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Hugs and kisses State of Hockey legion, and a Happy Valentine's Day to you all! Now, some of you cynics refer to this day as "not a real holiday" or a "holiday concocted by the greeting card companies." Shame on you. We need a day like this to remind us to purchase flowers, chalky-flavored hearts that say "HOT STUF" and "MAD 4 U" and cards with sentimental words that we didn't write ourselves, and typically get thrown away by February 16 or taped up on a high school locker. That's what love is people. Get used to it.
I'm celebrating today's love fest with my funny valentine known as "perch" in the Al Shaver Press Box at Xcel Energy Center. I'm going to celebrate by watching the Minnesota Wild put a lovely beatdown on the Vancouver Canucks.
I may come off as a bit cocky considering the Canucks are in first place, but the Wild is starting Nik Backstrom in goal. Despite dropping his last two starts, Backstrom is in the business of breaking hearts, and he's about to do just that, and then some on Valentine's Day. He's going to be backed up by Josh Harding
Valentine's Day also marks the debut of the newest member of the Wild, Cam Barker. The Bark-Dog is down below me taking warmups, and he looks big and strong. I like that. He will not be joined on the ice by the following: Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion), Chuck Kobasew (knee) and Clayton Stoner
(hernia). John Scott and Cody Almond
will be the healthy scratches.
As for Valentine's outfits, the Wild dug into the closet and pulled out the green third jerseys for this one. For the eighth straight game, the Canucks are going with the road whites, trimmed in green and blue. Considering Vancouver has been on the road for 18 days, those jerseys have to reek, but I don't know how you get rid of the smell of Canuck. You need some high-powered fire hoses and an 18-wheeler full of Tide just to get started.
A little shakeup to get things started today: Rather than just one flag bearer, we've got eight, including seven of the hockey-playing Olympic flags. Each of those flag bearers is joined by the players representing those teams from both the Canucks and the Wild. Then, four members of the 1960 gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic hockey team - Jack McCartan, John Mayasich, Dick Meredith and Johnson - come out to center ice to drop the puck for Mikko Koivu
and Henrik Sedin. I wonder if Wild Team Curator Roger Godin has fainted in the presence of Mayasich.
Now that our patriotism is at its peak, we can get on point.Period 1
16:23 - Antti Miettinen tries to fire a shot in from the point, and that hits a leg pad. The puck comes right back to Mittens, and he cranks a wicked shot to the far post, but Canadian Olympian Roberto Luongo snares it with a pretty glove save.
13:59 - The Sedin twins are wreaking all varieties of havoc in the Wild zone right now, and the puck is finally worked over to Alexandre Burrows in front. He tries to stuff one in, but Backstrom puts up a wall along the near post and keeps it out.
12:14 - Brent Burns does a great job of holding the blue line and then walking the puck in to the top of the right circle. He lets a heavy snapshot fly, but Luongo is up to that challenge as well.
12:02 - After he sends a low shot on goal, former UMD Bulldog Mason Raymond gets hammered by Derek Boogaard, sending him spinning in the air like a whirling dervish. Shortly thereafter, Nolan Baumgartner offers the pretend "I'm going to come after you for that," but then skates away after a tiny nudge.
10:48 - This time, the Sedin line is getting all it can handle from the Koivu line. The Wild's top unit is buzzing, and after Mittens causes an errant pass, Koivu intercepts and beats Luongo on the glove side but rings it off the pipe.6:43 - MIN 1 - VAN 0 - Number 20! A Wild power play appears to be going nowhere until Owen "Cowboy" Nolan drives in deep and then flicks a pass back for Eric "Bella" Belanger, who one-times it right on. Luongo makes a pad save, but Alexander Edler can't clear, and Guillaume "G-Lat" Latendresse pounces on it and drives it through the legs of Bobby Lou. That trade has worked out well for the Wild.
3:44 - The crowd recognizes another dominant shift by the Koivu line, as that trio cycles and cycles the puck without letting a dude in white get anywhere near it. Shane Hnidy and Greg Zanon also do great work in holding the zone, and finally Zanon cranks a slap shot on goal that Luongo snatches with the lobster glove.
0:00 - A nice little period comes to an end with the Wild up a goal. Time for some refreshments and relaxation. Period 2
17:53 - Luongo has the glove working overtime tonight. He nabs another one that appears to be shot simultaneously by Sherrif Shane Hnidy and G-Lat.
16:25 - A scramble in front causes the puck to bounce right into the red zone for Schultz to pound home, but somehow it stays out even with Luongo on his kiester outside of the crease. Schultz gets planted on the ice after the whistle by Darcy Hordichuk, and that's going to bring Boogaard out on the ice for the next shift.
15:10 - That Alexandre Burrows is one tough cookie, isn't he? He sure does show his grit by picking a battle with Wild enforcer Antti Miettinen. This, just a couple years after doing battle with Wild behemoth, Pierre-Marc Bouchard
. As a scrum in front develops, Miettinen tries to keep Burrows out of the mix. Burrows responds with a jab to the face, and Mittens fights back. Those two are pulled apart by the refs and then Burrows really looks like he's going to get tough. Too bad the refs were there.11:38 - MIN 2 - VAN 0 - Boom goes the dynamite! It all starts with the Boogeyman doing a great job of getting his body in front of a Vancouver clearing attempt. That causes the puck to bounce to Cal Clutterbuck, who dishes to the slot where Kyle Brodziak one-times it home for a huge goal. That's going to be the fourth assist for the Boogeyman, tying his previous career high from his rookie season.
11:20 - You really have to admire the toughness of this Vancouver team. After James Sheppard crunches Christian Ehrhoff with a glass-rattling hit, Aaron Rome jumps him and starts a fight. Despite getting jumped, Shep recovers from some early blows and yanks Rome's jersey over his head (isn't it illegal to not have your jersey strapped down? And isn't this the second time it's happened involving a Canuck against a Wild player?), and lands some good punches of his own. The fight finally dies down, and Rome might get the decision, but he is also going to get an extra two for roughing.
10:42 - MIN 3 - VAN 0 - This is getting fun. Thanks to Rome's idiocy, the Wild convert on the power play as Andrew Brunette gets the puck at the side of the net on the power play. He waits for Marek Zidlicky to pinch in low and then hits him with a pefect pass and Zidlicky easily puts it into the yawning goal mouth. He then points up at the Wild wives section, because after all, it's Valentine's Day.
7:00 - We are 13 minutes into the second, and Vancouver has yet to record a shot on goal. They have picked two fights with Antti Miettinen and James Sheppard, so give them credit for that at least.
5:47 - During a TV timeout, Boogey appears to be having a ball as he chirps the Vancouver bench. We really need to see what we can do about getting Wild.com microphones on Boogey and Clutterbuck.
3:24 - Tough day for Ehrhoff, who gets steamrolled again, this time by Clutter behind the Vancouver net. Perhaps Clutter should do away with the clean hits and just start picking fights with the likes of Pavol Demitra or the Sedins. Period 3
19:38 - Backstrom's Valentine might be Zanon today. The red-bearded one already took a goal away from Vancouver in the second, and he does it again here. Daniel Sedin wheels around the Minnesota net and looks to have an easy one, but Zanon dives headfirst into the crease and keeps it out.
18:47 - Here we go again. Boogaard crushes former Ohio State Buckeye Ryan Kesler with a hit in the corner, and even though he hits him from the side, Kesler is shaken. Instantly, Hordichuk horsecollars Boogey and pulls him to the ice. The Wild's big man immediately gets up and starts throwing punches, but Hordichuk is just holding on for dear life and then goes down in a heap. You can tell Boogey is furious about the horsecollar as he is not letting Darcy up off the ice. It's always something with the Canucks. Always. Hordichuk is going to get two, five and a 10 and head to the box where he'll sit until there's 1:47 left. I imagine he's fine with this because he likely won't have to face Boogey again today. 15:58 - MIN 3 - VAN 1 - Leave it to a former Bulldog to jumpstart his team. The Canucks get on the board as Backstrom makes a blocker save on a long shot from Ehrhoff The puck then settles in the slot where Raymond picks it up and blisters a wrister just inside the post on Backstrom's glove side.
13:09 - A nice moment here as a large number of Minnesota troops are recognized for their heroic achievements. The crowd gives them a standing ovation, and both teams tap their sticks in appreciation. I guess the Canucks aren't that
bad.12:54 - MIN 4 - VAN 1 - That's Bruno being Bruno. The savvy veteran is a sneaky fellow and he shows it just six seconds into a power play. Koivu finds him with a pass at the side of the net. He's got his back to the goal, and he's moving away from it. Luongo is thinking pass, and Bruno knows it, so he zips a backhand between the keeper and the post for a 4-1 lead.
11:56 - MIN 5 - VAN 1 - I don't know why, but I cannot stop laughing right now. After Brodziak has a lone breakaway but misses high because he can't settle a rolling puck, the disc bounces out into the slot and there isn't a Canuck within 30 feet. Clutter cruises in, picks it up, backhands his career-high 12th goal into the top shelf and then flies up the boards while windmilling his arm. There is nothing better than a rout of the Nucks. That will be the end of the night for Luongo.
10:21 - MIN 5 - VAN 2 - I guess it can't be considered a rout now. The Canucks pull within three as Mikael Samuelsson skates up the right side and then picks his spot on the far side and ripping a shot past the blocker of Backy.
4:27 - As they head to their benches, the 6-foot-8 Boogaard and the 5-foot-11 Rick Rypien come together and have words. Nothing happens, most likely because Rypien would rather not have to spend his Olympic break eating through a straw.
2:47 - Demitra completely rakes his stick across the back of Backstrom's legs to pull him down to the ice. I believe that's one more knockdown than Demitra ever had while he was wearing a Wild jersey.1:47 - MIN 6 - VAN 2 - In the words of Bushwood Country Club's Karl Spackler
, "bark like a dog!" Barker introduces himself to his new fans by firing a bullet from the point that beats Raycroft for the Wild's season-high fourth power play goal of the game. This comes just seconds after Hordichuk comes out of the box and cusses at Boogaard. It's tough for Boogey to hear when 19,342 fans are celebrating a sixth goal of the game.
0:00 - Don't let the door hit you Vancouver. The Wild heads into the break after thumping their division rivals.