In a sick, twisted way, I love Vancouver Canucks fans. There is no other fanbase in hockey that is this manic. Not even Toronto or Montreal fans are this crazy. See, at least in those two cities, that fans have reasons to be as off-kilter as they are. They have the storied history, and the Stanley Cups to match it. Vancouver, not so much. Canucks fans live in this bubble, where they seriously think every year, they're going to win the Cup. It doesn't matter that they've choked in epic fashion, time after time. Every pre-season, they'll tell you that THIS is the year that they're going to go all the way, and why they're better than last year. Well fans of other teams around the league, just laugh and shake their heads.
Now this season, Canucks fans have been dealing with the saga of Roberto Luongo. Some get nostalgic, and want to keep Lou. Most want him gone. Of course, we have yet to see any deal that sends him anywhere. I honestly don't think the Canucks will get close to what they want for him or what they think he's worth. So, we just sit back and watch that soap opera. However, lately the Luongo soap opera isn't the most humorous I've seen. The new, and improved reason why the Canucks aren't winning according to Canucks fans, rests solely on the shoulders of their head coach, Alain Vigneault. Yes, you read that correctly. Now, if you're like me and you've dealt with Canucks fans for any length of time, you will remember in the not-so-distant-past, that they thought Vigneault could do no wrong, and he was the best coach ever. Now, the tune has changed, and they're begging for a "real NHL coach." Seriously, I can't make this stuff up. If you need a good laugh, I highly suggest you check out the Canucks message boards. You won't be disappointed. It will be like the internet version of the 2011 riots after the Game Seven loss in Vancouver to the Boston Bruins.
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I told you it was sick and twisted. Heck, it's downright demented. I know, it's not fun to poke fun at someone when they're suffering, but I would say this is the result of years of bad karma on the part of the organization and its fans. These meltdowns that they have, are well deserved. I don't know what mothers in Vancouver taught their children, but back in Minnesota, I was taught to treat others as I would want to be treated. They have reaped what they have sowed. I can only hope that the meltdown continues tonight and longer into the season. Now that would be the best moral of the story.
1st Period Thoughts: So you have to wonder how things are going to go, when you just barely get settled for a game, and the Minnesota Wild are up 1-0 twenty-four seconds in. Heck, I was barely even looking at the television when Zach Parise got the puck past Cory Schneider after a lot of hard work by Mikko Koivu. I for one am glad to see offense early in a game, especially since the Wild are not a team known for first period goals. What's even better, is that Minnesota exhibited pressure, both offensive and defensive, early in the period. I've gotten used to a team that scores a goal and then backs off, and allows the opposition back into the game. In particular, the fourth line of Mike Rupp, Zenon Konopka and Torey Mitchell (and occasionally Charlie Coyle) has once again shown dedication and hard work. Honeslty, I wish there was a way to harvest that energy and give it to the rest of the lineup. Truly, if we could have four lines and three defensive pairings that showed energy all game long, the Wild could be a fearsome team. Yet at the same time, Minnesota needs to find a way to ultimately control the flow of the game, because Vancouver is not a team you can afford to give even a inch to. Once the Wild scored that first goal, it was as if they decided, "oh, we need to get moving." Of course, it wouldn't be a Minnesota-Vancouver game without some garbage from Alexandre Burrows. After a fantastic goal chance by Koivu, we saw six minor penalties issued at once, and of course two of those belong to Burrows. Shortly after that penalty Rupp and Tom Sestito decided to drop the gloves for a good round. Not much longer after that, some questionable officiating, saw Konopka going to the box on his own, for challenging a turtling Keith Ballard. After Clutterbuck was released from his time in the penalty box, he found a shorthanded chance, unfortunately he couldn't get it to go in. Minnesota would find themselves yet again on the penalty kill after a Matt Cullen slashing call. The Wild, with the assistance of Niklas Backstrom, were able to kill four straight minutes of penalties. If there was one thing that I wish the Wild were better at, it was clearing out the crease in front of our goaltender. For a goaltender like Backstrom that goes down in the butterfly (often early), it would be nice to see our players clear out the puck and the opposition so it wasn't always such a mad scramble. Thanks to hard work by Cullen (with an amazing pass), Jason Zucker scored his fourth of the season with just under ninety seconds left in the period. Not only do the Wild go to the lockerroom with a two-goal lead, but they do so with a standing ovation from the fans. We've had games, where the team has sent them off the ice to a chorus of boos, so this was very much a welcome change. Now, if they can continue this for the rest of the game.
2nd Period Thoughts: Well, the second starts with Parise forcing the Canucks to take a penalty just nine seconds in. One thing I've noticed about this power play when compared to others this season is that the passing was finally there. For the most part, they were crisp, precise passes. Instead of passing to an area, they were passing to teammates. While they didn't score on the penalty, they got close a couple of times. One negative still, is that the Wild need to be ready to shoot on a more regular basis. There's no bigger waste of time that to get everything set up, and then guys like Dany Heatley are not ready to shoot. Minnesota would once again go on the power play by Jonas Brodin skating to get the icing call on Vancouver. While Brodin won the foot race, he also drew a penalty, because Mason Raymond just got the tip of his stick in Brodin's skates. At first I was worried about the power play, but they would settle it down, and hard work would find the puck on Jared Spurgeon's stick and then behind Schneider. The Wild would take a 3-0 lead, but shortly after found Clayton Stoner in the box for highsticking. The Wild's penalty killers showed why they are one of the most successful team on the penalty kill this season. Even better is that shortly after killing the penalty, another fantastic scoring chance came from Devin Setoguchi. This is the Wild that fans thought they were going to get with the signing of Parise and Ryan Suter but were frustrated that they hadn't seen yet. If this is the Wild we get to see for the vast majority of the rest of the season, they will be a team that will frustrate the Western Conference. Vancouver would demonstrate why it is important to take even bad angle shots, as Backstrom was unable to stop a Chris Higgins shot that in a normal world, most likely would not go in. What I am appreciating tonight, is that in games past, if the opposition scored a goal, they'd back down. Not tonight. Tonight, they're picking right back up where they left off. It's a fighting spirit that we haven't seen from the Wild in a long time. That's not to say they're without their moments however. In the last three minutes of play, there were moments that I felt that they gave the Canucks too much room. Every time they failed to clear the zone, I felt a serious case of nerves. Just when you think the Canucks were going to score, someone like Konopka would step up and get the puck out and into the Vancouver zone, and keep it there until the Wild could make a line change. Once again, the Wild would head to the lockerroom with a two-goal lead and a standing ovation. I just hope the players are having as much fun as we the fans are.
3rd Period Thoughts: I should know by now, never, ever, ever mention the Sedin Twins if I don't have to. With my fellow wild.com message board members, I asked if we'd see them show up at some point because they'd been rather quiet. I should have stuffed my fist in my mouth in order to refrain from typing a foolhardy comment. All it took for that one mention, was for Henrik Sedin to direct the puck in with his body. The goal would be reviewed, but it was determined to be a good goal, and now this game is way too close for comfort. Of course, just when you start to worry too much, the Wild show you once again that they're a changed team tonight. Between Konopka and Coyle working their collective behinds off to keep the puck in the zone, Zach Parise once again tonight find space around Schneider, and Minnesota once again has a two-goal lead. Unfortunately, the Wild would go to the penalty kill again with Stoner in the box for high sticking. Once again, I'd like to mention that I really, really hate the scrums in front of our goaltenders. I wish they could figure out a way to clear out that mess without giving me a heart attack. Thankfully, Minnesota was able to hang on long enough to kill the penalty with just about ten minutes left in regulation. MInnesota would continue to fight for the puck, and Parise would get just that close to tallying a hat trick. If he continues to fight for the puck like he has tonight, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility. The Wild found themselves on the power play after high sticking by Andrew Alberts. Although watching this power play, it almost feels like Minnesota is on the penalty kill instead. I know when I see play like this, I start to worry if they've reverted back to bad habits. Plus, Vancouver had nothing to lose, they could ice the puck without penalty and take the chance of getting to it to put pressure on Minnesota. It's not a good feeling to end a power play and think "well at least we didn't give up a short handed goal." Well that's how I felt. With two minutes left in regulation, Vancouver would pull Schneider. Parise would be just wide on his hat trick attempt from Coyle. Vancouver wasn't without pressure. With about a minute left in regulation, you really being to worry if they'll somehow manage to chip one in while Backstrom is down. Yet, that didn't happen. In fact, the Wild would maintain their two-goal lead and take the win. Not only did they take the win, but they took over the top of the Northwest Division from the Canucks. I don't know about you, but this win felt great. I want more of these.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Matt Cullen, Mikko Koivu, Devin Setoguchi, Zach Parise, Dany Heatley, Jason Zucker, Torey Mitchell, Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck, Mike Rupp, Zenon Konopka, Charlie Coyle, Clayton Stoner, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Nate Prosser, Justin Falk, and Jared Spurgeon. Matt Hackett backed up Niklas Backstrom.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star, Zach Parise; 2nd Star, Ryan Suter; 3rd Star, Charlie Coyle.
~ Attendance was 18,846 at Xcel Energy Center.
2013 Minnesota High School Boys Hockey Awards:
Mr. Hockey Award (State's best HS player) ~ Grant Besse (Benilde-St. Margaret's)
Frank Brimsek Award (State's best HS goalie) ~ David Zevnik (St. Thomas Academy)
Class A Coach of the Year ~ Kevin Smalley (Duluth Denfeld)
Class AA Coach of the Year ~ Mike Randolph (Duluth East)
Houston Aeros Report:
The Houston Aeros had a good weekend, earning 3 points out of 4 possible in a shootout loss on Saturday night and a convincing 5-2 victory this afternoon. Eden Prairie's Chad Rau (9th) got things going early for Houston as they struck first just under 3 minutes into the game. Then a few minutes later, the Aeros' added to their lead as Justin Fontaine (16th) rifled a shot off the crossbar and in on the power play to make it 2-0 going into the 1st intermission. Charlotte would rally back in the 2nd with two goals from Matt Marquardt and Brodie Sutter to tie it up going into the 3rd. Houston would then ambush the Checkers with 3 goals in the 3rd; the first on a bomb from the point by Apple Valley's Kyle Medvec (5th) to make it 3-2. Then Eau Claire's Jake Dowell (2nd & 3rd) lit the lamp twice to seal the 5-2 victory. Former Miami Redhawks star Cody Reichard got his first AHL win, making 23 saves in the victory. Johan Larsson, Marco Scandella, Brian Connelly, and Nick Petersen all had two assists. This has been a huge road trip for the Aeros as today's game was the 12th of their 13-game road trip where Houston has 7 wins over that span with one game left remaining.