Well hello again State of Hockey legion! I've missed you so much! I'd love to give you a great big welcome back to hockey hug, so if you'll indulge me, please wrap your arms around your computer, and press your cheek against the screen. I'll do the same, and we'll have our moment.
For the first time since April, I am coming to you live from my beloved perch in the Al Shaver Press Box high atop the Xcel Energy Center ice sheet. My green swivel chair and I have already had our moment in case you were wondering. I hope nobody caught footage of that with a flipcam or something. Now that I'm all settled in, I can survey pregame warmups below me. On my left are the St. Louis Blues, and if I can be perfectly honest, they're looking a bit rusty. On my right, however, are a bunch of speed demons with booming shots in red jerseys. They represent the State of Hockey and the Minnesota Wild.
Facing those booming shots is Niklas Backstrom
, who already looks like he's in midseason Vezina form. It must be that sweet new mask he's wearing designed by 15-year-old Peter Best. He'll be getting the start tonight, and he's expected to go two periods before yielding the third to Anton Khudobin, who has never lost an NHL game in his entire life.
Normally, I'd talk about injuries right now, but since we're in the first preseason game, nobody is technically on injured reserve. We've got about 30 healthy scratches tonight, so I'm not going to run down all of the names. Just know that we've got a lot of NHLers on our active roster tonight.
If you're wondering what natty attire the two combatant teams are wearing, you'll be happy to know the Wild is wearing the home reds for this one. The Blues are sporting the road whites trimmed in blue and gold with the musical note on the chest.
Alexi Salamone, the Paralympic Gold Medalist, and one of the greatest disabled hockey players in the world, gets us going with the words we've been waiting forever to hear: "Let's Play Hockey!" Absolutely Alexi. Let's do the dang thang!Period 1
19:18 - MIN 1 - STL 0 - There's that lovely sound of the goal horn! How's that for a start? Two non-linemates hook up in the first minute. Off a change, Martin Havlat jumps off the bench and joins Mikko Koivu at the end of his shift. Koivu wins the battle for the puck behind the St. Louis net, then sends a perfect feed out front where Havlat buries it past Ben Bishop. Not a bad start to the preseason, am I right?
15:37 - There's the first Cal Clutterbuck
smash of the year. He lines up Ian Cole in the St. Louis corner. This check is a little Derek Boogaard-ish in that he catches more glass than Cole, but it makes a loud noise, and that's always fun.
13:09 - Chuck Kobasew, who by the way is going to have a big season this year, causes a turnover behind the St. Lou net. He kicks the puck out front to John Madden. The Brett Farve obsessed commentator nearly punches it in, but Bishop scrambles back to his crease to make a sprawling save.
12:19 - Let's make a call to the replay booth on this one. Antti Miettinen gets loose in the slot and Koivu makes another great pass from behind the net. With Bishop confused, Mittens one-times one right past him. The puck hits the crossbar, then the post, and then trickles away. Let's get those near-misses out of our system now.10:15 - MIN 1 - STL 1 - That's all you're getting St. Louis...for the rest of the year! The Blues get this one knotted up. Basil's boy Philip McRae is wide open on the left side of the net, and Brad Boyes finds him from the other side. McRae has a wide open net, but Backstrom still is almost able to pull it back with a big glove save. Not quite though.
9:03 - MIN 1 - STL 2 - Graham Mink apparently isn't listening, because he quickly puts St. Louis in front. Former Minnesota State Mankato Maverick David Backes gets the puck behind the Wild net, and he puts one out in the slot. Mink cruises in and buries a shot between the legs of Backy.
6:05 - Oh Chucky! Kobasew, who by the way is primed for a big comeback year, gets some power play time, and he looks to have a lay up for the equalizer. He pounds a low shot from about 10 feet out, but an out-of-position Bishop somehow gets a leg pillow out there to make a huge stop.3:48 - MIN 1 - STL 3 - Penalty kill could still use a little fine-tuning. The Blues go two-for-two with the man-advantage after a Robbie Earl slashing penalty. Alexander Steen gets the puck at the point and he unloads a rocket through traffic that beats Backstrom on the glove hand side.
2:05 - Adam Cracknell, who is destined for bad luck with that name, tries to lay a hit on Brent Bruns, who responds with a forearm shiver and drops him. Cam Janssen takes exception to this, and he and Burns do some jawing at center ice. A few other players join in the fracas, but the only penalty called with be a hold on Janssen.
0:00 - A fun start to the first period gives way to a less than stellar final 10 minutes. It's nothing a short intermission break can't resolve, and we have one of those right now.Period 2
13:48 - Now Backstrom is comfortable back there. Steen tries to fire one past the glove again, but this time the Wild keeper is all over it with a slick catch.12:36 - MIN 1 - STL 4 - Another St. Louis power play, and another goal for the bad guys. David Perron parks himself right in front of Backstrom and nobody pays any attention to him. A shot from the point is right on, and Backstrom stops that. But Perron is right there to grab the rebound and stick it around Backstrom for the goal.
7:42 - MIN 1 - STL 5 - The Blues are taking this preseason stuff waaaay too seriously. They continute to pile on as Jay McClement pounces on a rebound from a Chris Porter shot and tucks it by Backstrom, who is likely looking forward to about eight minutes from now.
6:34 - Wild fans get their first look at a Brad Staubitz tussle. He drops the gloves with Janssen at center ice. The crowd gets restless as the two hold each other for quite awhile, but then the fists start flying and it's a good one. It finally comes to an end when Janssen lands on top of Staubitz, but all in all, a good little bout.Period 3
20:00 - The efferevescent Khudobin is now in goal for the Wild. I hope the Wild come back to win just so the media can go to Anton for some quotes afterward.
17:12 - The potent Blues power play somehow gets two forwards alone in front of Khudobin. I'm not smart enough to catch who the two players are, but I can tell you that Dobby keeps his composure and makes a big stop.
15:23 - One of tonight's bright spots has been the play of the second line: Gui, Havlat and Cullen. They nearly pop another in as Cullen drives hard to the net and slides one on goal. Bishop makes the save and tries to cover up, but Havlat pokes it in. Unfortunately, the refs are a little trigger happy with the whistle and blow the play dead, waving off the goal.
7:27 - Koivu finds Andrew Brunette cutting down the slot with a perfect feed. Bruno puts a nice redirect on the pass and Bishop makes the save. I thought a young goalie was supposed to get rattled after giving up an early goal. Not Bishop. He's apparently the Brian Duensing of the Blues.
2:15 - It's late, and the game is out of reach, but the Wild gets some PP time, and the first unit has a nice showing. They work the puck around quite a bit, getting the puck down low and sparking a flurry in front of Bishop.
0:00 - Well, the Wild won't run the table with an undefeated preseason, but you know what? It doesn't matter. The first one is done, and the guys can regroup for the rematch on Friday in the Lou.