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Lighthouse: Week of Feb. 15 -21

by Glen Andresen / Minnesota Wild

February 19, 2010 | 9:55 PM

The Czech Republic beat Latvia tonight, 5-2 on the strength of three Marek Zidlicky assists. I'm not going to pretend to give analysis on this one, as I didn't watch it. Instead, I watched "Couples Retreat" on Netflix, and let's just say I'll be the ice dancing competition was more entertaining.

Martin Havlat was held without a point in this one. The Czechs built a 4-0 lead before Latvia cut that lead in half. Patrik Elias sealed the win with a shorthanded goal with 18 seconds left.

The Finns drop the puck with Germany in about an hour. I'm undecided on if I'll be watching that one. Can you tell how exciting my Friday night is? Here's an example, when I saw that Latvia had former Wild draft pick Armands Berzins on its roster, I decided to look through all of the Olympic rosters for Wild ties. Having already seen Mattias Weinhandl skating for Sweden, I had to do a comprehensive list. Here's what I came up with:

Czech Republic
Martin Havlat - current
Filip Kuba - former
Zbynek Michalek - former
Marek Zidlicky - current

Mikko Koivu - current
Niklas Backstrom - current
Antti Miettinen - current

Armands Berzins - 2002 Draft Pick

Pavol Demitra - former
Marian Gaborik - former
Branko Radivojevic - former
* note - I could have sworn I heard Doc Emrick say Peter Olvecky's name during Slovakia's game last night, but from what I've seen, he's not on the roster.

Mattias Weinhandl - former

Hnat Domenichelli - former
Julien Sprunger - 2004 Draft pick

Do Friday nights get any better?

February 19, 2010 | 12:28 PM

The Wild Five will be back in action tonight as the Czech Republic takes on the Latvians, and Finland faces Germany. In his game preview, Pierre McGuire called Mikko Koivu "the best player in the NHL that nobody talks about." You can see the video here.


February 18, 2010 | 9:08 PM

Holy Hiller! What a game! A 3-1 win over U.S. victory over Switzerland doesn't look so bad now, does it? Jonas Hiller nearly sent the entire country of Canada into a deep two-day funk with a brilliant goaltending performance as the Swiss nearly toppled Canada for the second straight Olympics. Only a Sidney Crosby sudden death shootout goal saved the night for Canada, who earned two points and now sit behind the United States in their pool.

This game wasn't even a case of Switzerland sitting back and hoping to weather the storm. They brought it against the heavy favorites. That has to give the United States confidence considering they've been ridiculed despite two solid victories.

Sunday needs to get here, stat.

February 18, 2010 | 8:00 PM

Team USA is now 2-0-0 at these Olympics, and nobody seems excited about it. Granted, the Americans didn't blow Norge out, but it's not like they are made up of bar league lawyers and accountants. Overall, USA dominated play and missed some great scoring chances. Ryan Miller again looked excellent, and gave up one goal on a wicked shot. Two wins in the Olympics is nothing to sneeze at.

More Minnesotans, or pseudo-Minnesotans had big days. St. Cloud State alum Ryan Malone picked up another goal and an assist. Prior Lake's Zach Parise picked up a pair of assists. Former Minnesota Gopher Phil Kessel scored his first goal of the tournament. Spring Lake Park grad and former Minnesota State Mankato Maverick David Backes added an assist. Another former Gopher, Erik Johnson, made two sick moves before firing a shot that Malone rebounded.

And right now, Canada is getting all it can handle against the Swiss, who tied the game at 2-2 after two. The Canucks are searching for an answer for Hnat Domenichelli. The guy can't be stopped! And I think my favorite highlight of hockey so far was Switzerland's second goal, when Chris Pronger spent the entire play trying to get even on a guy who hit him earlier in the play. When the puck went in, the guy gave a little fist pump right in Pronger's face. Now that's solid stuff.

If you didn't see it already, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman spoke to the press today and tackled the issue of NHLers at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia. Basically, he didn't say yes, or no. But I sure hope he lets them play. It is some of the best hockey you can ever watch, and hockey is such a global game, why not showcase your best players when the world is watching?

I think we'll see it written in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement that players will be allowed to go. If not, the players will not be happy. And if I had my druthers, players will be happy all the time. 

February 18, 2010 | 1:30 AM

How 'bout that? I fought off the sleepies in order to witness the best game of the Olympics thus far: the Czech Republic's 3-1 victory over Slovakia. The games between these two countries are always intense, and tonight was no exception, but I could have done without the constant complaining to the refs by members of Slovakia.

Both Martin Havlat and Marek Zidlicky picked up an assist in this one. Havlat assisted on Patrik Elias' first goal of the game, and Zidlicky helped set up Tomas Plekanec's power play goal with two seconds left in the second period to close out the scoring. Havlat is back to wearing his number 24, which he wasn't able to obtain with the Wild. 

I thought Zidlicky played particularly well, even though he was out there for Marian Gaborik's (who I thought wasn't playing, and of course he did) only goal for Slovakia. Zidlicky couldn't be blamed for that one though. Former Wild blueliner offered a weak stick check to defend Gaborik's ridiculously quick release. Believe it or not, the stick check did not work.

Anyway, Zidlicky rang a shot off the post in the second, and he did a great job of carrying the puck on the power play. Whereas Kuba reminded us all of what he loved to do on Wild power plays (get within five feet of the blueline and just dump the puck in), Zidlicky was actually creating chances off the power play rush.

Kuba and Gaborik weren't the only former Wild members playing. Pavol Demitra and Branko Radivojevic represented Slovakia, and Zbynek Michalek was playing for the Czechs. i almost fainted when I saw Demitra block a shot while killing a Czech power play. I don't recall him blocking a ton of shots in his two years in Minnesota. He did look good out there, however.

Jaromir Jagr may have stamped his ticket back to the NHL. He was the best player on the ice tonight, picking up a goal and an assist.

All in all, it was an exciting and entertaining game to watch.

Team USA hits the ice again tomorrow against Norway at 2:00. The past 48 hours have bascially been a lot of analysts and columnists ripping the way the U.S. played against Switzerland. Good God! It was the first game after one quick practice against a very solid Swiss team. Give the guys a break, for crying out in the night. Sure, they gave up a few odd-man rushes, but really, that game was never in question after the first period.


February 17, 2010 | 10:34 PM

The skill level of this Men's Olympic hockey tournament is unbelievable, but we've yet to see a stellar game. I think that could change in about a half hour when Martin Havlat, Marek Zidlicky and the Czech Republic take on the Marian Gaborik-less country of Slovakia. I'm going to try to stay awake for this one, but some sleeping fairies are doing tap dances on my eyelids.

It was a good day for Wild center Mikko Koivu today. He picked up a team-high three points (all assists) as Finland manhandled Belarus, 5-1. He made an exceptional play on Finland's fourth goal, racing to a loose puck in the slot and whipping a wicked shot on goal that Valtteri Filppula converted on a rebound from in tight. The Finns have tomorrow off before facing Germany on Friday night. Word is that Niklas Backstrom may get the start in that one, which won't be easy. Germany gave defending gold medalists, Sweden, all they could handle tonight in a 2-0 loss.

It was a good day for the Finns, but it was a great day for America. I told my wife that if she goes into labor with our first child on a day that a U.S. Olympian wins gold, we have to name the kid after that athlete. She still has an hour and a half to go into labor tonight, and we'll be set. If it's a girl: Lindsay. If it's a boy: Shani. And if it's a redhead: Flying Tomato.


February 16, 2010 | 4:11 PM

Considering Team USA's start in Torino - a tie against Latvia - a 3-1 victory over Switzerland after just one team practice has to be considered a positive.

But the biggest positive? The absence of commercials throughout regulation play. That was mint. Overall, I loved the USA Network broadcast of the game. It's tough to beat Doc Emrick on the call, and Jeremy Roenick as an intermission analyst. Almost as entertaining as the game was J.R. getting in arguments with Mike Milbury, who made it his job to interrupt at every opportunity. There were a few times I thought Roenick was going to pull Milbury's suit coat over his head and start throwing haymakers. Didn't happen, but there's always tomorrow.

It was a good day for several guys with Minnesota connections. Blaine native David Backes scored the game-winner on a beautiful end-to-end rush in the second period. Backes also scored points with me for a great intermission interview he granted Pierre Maguire after the second. I had heard the guy was a 4.0 student at Minnesota State, Mankato, and that's not surprising after seeing how well-spoken he was.

St. Cloud State product Ryan Malone scored the third goal by banging in a rebound.

Bloomington's Erik Johnson and Prior Lake's Zach Parise both had very solid performances today.

And while they didn't register a point today, I am very excited to keep watching the line of Parise, Paul Stastny and Patrick Kane. Parise is my favorite non-Wild, non-UMD alum in the NHL, and I love the way Stastny plays. And anybody whose seen Wild/Blackhawks games this season knows that Kane can score from anywhere.

February 16, 2010 | 2:18 PM

I can't believe how nervous I am right now. Team USA and Switzerland are five minutes into the first men's hockey game of the Olympics. I've been excited for a long time about this tournament, but I can't believe that I actually had butterflies before the game started. Part of it is probably because Team Switzerland terrifies me. Four years ago, they beat the Czechs and shut out the Canucks. But I think the real fear lies in the fact that the Swiss boast former Wild punchline, Hnat Domenichelli.

Domenichelli wasn't a bad player, but his name and his lack of production in his brief Wild career (one goal and five assists in 28 games) made him one of those names when you sarcastically bring up the Wild "stars" from yesteryear.

Now watch, Domenichelli will probably light up Ryan Miller just to stick it to the Lighthouse blog, which I'm sure he'll be reading during the first intermission.

The Swiss also have former Wild prospect, Julian Sprunger, who I honestly thought was on his way to a glorious NHL career after watching him at the 2007 Wild Prospects Camp. Apparently, I was wrong. I know, I can't believe it either. 

Okay, Team USA is going on its first power play. I'll check in later today.
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