8:00 PM- Finally, the wait is over. After being locked out for over four months the puck is finally about to drop on the 2012/2013 Minnesota Wild season. Now that the puck is about to drop, all of the lockout garbage is rendered moot. Yes, it was a terrible ordeal for the sport. But, the game is back. And instead of bitching about the lockout, hockey fans can now bitch about their team. Which, in all honesty, is exactly what was wanted all along. Anyway, the following is a live blog/diary of the Minnesota Wild VS Colorado Avalanche game. (That was the last reference to the lockout in this post, I swear.)
8:05- The entire Minnesota Wild roster is being announced. With each player skating to center ice after their name is announced, to greet a Minnesota Wild season ticket holder. Enough! Enough with all the apologies and pandering to NHL fans, by both the players and owners/teams. If the owners and players were truly sorry, the lockout would have never happened. But it did. So, just shut-up and play hockey. Because all the apologizing, pandering, and sucking up to the fans comes across as self-serving. I don’t need an apology, I just need the NHL. (OK, I lied. But, seriously, the previous sentence will be my last on the lockout.)
8:11- Zach Parise and Ryan Suter received the loudest ovations of any Wild player introduced.
8:14- Back from commercial, in time to hear more pandering. And the obligatory, “We have the best fans in the world”, quote goes to… Mike Yeo, the Minnesota Wild head coach. Hopefully you had him in your pool.
8:17- The puck officially drops on the Minnesota Wild season.
8:21- Avalanche goal. John Mitchell with the marker. Milan Hejduk, notorious Wild-killer, makes the play by throwing the puck out front. Mitchell bangs it home. Not the start the packed X-CEL Energy Center was hoping for.
8:23- First fight of the season for the Wild-Zenon Konopka vs Cody Mcleod(a very reluctant participant). Lots of jersey pulling and not many blows landed. Mcleod, whose team is up a goal, does not want any part of this. The fight ends in a draw
Konopka gets an extra two minutes for interference. Colorado receives the first power play of the game
8:25- Niklas Backstrom stones Jamie McGinn twice from in front of the net. Two big saves for Backstrom and the Wild right there. Backstrom has looked shaky early. So, hopefully those saves calm him down.
8:34- Still here. Not a lot of scoring opportunities for either side.
8:35- Whoops. Ryan Suter with the tripping penalty. Colorado gets a second crack on the powerplay.
8:36- Wow! Colorado forward David Jones just missed a wide open net on the power play. Followed by Paul Stastny hitting the post. The Wild should be down 2-0. That could come back to haunt the Avs’. You have to capitalize on glorious chances, such as those, if you want to win.
Backstrom is shaky. He is giving up a lot of juicy rebounds on chances that shouldn’t warrant them.
8:38- Somehow, the Wild escapes unscathed on their penalty kill. But Colorado is still very much in control of this game.
8:43- Ugly performance for the Wild so far. Minnesota has yet to establish any kind of presence in Colorado’s zone. Which has led to the majority of the game being played in Minnesota’s end of the rink. If this keeps up, only one end of the ice is going to need to be resurfaced at intermission. Yikes.
8:50- Colorado is just physically dominating the Wild right now. Their forecheck has been relentless and they are hitting everything in red on the ice. The Wild can’t even get out of their zone. What channel is the Timberwolves game on?
8:51- Devin Setoguchi gets plastered at center ice. Neither he, nor I, saw the number of the mack truck that just crushed him.
8:52- Hey, the puck was actually in the Avalanche’s zone for over 30 seconds. Nothing good comes of it, except for the fact that we can now be sure nothing is wrong with that side of the ice. With the way the Wild have played so far, you would have been right to believe that the Avalanche’s zone was a Kardashian. Because the Wild have refused to enter it for more than 10 seconds at a time.
First Period thoughts:
-Colorado dominated the Wild throughout the whole of the first period. The Avalanche controlled the play; were more physical, had more scoring chances and out-shot the Wild 12-5.
-Minnesota needs to match Colorado’s intensity, or this game will not be pretty from a Wild perspective.
-Some good news for the Wild: Pierre Marc-Bouchard looks completely healthy. Bouchard, who has missed over a year due to concussion symptoms, was the Wild’s best player in the first period. As he was strong on the puck, and able to absorb a couple of body-checks without incident. If he can continue his strong play, Bouchard would give the Wild a sixth forward who can score points consistently.
-Even Manti T’eo is embarrassed with the way the Wild played in the first period.
All kidding aside, that was an ugly, nervous, and inconsistent performance from the Wild.
9:12- The puck drops to begin the second period.
9:15- Bouchard with a good forecheck. He has been the Wild’s best player so far.
9:15- Penalty on Colorado’s Steve Downie. This will be the Wild’s first power play.
9:17 Dany Heatley scores! Heatley scores off a rebound from a Zach Parise shot. Koivu and Parise get the assists. Bouchard with a nice hustle play to keep the puck from being cleared outside the Avalanche’s zone. Bouchard’s play was the most integral in the Wild’s goal scoring sequence. If that puck gets across the blue-line and out of the zone, the Wild doesn’t score.
9:19- Well, then. The Wild scores again. Mikael Granlund deflects the puck past Avalanche goalie Seymon Varlamov off a Devin Setoguchi wrist shot. Wow! Granlund with his first goal in his first NHL game. (Solid start for my Calder pick.)
9:20-Erik Johnson loses his footing and crashes heavily into the base of the boards. Thankfully, he skates off on his power a couple minute later. That could have been much worse than it appears to be.
9:22- The Wild looks like a completely different team this period. Simply put, they are forechecking much better now. Which is leading to more scoring chances.
9:24- Two Colorado Avalanche penalties put the Wild back on the power play for four minutes(after this commercial break, of course). Downie with a crosscheck and a rough in the same sequence. This is a huge opportunity for the Wild to create some distance between themselves and the Avs.
9:28- Another penalty on the Avalanche. O’Byrne goes off for holding Parise’s stick. The Wild will have almost two minutes of 5 on 3 power play time.
9:29- Huge save by Varlamov on a Matt Cullen rebound attempt. Game is still 2-1, Wild.
9:30- Moments later Varlamov robs Parise on a one-timer opportunity in front of the net.
9:31- Varlamov! Heatley robbed by Varlamov on a one-timer try.
9:31 Heatley scores again!! Looks like puck went in off his skate in the front of the net. Parise and Koivu with the assists.
-Pick up Heater’ in your fantasy league. Two power play goals already tonight.
-Now, that’s more like it. The Wild with three goals in the first ten minutes of the second period. That’s the kind of play Wild fans are expecting this season.
-My sincere gratitude goes to Steve Downie. Steve, thank you for losing your temper and costing your team this game. Sincerely, Mike Kluxdal.
-Downie’s penalties have completely changed this game in the Wild’s favor. Absent his penalties, I’m sure the Wild would find themselves in a much more precarious position than it currently sits.
-Also, I would like to know what head coach Mike Yeo said to his players at intermission. Because the Wild look like a completely different team so far his period.
9:38- Erik Johnson is back on the ice for Colorado. Good news for Avalanche fans.
9:40-Penalty on the Wild’s Cal Clutterbuck for holding. He just tackled an Avalanche player. This is a big penalty kill for the Wild. Allowing a goal here would let Colorado right back into the game.
9:43- The Wild kills off the Avalanche power play.
9:44- Bouchard is stopped on a breakaway by Varlamov. Varlamov, despite giving up three goals this period, has played well. He has made a number of nice saves to keep his team within striking distance.
9:45- Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Avalanche just took another penalty. This time it is on Jan Hejda for high-sticking Zenon Konopka. Konopka is bleeding, so this will be another four minute power play for the Wild.
-A goal here would just about ice the game. This is a splendid opportunity for the Wild to show their killer instinct. That’s assuming they have one.
9:50- A big save by Backstrom- shorthanded- on John Mitchell. Backstrom, with the splits to keep the puck out of the net there.
9:52- Period ends, with the Wild leading the Avalanche 3-1.
Second period thoughts:
-As bad as the Wild looked in the first period, they looked just as good in the second period.
-The Wild absolutely dominated the period. They were able to put pressure on Colorado throughout the whole of the second period, which led the Avalanche to take numerous penalties. This allowed the Wild to outshoot the Avalanche 18- 5 during the second period. Quite a turnaround from the first period.
-The Wild’s powerplay looks lethal. They were able to score twice with the man advantage in the second period. Plus, even when they were unable to score on the powerplay, the Wild was still creating chances and maintaining possession of the puck in the Avalanche’s zone. A great start and hopefully a sign of things to come. Because you need to have a good powerplay in order to consider yourself a true playoff contender.
10:08- The Wild starts the period off with powerplay time still remaining.
10:10- Colorado is able to kill off the powerplay.
10:11 Devin Setoguchi with a huge center ice hit. No, Wild fans- that was not a typo.
10:13 Parise and Koivu are going to be fun to watch play together this season. Both guys are winning every loose puck battle they find themselves in. And both players are out-hustling the Avalanche at every turn.
10:15- Goal! Cody Mcleod with a backhander past Backstrom. 3-2 game now. (Mcleod scoring, really??)
10:16- The Wild comes right back with a great chance for Setoguchi. But he is unable to capitalize.
10:19- Announced crowd of over 19,000 for tonight’s game. The 19,000+ is the sixth largest crowd in Wild history.
10:22- Mikael Granlund with an outstanding defensive play followed by a beautiful shot-block to stop a small Colorado flurry. The kid really can do it all.
10:24- Varlamov with another nice save. This time stoning Parise from the slot.
10:25- John Mitchell takes another Colorado penalty. He retaliated against a Cal Clutterbuck check by slamming Clutterbuck in the face. Which drew him 2 minutes in the box.
10:27- Not much from the Wild on the ensuing powerplay. Colorado is down 3-2 with a little over seven minutes to go in regulation.
10:31- Justin Falk lays out an Avalanche player in the Wild’s defensive zone. That, right there, is exactly what Falk needs to do if he wants to see the ice once Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin are healthy enough to join the Wild.
10:34- The Avalanche has had the better of the play so far here in the third period. I’m definitely getting nervous now.
10:35- Cal Clutterbuck, with a “twisted wrister”(copyright John Buccigross) from the circle, but Varlamov robs him with the glove.
10:37- Steve Downie hits the post, with three and a half minutes to go. He could have tied the game there. The Wild still lead 3-2.
-I’m not religious by any means, but thank God for Steve Downie. His play tonight has been bad enough to make Lennay Kekua rollover in her grave right now.
10:39- The Wild with possession of the puck for over a minute in the Avalanche zone. Despite that, they are unable to score.
10:39- Goal!!! Scratch that last blurb. As Pierre Marc-Bouchard snaps a rebound past Varlamov to give the Wild a 4-2 lead.
10:40- Timeout, Avalanche. Colorado pulls their goalie; desperate for two goals in two minutes.
10:43- Game Over. The Wild wins 4-2.
Third period thoughts:
While the Wild’s play in the third period was not up to par with their second period performance, it was infinitely better than what they showed in the first period. And, obviously, it was a good enough performance to seal the win.
-It was nice to see Pierre Marc-Bouchard rewarded with a goal late in the period. Bouchard played a great overall game. And was probably the best player on the ice for the Wild tonight.
-Steve Downie hit the post with a little under four minutes to go for the Avalanche. His shot, had it gone in, would have tied the game. But, alas, it was not meant to be.
-Tough game for Downie tonight, as his penalty barrage in the second period turned the game in the Wild’s favor and seemingly halted the rather significant momentum advantage Colorado had owned up until the moment his carelessness struck.
-Solid victory for the Wild. The powerplay looked fantastic, which will be key to their success, or lack thereof, this season.
-Even with much-heralded new-comers Zach Parise and Ryan Suter making their respective Wild debuts, the stars of this game were two longtime members of the franchise: Pierre Marc-Bouchard and Mikko Koivu. Koivu had two assists and was all over the ice; both in the defensive zone and offensive zone. But the star of the game has to be Bouchard; he was the best player on the ice tonight for either team. His hustle play to keep the puck in the Avalanche zone was the biggest play of the game and directly led to the Wild’s first goal- which completely turned the game around in the Wild’s favor. Bouchard, who made his presence felt on the ice all night, also scored late in the third period to ice the game for the Wild.
-The Wild must improve its even strength performance. During 5-on-5 play, Colorado controlled the game and certainly had the better scoring chances. Improving their play while at even-strength is imperative for the Wild, because the Wild are not going to score two power play goals in every game.
-Above all else, this was a solid first game performance and win for the Wild tonight. As the team gets acclimated to each other on the ice, their performance should improve. In the meantime, the Wild got a much needed win in its home opener. While it wasn’t always pretty, it still counts for two points in the standings. And that is all that matters on opening night.