessed, Mikko wins a battle for the puck in the corner, then just bulls his way to the side of the net. He cuts out front and tries to stuff one past Steve Mason, but the Jackets netminder lays his pad right along the goal line for the stop.
15:12 - If we see a bunch of these this year, this font will be bolded more often than not. Killing a penalty, Koivu and Dany Heatley
get into the Blue Jacket zone on a clear two-on-one. The crowd senses something big as Koivu dishes over to Heatley, who winds up for a slapper. Mason makes the stop, but kicks a juicy rebound right to Koivu who's got a whole lot of net, but can't connect on a bouncing puck. All Wild here so far.
12:07 - Have fun dealing with these guys all year, NHL. The "Two Snipers With Finnish" line is just peppering Mason with shots. Devin Setoguchi
puts one right to the hash mark for another wicked one-timer by Heatley, that catches the pad of Mason.
5:46 - A Clayton Stoner
shot from the point is gloved rather easily by Mason, but it ends a long period of sustained pressure mostly from the Koivu line. The crowd appreciates it greatly, especially when Setoguchi backchecks ferociously to cause a turnover resulting in the puck going right back to the Jackets zone.
5:14 - Maksim "The Mayor" Mayorov is going off for interference, and we'll get our first look at the Wild's power play.3:40 - MIN 2 - CBJ 0 - Probably a good thing that both Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella made the club coming out of training camp. Both of them are making their season opening debuts, and they're making the most of it. Nearing the end of the power play, Spurgeon charges ahead and then flips a pass down to a roaring Scandella. He cuts in at full speed and he goes upstairs a la Matt Cullen for his first career goal. Dare I say, this was Brent Burnsish?
0:00 - Now that is a stellar first period to start the season. The key will be to keep the momentum going for the next 40, but teh man they call Yeosie will be sure to not let that happen. Catch you on flippity flip. Period 2
19:04 - The Blue Jackets come out angry to start the second. They nearly cut the lead in half as Mayorov launches a shot. The puck hits traffic and ends up on the stick of former Ohio State Buckeye R.J. Umberger all alone in front. He has Backstrom down, but slides his shot that just clips the post.
18:09 - Again, more relentless pressure from the Sniper Finnish line. The Heater throws a long pass to the front where it's tipped by Seto. Mason makes a big stop there, and a bigger stop as Koivu hops on the rebound and gets robbed by the Columbus keeper.
15:46 - Pretty much untested in the first, Backstrom is on his game in the second. Again, he steals one from Umberger on the doorstep following a slick pass from the corner to the crease by Derick Brassard.
14:03 - This game could easily be 5-0 for the good guys. Columbus catches another break as a rocket from the point by Nick Schultz ricochets off the backboards and right into the danger zone. A lurking Kyle Brodziak
looks to have a layup with Mason scrambling, but he puts it off a Columbus skate in front.
10:22 - Heatley can do things most guys can't. For example, how many guys do you know that can stickhandle one-handed through two NHL defenders and get a one-handed shot off. I don't care if he didn't get a strong shot off while being held. Do you hear me? I DON"T CARE!!!!!
9:20 - MIN 3 - CBJ 0 - And here's another example. On the power play, Bouchard does what he does and dangles along the near boards. He's got two guys in the high slot, and one of them is the Heater. Bouchard just fires a pass at his stick, and Heatley somehow can redirect that thing into the top corner on the far side like he puts toothpaste on a toothbrush. He might be a Wisconsin Badger, but you guys are just going to have to get used to it. He's a beast is what he is.
8:34 - Fans getting the MAAAAAYYYY-SOOOON, MAAAAAAYYYY-SOOOON chant going. Like it.
5:09 - Holy Hannah, that was scary. An errant shot from outside the Wild zone hits one of the new seams in the glass behind Backstrom. The Wild stopper has no idea where it is, but it's right in front of him, and so are two Jackets, including Rick Nash. The puck pops up in the air and Backstrom knocks it away with the waffle glove, then is able to snare it out of the air as Nash barrels into the crease.2:07 - MIN 3 - CBJ 1 - Despite my prediction, Backstrom will not post a 0.00 goals against average this season. The Blue Jackets finally break through his wall as Aaron Johnson skates down low and puts one toward the front of the net. It hits the skate of Schultz which causes a scramble in the crease. The puck appears to hit the skate of Derek Dorsett, but he looks to knock it in with his stick just before the puck crosses the goal line. They go to review, but it's not overruled. We've got a game now.
1:09 - MIN 4 - CBJ 1 - And that's what these guys can do. You score on us? Fine, here's another one to make you forget that good feeling you just had washing over you. Heatley carries the puck from his zone into the opposing zone. He waits for help, and then finds Setoguchi trailing the play. Kaboom! Setoguchi just blasts one through Mason, and the lead is back to three. That's three guys scoring their first goals in a Wild uniform tonight.
1:06 - Right off the ensuing faceoff, Bouchard and Matt Calvert jostle a little bit, and Bouchard's stick comes up high, hitting Calvert in the face. He immediately goes down with blood spilling to the ice. Butch is going to get four minutes, but the replays show this was obviously not intentional.
0:00 - Another great period for the good guys. This is going to be a fun year if this is how every period is going to go.Period 3
20:00 - Curtis Sanford is now in the crease for Columbus. One game, and the Wild has chased one goalie. And you know they've got at least three more of those coming because Roberto Luongo and the Canucks will be here three times this year.
17:04 - The four minute penalty to Bouchard is up after a sterling penalty kill. All facets tonight. The Wild has it going in all facets.
16:58 - The Wild is going down a man once again, but this is what you'd call a great penalty. After a stop by Backstrom, Jeff Carter (hardly noticeable tonight by the way) looks to have a layup, but Clutterbuck hauls him down from behind. A great play, even though Backy is diving across and may have robbed him anyway.
15:55 - Incredible save by Backstrom. Incredible. Brassard has all net to shoot at from the low right circle after the puck bounces right to him, but Backstrom slides over with a ridiculous stop. Check the highlight above.
12:21 - Colton Gillies will be on the giving end of hits like this many times, but here he takes a monster check from former Clarkson Knight Grant Clitsome in front of the Jacket bench.
11:11 - Backstrom breaks up a two-on-oh break with a perfectly placed poke check. He is on one tonight.
5:40 - This would have been a dagger. Cullen makes a great play to lay his stick down and block an attempted outlet pass. The puck caroms right to Brodziak in front, but he has another chance denied as Sanford snuffs out that chance. Wild showing very few signs of sitting back in this one. The forecheck is relentless.3:22 - MIN 4 - CBJ 2 - Still some work to be done here. The Jackets get within two as a shot from Clitsome bangs off some traffic on its way to the net. Backstrom makes a kick save, but Mayorov is there to pounce on the rebound and put it home. Of course this happens as I'm discussing with Mike Doyle (the new Carly Peters) what the Wild.com headline should be for tonight's game.
2:13 - Guillaume Latendresse
leads a two-on-one with Cullen, but he waits a bit too long to get the pass over and the chance disappears.
2:00 - Sanford is off for an extra attacker.
0:00 - That's a strong to very strong start, Wild fans. Only 81 more just like that and we're looking at a very solid regular season.