Hey State of Hockey legion, how's it going, eh? I'm am coming to you from a whole 'nother country called Canada, where they are celebrating Remembrance Day tomorrow. It's very similar to Veteran's Day, which of course is also tomorrow. Remembrance Day honors all of those who have given their lives in the name of freedom for their country and others. If you are able to watch this game on the NHL Center Ice package, you'll notice coaches and team personnel wearing read flowers on their chests in observance of the holiday. Before going any further, I'd like to thank all veterans and current soldiers at home and abroad for all that they've done for us. We owe you so much, and tonight's live in-game commentary is for y'all.
Tonight, your Minnesota Wild will look to remain undefeated against the Eastern Conference by taking down the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here in Toronto, they take their hockey seriously. At today's morning skate, there was a media horde covering both teams. Now I know what the Vikings staff has been dealing with since a certain quarterback came to our great state earlier this year. That's what you get when you get a guy like Sage Rosenfels to don the purple though, so it shouldn't come as a surprise.
The fans here crave hockey, and they're starting to get cocky because the Leafs haven't lost a regulation game in its last six. I hate to break it to Leafs fans, because they seem like nice folks, and it is Remembrance Day, but we have Nik Backstrom. He's a nice guy, but when it comes to competing, he's in the business of hurting the feelings of the opponents and their fans. Right now, business is booming, and Backstrom will be getting the start tonight.
The Wild will welcome Kim Johnsson back to the fold tonight after he sat out seven games with an upper body injury. That means that John Scott will have to sit up here in the crowded Air Canada Centre Press Box. By the way, Air Canada Centre is a top notch arena that was finished in 1999, a year before the Xcel Energy Center opened its doors. I may be a homer...okay...I am a homer, but this place just doesn't seem to have what the Wild's home has. It just seems to lack the intimacy of the Xcel Energy Center. Still, it's a very nice building and I loved the exterior. It doesn't even look like a hockey arena from the outside.
As for clothing, the Wild will go with the road whites for this one. The Leafs will sport the classic blue sweaters, trimmed in white with the single leaf on the chest. Several other teams have blue jerseys, but I don't know if there's any other blue uniforms that stand out quite like the Leafs.
Following a wonderful Remembrance Day ceremony, we are set to go. I know I've got my work cut out for me tonight. This game will not be broadcast back home except to those Richy Riches with the Center Ice Package. So my readership for tonight's game might multiply into double digits. Plus, I've got Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman sitting two chairs down from me. It's a lot of pressure, and I've got my work cut out for me, but some of the guys in this building tonight can storm the beach at Normandy, I'm pretty sure I can do this. Let's go.Period 1
17:51 - Backstrom makes a big stop early as Dartmouth's own Lee Stempniak races around the Wild net and tries a wraparound goal on Backstrom's right side. Backy just does get the right leg pillow down in time to make a big stop.
16:39 - Marek Zidlicky is feeling it these days, and he's looking to keep his mojo working. He takes the puck to the top of the right circle and unleashes a blast that Jonas Gustavsson has to make a nice save on with the waffle glove.
15:01 - Just 10 seconds into their first power play, the Wild works the puck right into the slot for a point blank shot by Eric Belanger. He's stopped, as is Owen Nolan, who has a great chance at the rebound, but Gustavsson makes that save as well and covers up quickly.
13:39 - We're not even seven minutes in and I'm already impressed with Gustavsson, also known as "The Monster." He stops a shot from in tight by Brent Burns. Burns gets his rebound back and sends it across the other way for Koivu. The captain fires a quick one-timer, but The Monster slides all the way over to get that one too. Credit Wild PR guru Ryan Stanzel, sitting to my right (next to Yzerman) with a great line: "He's no Derek Gustafson, but he'll do."
12:03 - Between Stanzel and the Toronto game operations staff, I might be laughing a lot tonight. During a break, they showed "classic Maple Leaf-North Star Moments" which are basically a bunch of Leaf players drilling North Star players with huge hits. As soon as it was done, they cute to a dude with long hair in a North Stars jersey with an angry look on his face. I have a sneaky suspicion he was planted there and is actually a Leafs employee. Still, it was very funny.
8:52 - Another cool thing in the Air Canada Centre is the "bench seats." As soon as each team's bench ends, the fans' seats begin, and there is nothing separating them. Right now, Josh Harding
is sitting shoulder to shoulder with some Leafs fans, who know doubt spent a few loonies to get the priviledge of sitting there.
8:26 - Koivu collides at the Wild blue line with former Bowling Green/Ferris State/North Dakota student, Jason Blake. Koivu is slow in getting up and skating to the bench, but he's not asking for any help from Doc Fuller, so he looks to be okay.
6:57 - Going back to retrieve a puck behind his own net, Francois Beauchemin blows a tire and goes down. Nolan picks up the loose puck and quickly feeds to Havlat in front, but The Monster makes another great stop.
4:23 - Even Stevie Y just yelled, "There it is!" as he saw Nolan sneaking down the back door. Havlat finds him with a pass, but Nolan takes a bit too long to get the shot off, and chalk up another save for the Monster. That's 13 for him already tonight.
4:15 - Some poor sucker just played a game where he had to choose a prize from under three boxes. He chose box number two, and could have had an autographed Tomas Kaberle jersey. He could have kept the jersey or picked box one or three. He picked box one and got a little stuffed bear. Had he picked box three, he'd be $1,000 richer. Although, it's Canadian dollars, so he might have only been able to buy a snow shovel with that.2:18 - MIN 1 - TOR 0 - The Monster has finally been slain. Havlat, who has been all over the place tonight, streaks down the left side and gets a perfect pass from Shane Hnidy at the point. It looks like Havlat should just tip it in, but he takes it behind the the Leaf net and wraps it around, putting it off Gustavsson's skate, and in. It's a power play marker for the good guys, and Havlat's second of the season.
1:52 - MIN 1 - TOR 1 - The Maple Leafs answer right back. Ian White gets the puck at the point and sends the puck down to the bottom of the right circle for Alexei Ponikarovsky, who spins and wrists a shot that gets a piece of Backstrom but deflects up and under the crossbar. For the love of my fingers, let's hope I don't have to type Ponikarovsky again.
0:00 - The horn sounds to end a very well played first period, minus one mistake late. The Wild will whet their whistles with some PowerAde of something similar, and maybe do some whiteboard work. As for me, I'm going to eat an Oreo Ice Cream sandwich. Stevie Y says ice cream treats were the key to his success as a player.Period 2
18:38 - This Havlat-Belanger-Nolan line has been the bees knees so far tonight, although I'm sure they'd like to have a few more goals by now. After Johnsson makes a great pass to Nolan at the right of the net. "Cowboy" takes a quick shot that The Monster saves, and Bella has a wide open net but he can't find the handle as he falls to the ice.
16:03 - Derek Boogaard draws an interference penalty on Colton Orr. It looks as if Orr wants to drop the gloves, but Boogey looks content just to give his team a power play, rather than the other team a beating.
14:29 - I can't believe this Gustavsson cat. On a Wild 5-on-3, Andrew Brunette gets the puck all alone, with time, in front of the Leaf net. He gets The Monster to commit, but can't put it past him as somehow the Leafs target gets a limb out to rob Bruno. 14:16 - MIN 2 - TOR 1 - Bombs away! This goal is absolutely huge as Zidlicky blasts one in as the Wild enjoys a 5-on-3 power play. You've got to think that the Leafs are going to get some man advantage situations in a bit here (they have yet to have a power play opportunity), and not scoring on a two-man advantage can be a huge boost for the other team. We don't have to worry about it now as Zid notches his second in as many games.
9:10 - Bella is a one-man wrecking crew as he kills the Leafs' first power play. On his second shift of this sequence, he causes a turnover and leads a two-on-one the other way with Chuck Kobasew on his right. He finds Kobasew, but the former B.C. Eagle can't hang on and doesn't get a shot off.
6:42 - The Leafs have another power play, but they don't have the luck here. Nik Antropov lets go with a bomb that beats Backstrom but chips the paint off the far post.2:32 - MIN 3 - TOR 1 - Go to the net, good things happen. Leave it to Mikko to make good things happen. His countryman Mittens Miettinen gets the puck behind the Toronto net and sees Koivu cutting right to the front. Despite number 9 being surrounded by blue jerseys, Mittens threads the needle and Koivu makes no mistake. He puts it up where mom hides the cookies and we've got ourselves a two-goal lead.
2:05 - MIN 4 - TOR 1 - It can be done folks! The Wild scores four goals in regulation for the first time this season. Greg Zanon fires a shot from the point, and the puck looks like it's tipped in by Bruno, but as of now, they're going to give it to Zanon, which would be his first of the year. Who cares who gets it? The Wild is playing absolutely awesome tonight, and the scoreboard is finally showing it. Period 3
15:53 - A Rickard Wallin sighting! The former Wild winger is stopped on a nice glove save by Backstrom. Remember Rickard Wallin? He was supposed to be something special for the Wild a few years back, along with Kyle Wanvig. Unfortunately, neither really panned out, but I always liked Rickard. He was very pleasant, and usually rocked some wicked hair dos.
9:39 - Timber! Boogaard goes down in a heap after getting tripped up from behind by former St. Cloud State Husky, Jeff Finger.
7;09 - The bodies are bouncing around a bit out there now as Zanon takes Kessel into the sideboards on a nice check. Then, Clutterbuck is on the receiving end of a big blow in his own corner.
4:40 - Quietly, Backstrom is turning in another brilliant performance. Ho-hum. A high shot from the point gets tipped straight down by Kessel, but as always, Backstrom is in perfect position and he makes a great pad save. Backy's rough night on Wednesday seems like a long time ago. He's got 30 saves tonight.1:55 - MIN 4 - TOR 2 - Kessel finally gets loose on a break away, and he doesn't miss many of these. He fires a wrister on Backstrom's glove hand side, and it squeezes through and bounces into the net.Where was that one against Holy Cross?
0:56.1 - The Leafs are going to have a three-man advantage. With Gustavsson pulled and Koivu in the box, Zidlicky takes a tripping penalty.
0:45.8 - Backstrom = yoooogge!0:03 - MIN 5 - TOR 2 - From his own zone, Nolan whacks at a loose puck and all the way down and in. This may be the first ever Wild goal scored with two men in the sin bin. I don't want to get cocky, but I'm going to call a Wild win here.
0:00 - Air Canada Centre? Check mark! The Wild gets its first-ever victory in Toronto. Don't look now folks, but your home squad has now won four of its last five. Don't hurt 'em Hammer