Attention State of Hockey legion! I know where the Loch Ness Monster lives, and it is not in the Scottish Highlands...at least, not anymore. Somehow it made its way to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and made an appearance right outside my hotel room this morning. There I was, working diligently on a game preview for tonight's Wild at Canucks tilt . I looked up and saw something creating a small wake in the marina about 50 yards from our hotel. My first thought was that it was a beaver, but then it went under and was followed by an arching back. About five minutes went by, and it quickly emerged again before disappearing. Now, some of you back home are going to tell me that it was a seal, but if it was, that seal drowned because it never came up for air.
Can you tell it's been a long road trip? I've been wearing the same clothes for the past three days. I'm down to one functioning contact lens. And, now I'm seeing sea monsters outside my hotel window. Oh yeah, the Wild has also lost four games and three of its top forwards. But, if we can pull a win out of Vancouver tonight, all will be forgotten. Well, except the fact that I saw Nessie today. I will never forget that. Anyway, I think it's best to get home following tonight's game. Rumor has it that my dog has given up all hope that I'm still alive and has moved on with her life.
Tonight, I'm coming to you live from The Jim Robson Broadcast Gondola at General Motors Place in beautiful Vancouver. It's required for Vancouver to always be preceded by the word "beautiful" or at least a synonym for beautiful. And, it really is. If you have the means, I highly recommend making a visit. It is an amazing city, but I'd still take anywhere in Minnesota over Vancouver and its crazed Canuck fans and vicious sea creatures.
Tonight, the Wild is going for win numero uno as it takes on another desperate team, the evil Canucks. Fortunately, unless my handicapped eyes are deceiving me, Niklas Backstrom
is getting the start in goal tonight. He's very skilled. And, he's a nice guy, so double bonus.
John Scott is also a very nice guy, but that won't be enough to get him in the lineup tonight. He'll be the lone healthy scratch, and he can keep Petr Sykora (groin) and Martin Havlat (groin) company in the Broadcast Gondola. Of course, Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion) and Cal Clutterbuck
(high ankle sprain) are back home in Minnesota and reading along to live in-game commentary. Oh, how I wish Cal was here to give Alexandre Burrows the business.
For the fifth time this trip, the Wild will be going with the road whites. They'll change things up significantly for they're home game on Wednesday. They'll be wearing the new green third sweaters for the first time. If you want to attend that game, click here
to purchase tickets. The Canucks are wearing their home blues trimmed in green and white with the "C" shaped killer whale on the chest.
I know it's Saturday night, but according to GQ magazine, the perfect date is no longer a dinner at Chino Latino or the St. Paul Grill. It's canoodling near a computer and reading live in-game commentary on Wild.com. You can thank me later.
Let's get this thing uder way, shall we?Period 1
19:03 - If there's one Vancouver Canuck you're allowed to like, it's Mason Raymond. He's a former UMD Bulldog, after all. He shows off that UMD speed by blazing up the left side and getting past Brent Burns. He cuts to the net and trys to sneak one under Backstrom's legs, but the Wild target is up to the task, making the stop and then glancing behind him to make sure it doesn't sneak through.
13:01 - Coming off a great night in Edmonton, Benoit Pouliot bids for another one on a Wild power play. The unit works the puck around nicely and Owen Nolan feeds Benny, who is open in the slot. Unfortunately, he fans on the one-timer and the Wild is still looking for its first shot on goal.9:30 - We'll take that! The good guys jump in front on a fortuitous bounce. Showing his new offensive prowess, Nick Schultz leads a play into the Vancouver zone. He drops the puck back to Mikko Koivu, then crashes the net. Koivu zips a pass for Schultz that hits Kyle Wellwood's skate, then tips off Nick's stick and over Roberto Luongo. That's Schultzie's second of the year, tying him for second on the team in goals.
8:11 - Raymond again loves that move around the outside corner. And again, he's able to zip into the red zone but Backstrom stonewalls him again.
3:18 - Phew! Steve Bernier breaks loose and he's alone from the blueline in on Backstrom. He tries to go top shelf, but it looks like Backs gets just enough of it to send it over the net.Period 2
20:00 - The stats crew here at GM place has changed the scoring on the Wild's goal. It is now being credited to Koivu. Potato, po-tah-tow, it doesn't matter. We'll take it either way.15:37 - It's never a good situation when your goaltender doesn't have a stick. It is actually the reason for Vancouver's first goal. After Backstrom loses his stick, Ryan Kesler gets the puck at the side of the net and throws it toward Backstrom. Nik is hugging the pipe, bu the puck actually hits his stickless blocker and bounces behind him for the goal. Bad bounces are even at one apiece for each team.
14:21 - Kesler is looking for another goal, this time firing a shot from the circle. With a stick this time, Backstrom makes the save and the puck pops high into the air. The Wild keeper swings at it and misses and the puck lands precariously close to the goal line before Marek Zidlicky can shovel it away.
12:23 - Backstrom has Raymond's number, which is 23 by the way. Raymond has easily been the best player on the ice tonight and he gets in alone once again. He makes a move to the backhand (again) and tries to lift one up high, but Backs goes into the splits and snares the puck with the glove hand. Pretty, pretty stuff.
9:04 - It's been a rough second for the Wild, save for one man, the one making the saves. On a Vancouver PP, he stops Kesler's shot from the left boards, then survives a scramble in front and robs Aaron Rome right on the doorstep.
5:34 - The Wild finally mounts an attack here in the second led by Koivu and Andrew Brunette. Bruno fans on an attempt to stuff one in from in tight, but a bouncing puck pops to Mikko, who drives it on net, but is stopped by Luongo, who receives a sustained "Looouuuuuu!" from the crowd.
0:14.5 - It looks like the Wild is just trying to survive this period and get into intermission with a tie game. They are 14 seconds from doing that, and hopefully they come with renewed energy in the third.Period 3
20:00 - I am lauging out loud after the Rocky scene of Dolph Lundgren mumbling "I must break you," is followed by Dolph Lundgren himself on the screen, trying to charge up the Canuck fans. High comedy.16:11 - The Wild is playing with snakes too much, and they finally got bit. The Canucks break the tie on their sixth power play. Mikael Samuelsson is free on the opposite side of the net, and he corrals an errant puck and is able to lift it over a sprawling Backstrom. 2-0 bad guys.
10:18 - This is when the Wild could use some firepower. Unfortunately, a lot of that is sitting right next to me here in the press box in Marty Havlat and Petr Sykora. Sykora was complaining that his picture wasn't on his bio page on the Wild website. When I showed him that it was, he was very happy. Then, Havlat told me I can take it down again.
9:11 - In case you aren't sure who is in first place atop the WCHA standings, you can rest easy. It's your Bulldogs of UMD! They complete the sweep of the Mavs this weekend.
5:47 - Big chance coming up here. Sykora says "here we come!" Koivu draws a hooking call to give the Wild a late power play. Time to put one in and reward Backstrom, who has been phenomenal tonight.
3:46 - Blast! Koivu hits Bruno right in front. He makes a great tip that Luongo barely gets a piece of and the puck trickles inches away from the goal line.
3:38 - The Canucks come right back the other way and its Kesler on the breakaway. He tries to go the backhand, but Backstrom stops him with a headfirst, sprawling stop. Amazing!
1:33 - Luongo is never the goalie you want to come back against. He comes up huge by gloving Antti Miettinen's bid from in tight right off the faceoff.
0:00 - Game over, and we're on the wrong end of the score again. The Wild finally gets to go home after a winless road trip.
0:00 - The horn sounds to end the first period, and we'll take 40 more minutes of that kind of hockey, minus the three or four scoring chances for Vancouver.