Friday

2-26-10: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

We've done it once again. It's the end of the week and two straight blissful days minus any work-related hassles await.

Does it sound like I need a weekend? Just a bit. Actually, what I really need is a vacation. And since you mentioned it, I might as well tell you that tomorrow marks exactly two weeks until I'll be winging my way Southwestward. What's that? I mentioned it, not you? Woops. My bad!

But before we get to the weekend, we've got to Update a thing or two. After all, that's why you came here, right?

Onward!

”Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody.”
- Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790), author and printer, satirist, political theorist, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, soldier, and diplomat.


Wait, so nobody's rich? Suddenly I feel pretty content!

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With that it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment...

Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Maple Grove Crimson: The Lady Crimson Basketball Team is 23-2 (17-0 in the Northwest Suburban). They're the 2009-10 Conference Champions, and are ranked 4th in the State in Class 4A.

But Dan, you never lead with the Crimson?

That's true, but considering what they accomplished this week, they get the top spot. That's right, your 2009-10 Lady Crimson are the champions of the Northwest Suburban Conference. Their 71-70 victory over second-place Centennial sealed the title.

Before we review that victory, let's go back a week. Last Friday, the Crimson earned their 16th conference victory of the season with a 64-29 victory over the Park Center Pirates. And considering the Crimson tallied 37 in the first 18 minutes, the game was essentially over at halftime.

Senior Julie Kruse and junior Stephanie Davison led the way for Maple Grove with 19 points apiece. Davison along with fellow junior Ellen Edison led the Crimson in rebounding with 5 each. Throw in a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio along with 11 steals and 8 blocked shots, and that's how you tally up a 35-point victory.

That brings us back to Tuesday night as Maple Grove looked to seal the conference crown for the first time in program history against perennial power Centennial. The Crimson had handled Centennial 66-45 back on the 19th of January, but the Cougars are far too well-coached a squad not to have learned from that loss. And that showed through early on.

Centennial took advantage of a sluggish start by Maple Grove to take a 43-35 lead into the locker-room at halftime. I asked Coach Cook after the game if he came up with some sort of brilliant adjustment at halftime. He said, “Nope, the kids just dug in [defensively].” After allowing more points to Centennial in the first half than they have to most clubs over a full 36 minutes, Maple Grove held the Cougars to a svelte 27 points in the second while tallying 36 of their own.

It wasn't a perfect finish. Maple Grove had several chances over the final minute to put the game away with free throws, but came up short on the front end of three straight one-and-one's. Sometimes the best lessons are learned when you squeak out a win. Hopefully that's the case for the Crimson.

As mentioned, by virtue of that win, the Crimson have earned the first Conference Title in program history. There have been plenty of ups and downs over the 5 years that Coach Cook has been at the helm of the program, but I'm fairly sure I can say that guiding this group to a title makes it all worthwhile.

But the work's not done.

Before the post-season starts, Maple Grove has one more stern test on the schedule: the Osseo Orioles. The Crimson are 1-1 against Osseo (the loss was in a holiday tournament, ergo it doesn't count against the conference record), and tonight's the rubber-match. And just to add an extra degree of difficulty, the game's at Osseo.

Is a let-down a possibility? After the joy of winning the conference, it's a risk. But these kids have worked hard towards a goal of a State Title run, so there's no letting up just because the conference crown is clinched.

Besides, 18-0 has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

7pm tonight, at Osseo, check it out if you can!

Then Wednesday night, it's time for the Section 5AAAA playoffs. Let the post-season fun begin!


Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 21-7 (11-5 in the Big Ten). They're in fourth place in the conference, and are ranked 17th nationally.

I'd like to say that the loss to Minnesota has been washed from my memory, but wins over Northwestern and Indiana can only do so much. Sure a win's a win, but those are games the Badgers ought to win (and for that matter, so was the Minnesota game).

On the upside, it looks like Jon Leuer is getting more comfortable back in the line-up. He certainly looked rusty against Minnesota. Against Northwestern, he tallied 11 points and four rebounds. Against Indiana 13 points and seven rebounds. The Badgers are going to need Jon to be back at 100% if they want to make a run in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.

And suddenly (if unfortunately), the path to the Big Ten Tournament title just got a little more open. Folks who watched Minnesota/Purdue Wednesday night saw one of the more grisly injuries you can see as Purdue senior Robbie Hummel tore his ACL driving to the basket. I won't try to describe it, and I'm not linking to the video (though I'm sure it's out there). It was ugly, and I like you people far too much to subject you to it.

Suffice to say that Purdue, the presumptive favorite in the Tournament, just became a whole lot more vulnerable. And since Bucky owns wins over all three teams currently seeded ahead of them, they should feel fairly confident headed to the post-season.

There are two more games to get to before they can really focus on the Big Ten Title. Wisconsin hosts Iowa for “Senior Night” Wednesday at 7:30pm central. Then it's off to Illinois to try and avenge a home loss to the Illini. That game heads your way Sunday at 11am central.


Minnesota Wild: The Wild remain 30-27-4, good for 64 points. They're in 4th place in the Northwest Division and 13th in the Western Conference, 5 points out of a playoff spot.

So why am I updating a team that hasn't played in almost two weeks? Because when there's news, we Update dammit!

Yesterday, the Wild announced the signing of a contract extension with winger Cal Clutterbuck. The three-year, $4.2 million deal avoids Clutterbuck's restricted free-agency that would've come this summer.

Instead “Buttercup”, as he was anointed courtesy of “Hockey Night in Canada's” Don Cherry, will stick around for at least three more seasons.

The deal makes sense for both sides. Clutterbuck's a fan favorite and a valuable “energy guy” for the Wild. On his end, it's a situation he's clearly comfortable with, and he ensures he'll be a part of what Chuck Fletcher is trying to build.

It also should encourage fans of Guillaume Latendresse (*cough* man-crush *cough*), that the Wild are involved in talks with all of their restricted free agents, including #48. As nice as it is to have Clutz locked up for 3 years, how sweet would it be to see Bill* inked to a long-term deal as well?

(*- Fellow blogger Betsy told me a great story about asking Gui in French if she could call him “Bill” since Guillaume is the French version of William. He happily agreed. How cool is that?)

The Wild - minus the fellows still competing in Vancouver - got back to practice this week, and will get back to trying to make the playoffs this Wednesday, as they travel to Calgary for the start of a 2-game swing in Western Canada.


Team USA Hockey: The American Women captured the Silver Medal last night in Vancouver, and the Men are competing in the semi-finals this afternoon.

First, the ladies. As expected, it was Team USA versus Team Canada in the Gold Medal game last night. Unfortunately the Americans came up on the wrong end of a 2-0 score.

Canadian net-minder Shannon Szabados was amazing stopping all 28 shots Team USA guided her way. The Americans had proven their ability to score over the course of the Olympics, and had several golden (forgive the unfortunate pun) opportunities to light the lamp against Canada. But Szabados was always right there, in position, under control, and made each and every save.

Silver is an improvement on the Bronze Medal the Americans collected in Turin in 2006. But I'm sure to a player, they'd tell you that they failed to attain their ultimate goal.

Second, the men. After a 2-0 victory over Switzerland, Team USA battles the Fins at 2pm central time this afternoon in the semi-finals. Unfortunately, that means I've got to be rooting against Wild players like Mikko Koivu, Antti Miettinen and Nik Backstrom (who at least is unlikely to play in the game). But these are the things that happen in international competition. I can live with it.

The Americans will be favored against the Fins, even after a lack-luster effort against the Swiss. The Switzerland game was odd, because the Swiss basically decided to forgo any and all offense in favor of clogging the neutral zone and trying to deny entry to Team USA. It very nearly worked. The Americans didn't get on the board until the third period, and it was only an empty-net goal with less than a minute to go that sealed the win.

Given Switzerland's strategy it's hard to get too worked up over the lack of offense from Team USA. But certainly their power-play will have to improve against Finland if they want to take advantage of the position they earned in preliminary play.

Canada, Sweden and Russia all ended up on the other side of the bracket. And both the Russians and the Swedes failed to make it to the semi's. The Russians fell 7-3 to the renewed onslaught of Team Canada who were apparently inspired by their loss to the Americans. In the biggest surprise of the Medal Round so far, the Swedes were upset by a game Slovakia team led by former Wild players Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra.

So the Final Four are: USA, Canada, Finland and Slovakia. We seem poised for USA/Canada II on Sunday. If that happens, do yourself a favor and watch. If you absolutely can't watch, come back here Monday, I'll probably have Running Game Commentary X ready to tell you all about it!

First up it's the semi's this afternoon: USA/Finland at 2pm central, Canada/Slovakia at 8:30pm central. Both should be pretty good games. Check them out!


That's going to wrap things up for this week. Hope you feel properly Updated, I know I do!

I'll be back on Monday, either with RGC X, or... well, let's just hope it's RGC X shall we?

Until then, thanks for reading!

Wednesday

2-24-10: Wednesday Notes

Hello again everybody...

It's the middle of the week... and honestly, I'm not sure how much I've got for you today. I'm 17 days away from the blissful weather of Phoenix and Cactus League baseball.

Would I rather be watching the Twins? Sure. This year more than most. But my folks are in Phoenix and blood is thicker than ash or maple (depending on your bat of choice). So it's off to the Southwest I go. In a couple of weeks anyway - good lord, that can't come fast enough.

But that's then, and today I've got to come up with something for you. When one subject doesn't seem enough? Time for some Notes!

Let's get to it...

”Take everything you like seriously, except yourselves.”
- Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936), British author and poet


I have an ego like anybody else, but if I ever start taking myself that seriously, feel free to slap me. No, not you Mary.

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With that, it's time for some...

Wednesday Notes

Why haven't I addressed Tiger's “press conference”?

Good question. First of all, USA/Canada was infinitely more interesting, so I decided to go with that on Monday, rather than discuss Tiger's farce.

But as long as you brought it up...

First of all, using the term “press conference” was ridiculous. It wasn't a press conference. A press conference involves invited/credentialed media having a question and answer period with an coach/athlete. Media were invited to Tiger's little get-together, but were expressly told that he wouldn't be taking any questions.

Am I surprised? No. Tiger's mismanaged this situation from Day 1, so why should that bit have been any different.

Did I watch? No. I knew I'd get the highlights all day Friday at work, and knew the event itself would be about as compelling as watching C-Span. So I felt no urge to watch it live.

Here's the problem. Tiger still thinks he can “control” his way out of this. The guy built a billion-dollar empire based upon the rigid control of his image. He controlled who got to talk to him, what they got to ask and how he was presented almost at an unprecedented level. And now that he's been caught up in a scandal, he thinks the same rules apply.

The truth is that the only way he can truly resuscitate his image is to give up that rigid control. He needs to sit down at a table with as many microphones, cameras and media as they can fit in the room. And the only opening statement he should make is, “Any questions?”

I'm not saying he has to answer everything. Obviously, someone would ask what the actual number of women he slept with - other than his wife - was. And to that he should just say, “I'm not going to answer that. The only value to that answer would be to further embarrass my wife, and I've already embarrassed her more than she could ever deserve. One was too many. Anything more than that is between me and my wife.”

I think people will accept answers like that. But it can't be read from note cards. It can't be as monotone and robotic as Friday's event was. And most of all, it has to appear open and free of the kinds of control that he's tried to exert so far. Nobody will trust that his remorse is genuine so long as it's written out on IMG stationary.


Running backs are dropping like flies...

Former fantasy studs (yes, I still recall my fantasy football days, even if I've moved on) LaDainian Tomlinson and Bryan Westbrook have both been released by their respective clubs.

I only feel compelled to mention it because it's remarkable how quickly the careers of running backs can decline in the NFL. In 2006, Tomlinson was setting scoring records and winning the MVP. Now he's out of a job. In 2007, Westbrook topped 2000 yards rushing and earned All-Pro status. Now he's out of a job.

Both guys will likely find work - though it won't surprise me if Westbrook hangs it up given his recent injury history. But it won't be for the kinds of money they're used to making, and their roles will likely drastically change.

The line between being a superstar running back, and an afterthought in the NFL is so thin, it's amazing that guys are able to sustain any kind of long-term career.

That's why as important as Adrian Peterson is to the Vikings' success, they should think long and hard before letting Chester Taylor walk in free agency.


Still no word on Mauer...

Call it a non-story story if you like. But the fact that pitchers and catchers have officially reported to Spring Training at the Twins' facility in Fort Meyers without any announcement of a long-term agreement with Joe Mauer is worth noting.

I'm not pushing the panic button. I've said all along that the announcement was most likely to occur at some point in Spring Training, and not before.

But the situation bears watching. If the weeks start to slip away, and there still hasn't been any word, then I'll start getting twitchy.

If the bags get packed, and the trucks start heading north and there hasn't been any word, I'll be downright apoplectic.

The Twins have to get this done before the season starts. Spring Training will be tough enough with media swarming camp trying to find out if a deal's going to get done or not. Trying to play with that distraction when the games actually count? I shudder at the prospect.

The Twins have made enough moves to make them the favorite in the AL Central, and a contender to make the World Series. Goofing it up by not securing Mauer with a long-term contract would be a critical mistake.

So far, WCCO-TV's Mark Rosen hasn't been proven correct in his reporting of a framework agreement. Then again, Monday night he said, “let's just say this is a 'big week' for negotiations”. Perhaps inferring that an announcement is imminent?

Twins fans can only hope.


That's going to wrap things up for today. Short and sweet I know, but I'll have more for you on Friday. After all, there's a Conference Champion to discuss!

Until then, thanks for reading!

Monday

2-22-10: Running Game Commentary IX: Team USA vs. Canada

Hello again everybody...

Hope you had a good weekend. I've got no complaints.

Before I get going today, a quick movie review. I saw “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” over the weekend. In spite of having one of the more unwieldy names in recent movie history, it managed to exceed my rather low expectations.

I told you last week that I'd heard some poor reviews, and my trepidation was worsened when my Mom saw it on Thursday and told me they'd changed a lot from the book. But it turned out that most of the things they changed were for time purposes more than anything, and only a couple got close to being “odious”.

Overall, it was pretty good. Not “Harry Potter” good, but neither were the books, so you can't expect that of the films. If you're looking for a fun movie to catch this week, you could do far worse.

Okay, on to the main event of the column.

Last night. Team USA vs. Canada in men's hockey. They're still in the preliminary round of the hockey competition, so it's not a do-or-die game. But any time you mix Americans, Canadians and vulcanized rubber, something interesting is likely to happen.

Ergo, I decided to do a Running Game Commentary on the game. I'd have to go back and look, but this might be the first time I've done a RGC on a game I didn't attend. But like I said, this one had enough sizzle to it, that I thought it would be worthwhile.

So let's knock of the preambling and get to the RGC-ing already, eh?

(Crap, there's that French-Canadian blood leaking out again...)

”Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself. (I am large, I contain multitudes).”
- Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892), American poet, essayist, journalist and humanist.


Take that, my French-Canadian heritage!

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These tend to be a little on the long-side. So let's get right to...

Running Game Commentary IX: Team USA vs. Canada

Pregame

Okay, let's get the big controversy out of the way right off the bat. Tonight's contest is on MSNBC instead of NBC. And as much as hockey fans rail against that decision, I guess I can understand why NBC went that direction. There's no question that USA/Canada would bring in boffo ratings. But so will the Ice Dancing competition. And since USA/Canada isn't for a medal, I can understand why they chose to bump it to MSNBC.

The problem for me is that I don't get MSNBC in HD. So while most of the fans I've talked to are pissed at NBC, I'm pissed at Comcast. It's the Olympics for chrissakes! You knew this was coming. If you can't be sensible enough to carry MSNBC in HD as part of the standard HD package, couldn't you have created an “Olympic Pay Package” or something? Give those of us who'd like it, the opportunity to buy an HD tier with MSNBC and CNBC just for the two weeks of the Olympics!

Or am I just crazy like that?

I really don't know what to expect for tonight's game. Both of these teams are going to move on to the medal round, so tonight's just a matter of seeding. So will the teams lay back and just try to get through without anybody getting hurt? Or will national pride bubble to the surface and inspire both teams to a passionate performance?

Let's find out!

First Period

19:19... Holy crap. 41-seconds into the game and Team USA is on the board. Brian Rafalski (former Badger) gets the lid-lifter for the Americans. He gets a D-to-D pass from Suter, fires a slap-shot on net, and Canada's Sidney Crosby is kind enough to tip it past Martin Brodeur. Thanks Sid! Rafalski from Suter and Langenbrunner makes it 1-0 Team USA!

I just got a text from my Mom that says, “Just so you know... I'm watching hockey and rooting for the USA team!” Yes, even my mother, who's pride in her French-Canadian heritage knows no bounds, is rooting for the good ol' U-S-of-A. Though to be fair, I near-enough badgered her into it.

16:19... And we've got our first penalty of the game. Canada's Ryan Getzlaf goes for Goaltender Interference. Translation? He crashed the net and essentially cross-checked Ryan Miller. What a doosh!

Canada does a whale of a job killing the penalty. Very few chances for Team USA there. During a break in the action, the folks running the music in the arena dial up “Disco Inferno”. Really. Because nothing screams passionate hockey like disco music!


13:53... The refs even things up on the penalty sheet by sending Joe Pavelski (another former Badger) to the bin for high sticking. Replay shows he tried to lift his stick over Getzlaf's head, but ended up smacking him in the beak. I say Getzlaf had that coming!

11:07... Canada ties it. Not on the power-play, but shortly thereafter. A pretty play as Brent Seabrook flips a wrister at the net which is tipped out front by Eric Staal past Miller. Dammit. I wanted to end the first with a Team USA lead! Staal from Seabrook and Toews makes it 1-1.

10:45... Wow! 22 seconds later, Team USA takes the lead right back. And it's Rafalski again! On Wisconsin! This time Brodeur tries to “fungo-bat” one out of the zone, but it's knocked down at the blue line. After a scramble in front of the net, Rafalski gets a gift on the weak side and makes the most of it. Rafalski, unassisted, makes it 2-1 Team USA!

Ooh-wee is this a fast game. Not in terms of playing time, but in terms of play. Both teams are skating hard and making crisp passes. It's physical, but not dirty. Well other than Getzlaf. Doosh.

6:35... Wow, thought Team USA was going to take a penalty there. Looked like tripping in the corner. Even the defenseman turned around looking for the ref's arm in the air. But apparently he was napping (which can't be easy on skates).

5:52... Ryan Miller is having a whale of a game. Patrick Marleau got free in the slot, and had a great opportunity for a goal, but Miller closes the door!

3:25... Looks like USA has run out of gas a little bit here late in the period. Canada getting most of the best changes at this point. Fortunately, they're doing silly things like the attempted Spin-O-Rama that Corey Perry just tried.

1:50... MSNBC just showed clips of Canada defeating Team USA in the 2002 Gold Medal game. Eh tu, MSNBC? Eh tu?

End of 1... 2-1 USA... I'm out of breath just watching. Time for...

First Intermission

I didn't really watch much of the pregame coverage. Too many other things going on, and I didn't want to get anxious for the game. So this is my first time to see the “pregame/intermission/postgame” crew.

And wow! Jeremy Roenick is wearing a sensible sport coat and tie. So far, JR has been trying to set a record for “most awful outfits in a single Olympics by a non-figure skater”. One night he had a coat that looked like it was made from 1970's couch fabric. Another night he had a zip-neck fleece thing going, which was fine. But then he tried to do a shirt and tie under it, and that was a problem. It was almost like he forgot what he intended to wear halfway through dressing.

That's more fashion talk than anybody ought to be including in a hockey column? You're right. Moving on...

Canada out-shot Team USA 19-6 in the first period. The Americans will have to do better than that if they're going to maintain their lead.

That leads us to the...

Second Period

19:00... Big early chance by Getzlaf in front of the USA net. Miller was out of position, but managed to guide the puck wide of the goal-mouth. Early on, Canada still seems to have the momentum. Thank heavens the bounces have gone USA's way so far.

16:28... Dany Heatley bangs a loose puck home to tie the game up at 2. USA is allowing the Canadians way too much time in front of Miller. Ryan's playing well, but he can't do it alone. Four goals in the game, three by former Badgers. On Wisconsin! Heatley from Toews and Weber makes it 2-2.

Break in the action for some ice repair. And now I'm hearing Neil Diamond. What's the deal, Canadian arena-wizards? Are you stuck in a 1970's time warp? Who plays this music at a hockey game?!

11:40... Far fewer whistles here in the second period. Game's going really fast. Canada's still had much the better of the scoring chances. Shots are now 23-9 in favor of the Canadians.

10:50... Finally a nice offensive chance for Team USA. Bobby Ryan got the puck in deep and Patrick Kane (I still hate the Blackhawks) had a shot at point-blank range, but Brodeur made the save.

9:35... We just had something called a “crease violation”. Apparently in international hockey, if a player doesn't make an attempt to exit the opponent's crease quickly enough, the ref can blow a whistle and take a face-off outside the zone. Interesting.

8:05... Minnesota's-own (the State, not the University) Zack Parise has a couple of whacks at a loose puck in front of Marty Brodeur, who keeps it out of the net. Nice set-play by Team USA off the face-off creates another offensive opportunity. One of these has to go in, doesn't it?!

5:07… Joe Pavelski leads a 2-on-2 into the Canadian zone and decides to crank a slap-shot which ends up deflecting off of Brodeur's mask and out of play. Can you believe goalies used to play without masks?! That shot would've knocked Marty cold if he didn't have protection. The mask, I mean, not... moving on...

3:57… Canada just did a Stooges routine. Perry and Staal literally crash into each other and for good measure, Curly, er, I mean Pronger tripped over the top of them. And the music wizards fire up YMCA. Wow. Lamest... music... choices... EVAR!!!

3:14... There it is! A slap-shot from the point has Brodeur looking behind him, even though he'd made the save. Marty then tries to dive-poke-check the puck away from him and misses. That usually leads to a goal, and this time is no different. Bobby Ryan gets it to Chris Drury who bangs it home! Drury from Ryan and Backes makes it 3-2 Team USA!!!

1:47... Dustin Brown gets a break-away chance for the Americans and Brodeur comes up with two dandy saves. The initial one, and a second as Brown whacked at the rebound. Mere seconds later it's Bobby Ryan's turn on mini-break and Marty comes up huge for Canada again. Wow. What a game.

0:53.5... The third penalty of the game comes as Staal hauls down Rafalski in the USA zone. I'm not a fan of power-plays that carry over periods. Kills the momentum. But we'll take it!

End of the 2nd... 3-2 USA!

Second Intermission

I don't smoke, but I feel like I need a cigarette! Words can't accurately describe how good this game really is. Heart, passion, talent, physicality... it's all on display tonight. Seriously, if these two teams meet in the medal round, you HAVE to watch.

In fact, if you're reading this right now, and you didn't watch this game, shame on you! (Okay, "shame" is a little strong. I realize not everybody has cable.)

I'll admit to feeling a bit overwhelmed at this point. I'm taking notes for the blog, responding to Twitter messages, IM-ing with a few friends on Facebook, and answering texts. I'm either a multi-tasking genius, or a candidate for the insane asylum.

Perhaps a little bit of both?

Team USA finished the second much better than they finished the first. Shots are at 31-19 in favor of Canada as we start the...

Third Period

19:40... What the eff?! MSNBC just came back from a commercial and we're 20 seconds into the period already. How the hell does that happen?!

Memo to MSNBC: That big giant screen with the countdown on it? That's how much time is left in the intermission. You want to be back from break before it reaches 0:00. Thank you!

18:22... Canada kills off the rest of the Staal penalty, but goes right back to a man down as Crosby gets careless with his stick and smacks a USA defender in the mush with it. Thanks Sid, but we'd rather you just tip in another goal for us!

16:55... Doc Emerick (hockey announcer emeritus) just described Team USA's Phil Kessel as a “University of Minnesota product”. Um, okay. He did go there for a year, I guess. But let's just say, he won't be fondly remembered in Gopher hockey lore.

Jeff in Iowa just sent me, “This game makes the Stanley Cup look boring”. That might be a slight exaggeration, but there's certainly more talent in this game than any single NHL game you'll see.

13:55... A delayed penalty on Canada finally gets whistled. An obvious slash by Cory Perry sends the Americans back on the power play again. The best part is that Team USA was able to kill close to a full minute 6-on-5 while Canada fought to get possession just to get to the whistle. Now two more minutes of 5-on-4 and Team USA is that much closer to a big night!

12:51... And this time they cash in! Rafalski fires a one-time slapper from the point which deflects off of Jamie Langenbrunner's skate past Brodeur. No kicking motion means the goal stands! Langenbrunner from Rafalski and Suter makes it 4-2 Team USA!

12:25... Oh my word what a save by Miller. Crosby and Nash hook up in front of the crease, and Nash can't put it home. Miller sweeps it away from danger. But the Canadian's aren't beaten yet!

9:26... Team USA almost seals the deal. Patrick Kane with a huge burst of speed creates an odd man rush, but Dustin Brown sends Kane's pass off the side of the net. Damn, that would've been the fork.

9:11... Kane follows a great play with a not-so-great play as he gets caught for hooking and sent off for two. Ed Olczyk makes the point on the broadcast - this is the game. If Canada can't score on this power-play, Team USA will be in a commanding position to win the game.

7:11... Canada gets only one shot on the power-play and fails to score. An amazing job by the Americans clogging the passing lanes and keeping the puck to the outside.

5:40... The Canadians are starting to look desperate. Players are starting to try to do too much individually and end up sprawled on the ice more often than not. Team USA hasn't gone completely into “protect the lead” mode yet, but it's close.

5:04... And it's going to have to happen now. Erik Johnson gets his stick caught in Dany Heatley's skates and goes for tripping. The USA bench doesn't like the call, and neither does the Strib's Michael Russo who tweets, “Brutal call by Watson [the ref]”.

Just glanced at the shots and it's 35-21 Canada. Yeah, it's been a good third for Team USA.

3:47... Holy crap what a series of saves by Miller. He makes three straight sprawling saves. When guys like Nash, Crosby and Iginla aren't able to send it home in a situation like that, you know it's Team USA's night.

3:09... As usual, I speak too soon. Sidney Crosby gets the Canadian's within one. In the closing seconds of the power-play, Duncan Keith gets it down low to Rick Nash who sweetly sets up Crosby for the goal. Crosby from Nash and Keith makes it 4-3 Team USA.

We're about to see the most intense non-medal-round three minutes of hockey in these Olympic Games.

2:34... Olczyk just described the game as “tremendously tremendous”. Atta boy Edzo! Channeling your inner-Tim-Brewster, are you?

1:11... Finally Team USA manages to clear the puck. Holy crap. It looked like a 6-on-5 for Canada for the last minute and a half. Crazy. But Miller stood up strong. Brodeur's to the bench. It really is 6-on-5 now.

0:44.7... U-S-A! U-S-A! Ryan Kesler gets a turnover from the Canadians to Zack Parise who plays it out of the zone along the boards. Kesler doesn't give up on the play, chases the puck down and swipes at it while sprawling on the ice to score the empty netter for the win! What a hustle play. It kills me to praise a guy who plays for the Vancouver, but tonight, he's an American, not a Canuck. Kesler from Parise makes it 5-3 and that's gonna do it!

Final USA 5, Canada 3. Oh... My... God... what a hockey game!

Post-game

Doc Emerick just said it best, “a meaningful semi-silence”. There are some USA fans out there making noise, but the mostly-Canadian crowd is sitting stunned as Team Canada loses a game they were supposed to win.

Canada dominated the play in the second half of the third period, but Team USA played solid defense and Ryan Miller was nothing short of sensational in net.

Final shot totals are 45 for Canada and 23 for Team USA. Proving once again that it's not how many you get, it's how many you make count.

And just for good measure, the arena-wizards dial up “Don't Stop Thinkin About Tomorrow” by Fleetwood Mac. Can we get something more recent than 1979 for the medal round arena-wizards? Please? I'm begging you.

That's followed by a promo announcing that the game was brought to us with limited commercial interruption by “Super, Natural, British Columbia, Canada”. Lousy tag-lines aside, that tells you how good this game was. I was so mesmerized, I didn't realize that they weren't cutting to commercials during the periods. No wonder it felt so fast. I love it!

Wow. Just, wow.

If you managed to miss that game, do yourself a favor. Pay attention to the medal round, and if Team USA ends up pitted against Canada again, WATCH IT! You won't be sorry.


That's going to wrap it up for today. Thanks for re-living a fantastic game with me. I hope you enjoyed it!

I'll be back on Wednesday with... something. I have no idea how I'm going to top this. But that's the great part about sports, it always seems to come up with something new and interesting to write about!

Until then, thanks for reading!

Friday

2-19-10: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

We've done it once again! We've fooled the employment gods into giving us two straight days off! And I'm thrilled to report that it should be the case for many weeks to come... hopefully.

Yes, the brain trust that runs my shop has finally filled the vacant Studio Coordinator position. In fact, the new guy is training in as I begin to write this column. So hopefully my days of weekend fill-in work are done. Hopefully.

I'm a bit conflicted today. A couple of things happened yesterday. One was pretty neat. The other was lousy (most of you can guess what I'm referencing there - if not, I'll discuss later).

The neat one concerned an email I got in the morning. I thought it was a hoax at first, but it turned out to be legit. A reporter from the Globe and Mail (a newspaper based in Toronto of all places) had stumbled across my Wednesday column as she was researching an article on why men don't like figure skating. Apparently she thought some of my comments on subjective judging were interesting and wanted to do an interview.

Several emails and a bit of phone-tag got the job done and helped produce her article which you can read here.

Intellectually, I know that anything I put on the blog is out there on the internet for anyone and everyone to see. But the concept doesn't really sink home until you get a call from a Canadian newspaper reporter. Go figure!

Anyway, my thanks to Ms. Weeks for her interest in my blog. And for those of you wondering, yes, that's the most times I've ever been referred to as “Mr. Cook”... by far.

But enough of my shameless self-promotion! It's Friday, and that means you came here to be Updated. So let's get to it!

”The only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him.”
- Henry Stimson (1867 - 1950), American statesman


Easier said than done, right, especially when I was so very, very wrong about something...

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What was that? I'm glad you asked! (Or am I?) So with that, it's time, once again, for everybody's favorite segment...

Dan's Favorite Teams Update!

Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 19-7 (9-5 in the Big Ten). They're fifth in the conference and ranked 14th in the nation.

Though once again, that ranking is likely to slip a bit. Why does it seem like I keep saying that?

I know this is a tad out of the usual order, but since the Wild section will be small thanks to the Olympic Break, and given the grievous events of last night, I felt the need to put the Badger section first.

Minnesota 68, Wisconsin 52.

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!!!

I mean it's bad enough to lose to hated rival, but to get blown out by them when they've been playing like crap for weeks?! That's almost more than I can take.

Wisconsin scored the first 6 points of the game. But once they lost that lead, they never got a sniff of it again.

It pains me to say it (I mean it really, really pains me), but the Badgers were out-played and out-coached in every fashion imaginable. Minnesota's zone defense had Wisconsin off their game all night. And Bo Ryan spent more time complaining to the officials - for which he earned a well-deserved technical foul - than figuring out how to beat said defense.

Yes, it was a road game, and road games in the Big Ten are always tough. But that's no excuse to lose to a team that's now 6-7 in the conference.

I'm not sure what's worse actually. Having to watch your favorite team get beat by their rival, or the inevitable verbal ass-whipping I'm going to take at work today. I'm not going to say that I don't deserve it - lord knows I've earned every bit of it. But that doesn't mean I'm looking forward to it!

I suppose the good news is that forward Jon Leuer finally got back into action (although his play was rusty, at best).

But that's a very small consolation for what was really a thorough and total defeat.

Ugh. I'm still sick over it.

Thankfully, the Badgers get a couple of “bounce-back” games over the next week. Sunday they host Northwestern. And next Thursday they travel to Assembly Hall to face a still-weakened Hooiser squad. After that, there are only two more regular season games before the Big Ten Tournament. Bucky better get fired up, or they could find themselves uncomfortably close to the NCAA “bubble”.

(Ed.'s Note: For those of you expecting the previously advertised “Golden Gopher Cheap Shot”, it's been delayed. I mean, are you kidding? I'm going to cheap-shot a team that just handed my squad a 16-point loss? Even I'm not that crazy.)


Minnesota Wild: The Wild are 30-27-4, good for 64 points. They're fourth in the Northwest Division and 13th in the Western Conference, 5 points out of a playoff spot.

The Wild have been dormant since this past Sunday when they defeated Vancouver 6-2. It was a great win for the Wild. Unfortunately, it came on the heels of a crushing 3-2 loss to a beleaguered Atlanta Thrasher team.

Trust me, I'd love nothing more than to be trumpeting the wonder of a big win over the division leaders, but when it comes after an uninspired performance like that the Wild put forth against Atlanta, I just can't muster the optimism to do it.

It's more of the same that we've been seeing all year. One night the Wild look like world-beaters, the next they look like they're just out there cashing paychecks. That might be a little harsh, but the dichotomy in energy levels has been distinct.

I don't think they're going to pack it in and become sellers at the deadline however. I'm not saying they won't make moves, but the trade they made last Friday is probably more indicative of what they're looking to do than anything.

For those of you who've been paying absolutely no attention, the Wild sent defenseman Kim Johnsson and prospect Nick Leddy to the Chicago Blackhawks for defenseman Cam Barker.

Barker might be a slight upgrade over Johnsson (Kim-haters will say that's an understatement, as well as point to Barker scoring in his first game with the Wild). But what he really brings is more long-term cost-certainty.

Johnsson's a free agent after this season. Barker's locked up for two more years. Not to mention that he costs less than Johnsson in the first place.

Ultimately, this quality of this deal will be decided by Leddy. If the kid grows into an NHL star, then Chicago might come out on the “winning” end. If not, then the Wild have added a guy who's better on the power play and comes cheaper than the guy they traded.

I doubt seriously this is the end of the tweaking GM Chuck Fletcher is going to try and accomplish before the trading deadline. Whether he can find any dance partners is another matter.

The Wild remain idle while the Winter Games are in session. They'll be back at it on March 3rd as they start a short road trip to Western Canada in Calgary.


Maple Grove Crimson: The Crimson are 21-2 (15-0 in the Northwest Suburban). They're first in their conference and ranked 4th in the state in Class 4A.

I hate to be repetitive, but it was another week, and another two comfortable wins for the Crimson.

Last Friday, the Crimson cruised to a 72-36 win over Elk River. Juniors Ellen Edison and Stephanie Davison, along with senior Julie Kruse couldn't decide amongst them who should lead the team in scoring that night, so they decided to stick with a nice, even 15 points per player. Yes, you read that right. Three of the Crimson's starters outscored all of the Elks' players by 9 points. Wow.

But as I mentioned last week, there was another story (probably more important than the win) that happened that night. Maple Grove's “pink-out” in support of the Kay Yow Breast Cancer Fun was a roaring success. A lot of money was made for a special cause and a good time was had by all.

Here's a photo of the team in their pink, along with the coaching staff (Coach Cook is on the left - note the pink tie):



How do you not love a socially responsible team?!

This past Tuesday night the Crimson kept the train rolling against the Anoka Tornadoes, blitzing them 68-23. This time junior Anna Gerdes (11 points) joined seniors Julie Kruse (10 points) and Veronica Jakubovie (10 points) in leading Maple Grove in scoring.

You've got to have regular leaders on a successful team. But the knowledge that they have role-players that can step up and lead the team in scoring on any given night must be very reassuring for the coaching staff.

And speaking of the coaching staff, the awards are starting to come in. It was announce today that Mark Cook and Ellen Wiese of Maple Grove have been selected as Section 5AAAA Coach and Assistant Coach of the Year. Congrats on an honor well-earned!

One more “gimme” game remains for Maple Grove before they tough final stretch. Tonight, the Crimson travel to face the Park Center Pirates (who they beat 56-34 in their last meeting). Don't expect the winning streak to stop tonight. But after that, things get really interesting. Tuesday night, the Crimson host second-place Centennial for a game which could decide the Conference title. And lest they rest on their laurels, Maple Grove has to face hated-rival Osseo one week from tonight.

We're getting to the fun part, Crimson fans. Stay tuned!


That's going to wrap things up for this week. Feel Updated? I thought you might.

I'll be back on Monday (hopefully) with more Sports Take goodness for you.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Wednesday

2-17-10: Winter Olympic Surprise

Hello again everybody...

First off, apologies for not having anything for you on Monday. Between picking up a shift on Sunday night, and another in a series of guest-hosts for the 1-3 show, I barely had time to even conceptualize a column much less actually write it.

And for those of you who have already forgiven me, and mentioned your expectation of a big-time column today? I'm not so sure you should get your hopes up.

I have an idea of what I want to write about today, but until I actually start fleshing it out, I have no idea how long/good it's going to be.

I'll do my best!

The Winter Olympics are in full swing. I didn't expect to watch much, but I've actually paid a fair amount of attention to it. Why? Let's discuss!

”Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves.”
- Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865), 16th President of the United States


Another quality chestnut from Old Abe.

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”The 2010 Winter Games”

Long-time readers will recall that I'm not a huge fan of the Olympics. It's not that I dislike them per se. They're just not something I get all that geeked-up about. In fact, I wrote about it briefly in this column.

But I'm finding myself watching far more of this years Winter Olympics that I thought I would. I've always been fond of Olympic hockey (although the fact that the men's games aren't on an Olympic-sized ice sheet annoys me a bit), but suddenly I've found myself watching luge, moguls skiing, biathalon, speed skating and even some of the snowboarding events.

Why? That's a good question. There are things I don't like, and things I do like. Let's break it down.

First, the stuff I don't like.

Judged events: There are exceptions, but for the most part if there's not a score, or a “time to beat”, then I'm out.

This is why I won't watch figure skating, or most of the “X-games”-like events that are subjectively judged. No matter how thoroughly the announcers explain what the judges are looking for, I still have no clue how these events really get judged. Near as I can tell, a group of people get together, have some cocktails and scribble down some numbers which are turned into TV graphics. That's about it.

I suppose if I was more into fashion, then figure skating might mean a little more to me, but those who know me well know that I basically live in jeans and sneakers, so sparkles and spandex aren't really going to appeal to me.

Snowboarding on half-pipes doesn't really appeal to me either. Sure there's always the possibility of someone taking a spectacular fall (something I'll discuss more in a minute), but again, I have no idea what really makes one trick better than the other, so how am I supposed to have any kind of rooting interest?

The one exception is the Snowcross event. Yes, it's snowboarding, but it's essentially another form of a race. Put four snowboarders out there, race them around a course, throw in a few jumps to increase the wipe-out potential, and boom, you've got my attention.

Constant shifting in coverage: This has gotten a lot better over the years with multiple channels carrying events.

But if I'm going to sit down and invest in watching an event, then show me the whole event. Don't show me a few runs down the moguls and then cut to coverage of the Women's Short Program. That's the surest way to get me to change the channel. And if I flip around and there's an episode of “Mythbusters” on, you've lost me.

I understand that they can't show everybody competing in every event. And that there are some athletes that make the Games without truly being competitive. So I don't mind that NBC feels like it can edit out the biathlete from Kyrgyzstan.

But show me at least most of the even from start to finish. If things are going on simultaneously, then either kick one to a cable channel, or tape-delay it and show it afterward. It can't be all that complicated, can it?

No Olympic-sized ice sheet this year: I mentioned this one earlier, but it's really sticking in my craw.

The standard NHL ice sheet is 200 feet long and 85 feet wide. The standard International/Olympic sheet is 210 feet long and 98 feet wide.

The extra 10 feet in length doesn't matter much to me, but it's amazing how much the extra 13 feet of width can change the game.

As the athletes grow bigger, stronger and faster, there's less and less room on the ice for stick-handling and passing - two of the more exciting parts of the game. But when you add 13 more feet of ice, that opens things up quite a bit.

Unfortunately, the Vancouver Olympic committee decided to use General Motors Place - home to the NHL's Vancouver Canucks - as the official venue for these Games' Ice Hockey competitions.

Now, granted, when you have a state-of-the-art facility like the Garage it's hard to justify spending money on another venue. And given the short turn-around between the Olympics and the resumption of the NHL schedule, you can't really afford to retro-fit the building to hold the Olympic-sized sheet.

But I don't have to like it!

Okay, okay. Enough of the negative. How about some positives?

All-Star Hockey: I know I just slammed the ice-size, but hockey has always been and will always be my favorite Olympic sport.

Hockey is a game of heart and passion, and when you toss national pride into the mix, it gets even better.

And since the NHL has begun allowing its players to participate, it's turned into All-Star Hockey that actually has meaning. Yes, the NHL has an All-Star game, but since they don't allow checking, it's not terribly fun to watch. But in the Olympics, the physicality is very much present and accounted for.

Granted, the early rounds aren't always between All-Star teams. I'd have to look at the roster to be sure, but I don't think the Norway team that got blitzed by the Canadians last night had any NHL players on it. If they did it wasn't more than one or two.

But by the time you get down to the medal rounds, you're watching rosters primarily filled by NHL players. We've seen what Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin look like together on the ice, but what about Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin? Watch team Russia and you get to find out. Ever wonder how Crosby and Jarome Iginla would look like on the same line? Check out a team Canada game and there you go.

It's the best hockey players in the world playing on a very large stage. It's fun to watch, and gets you even more psyched for the NHL's playoff run.

Wipe-outs: Allow me to preface this with the following - the tragedy that befell the luge competitor from Georgia was horrible, and I don't mean to mock it in any way, shape or form.

But I can't help it. I'm a fan of the kinds of highlights that have people crashing and burning. Again, I don't want to see anybody get hurt. But when someone wipes out on the moguls and skis go flying, I smile.

Sure it sounds horrible, but I think it's a fairly natural reaction. After all, how many people watch NASCAR, only hoping to see cars go flying end over end? Or watch football hoping to see a guy get hit so hard, their helmet goes flying? And how many years was a ski jump crash synonymous with “the agony of defeat” on Wide World of Sports?

We don't wish ill on these people. We just love to see chaos and a mild form of destruction. Is that so wrong?

Battling for national pride amongst friends and family: I'm currently engaged in wars of words with two separate people. And strangely, they're supporting the same country.

I'm not in to politics in a big way, so don't mis-interpret what I say in that fashion. But when it comes to the Olympics, I'm a proud American. Whatever it is I'm watching, I'm rooting for the American.

But that's not the case with everyone.

Witness: the Hammer. Long-time readers will be familiar with my gregarious co-worker who has perhaps the most unique set of sports allegiances I've ever seen. And that extends to the Olympics. Near as I can tell, the Hammer is a huge Team Canada fan in men's hockey because his favorite player of all time was Steve Yzerman, who is Canadian.

But it's more than just that. Hammer actually wants to be Canadian. When we're at Wild games, he's either singing along with the Canadian anthem, or trying to super-impose “Oh Canada” over “The Star Spangled Banner” if the Wild aren't playing a Canadian team. Sure, a lot of that is because he knows it annoys me, but still! He actually posted, “I'm an American by birth, but Canadian at heart” on his Facebook page yesterday. Don't ask me to explain it. I don't get it either.

So given his Maple-Leaf-loving ways, and the natural rivalry that exists in hockey between Canada and the United States, I've adopted a distinctly anti-Canada stance for these games. Hammer doesn't seem to understand why I object to him rooting for both Canada and the United States, but I think it's wrong, and I won't be afraid to tell him so!

Witness: my Mom. My mom's extended family has a decidedly French-Canadian background. Her maiden name is Durand. Her mother's maiden name was Giguere. I have an aunt who's middle name is Antoinette. I could go on...

Apparently some of my latent (and justifiable in my opinion) negativity towards all things French and Canadian has caused her to pick up the banner of les Quebecois and start cheering for Canada. I got text messages during the opening ceremonies lauding the quality of the Canadian anthem. I'm getting emails decrying any negative comment I make about Canada.

And yet she too believes it perfectly acceptable to root for both Canada and the United States.

I say enough!

Hammer... Mother (whom I love and adore)... it's time to pick a side! If you want to bleed Canada red, that's your choice. But leave the white and blue to those of us who remain loyal to America's Olympic interests!

(Ed.'s note: the preceding was all written with tongue firmly planted in cheek and is in no way, shape, or form meant to disparage any relationships be they fraternal or familial in nature - that being said, I think I'm right!)

In the end, I think the good things about the Winter Olympics outweigh the bad. At least enough so that I'm watching more than I planned to. Hell, I even watched some of Finland vs. China (Women's Hockey) last night after I got home from work! If you've begun watching hockey involving the Chinese, I think it's safe to say you're fairly well sucked into the Olympics.


That's going to wrap things up for today. Hope those of you expecting big things were satisfied. The column turned out better than I thought it would anyway.

Don't forget, tomorrow night's the big Wisconsin/Minnesota match-up at "Legendary Williams Arena". Tip off is at 8pm central time, check your local listings. If anybody's seen a line on the game, let me know. I can't seem to find one, and I'd like to make some "friendly" wagers!

Friday's the usual Update column, and it includes the return of the “Golden Gopher Cheap Shot”, only this time, I'm quoting someone else. You won't want to miss it.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Friday

2-12-10: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

We've done it once again. Making it to the end of another week is something we often take for granted. But if you're Edina, MN, native and current Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, you're wishing your 21-year-old son had made it to the end of another week. Instead Brendan Burke and a friend were killed last week in a car accident.

If you haven't heard Brendan's story, I can't possibly encourage you enough to check out this story as well as this story, both by ESPN's phenomenally talented John Buccigross. You'll get a little perspective on life, and just how amazing the hockey community is.

I don't mean to start the column on a down note, but I think it's an amazing and tragic story and I want to make sure as many people see it as possible.

On to happier things...

It's Friday, and that means you've been salivating all week for your Update. No worries dear readers, I will make you wait no longer...

Onward!

”Never judge a book by its movie.”
- J.W. Eagan


Unfortunately, my cursory research has yet to reveal whom Eagan exactly is/was. But the quote jumped out at me because of this weekend's opening of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief”. If you haven't read the Jackson series, I highly recommend it. It doesn't have nearly the depth of the Potter series, but if you liked the latter, I'm fairly confident you'll like the former.

That being said, I haven't seen a tremendously positive response to the film adaptation of the first book in the series. I'll still go see it, mind you (though not likely this weekend - thank you hiring-averse management). But my expectations aren't going to be terribly high. Count on some sort of review once I do however.

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But that's in the future.

In the now, it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment...

Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Minnesota Wild: The Wild are 29-26-4, good for 62 points. They're 4th in the Northwest Division and 12th in the Western Conference, now five points out of a playoff spot.

Only two games have been played since we last Updated. A 2-1 win over the Flyers that you can read about here, and a disappointing 3-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday night.

During that game, I heard play-by-play guru (really, he's the best in town, and it's not close) Bob Kurtz make an interesting point. If you go through the Wild's last 23 games, here's how it breaks down: three wins, four losses, four wins, four losses, three wins, two losses, two wins and then the loss Wednesday night.

Notice a pattern? Looks a whole lot like a .500 team, doesn't it? The problem is, .500 doesn't get you into the playoffs, even in the NHL where more teams get in than don't.

Is it possible that the reality is the Wild are just a .500 team, and that's all? Sure. But I still see enough talent and heart on this team to be better than that. If I knew how to harness and focus those things, I'd have Todd Richards' job, and be a whole lot more excited about working on Sunday than I am now. But I don't, and I don't. Hopefully Richards figures out a way to finish strong heading to the Olympic Break (these last two games are important points-wise), and keep things rolling after the Olympics.

The trading deadline hits not long after players return from Vancouver, so GM Chuck Fletcher is going to have to decide soon if the Wild are going to be buyers or sellers. In past years, the Wild have pretty much stood pat at the deadline. I expect that to change this year. I just don't know which way it's going to go. (Though if I had to make a guess, I'd suggest Wild fans should be prepared to say goodbye to a few higher-priced veterans.)

The good news for the Wild is that Niklas Backstrom is back from whatever it was that ailed him. The team still hasn't disclosed what the problem that was initially diagnosed as a back injury and then somehow morphed into flu-like symptoms, actually was. But whatever happened, he's apparently over it and was back in net on Wednesday night. The loss certainly wasn't his fault, but I've also seen sharper performances from him in his career. That's just a matter of shaking off some rust and getting back into game-shape.

His return has allowed Josh Harding to sit out completely and rehab his hip troubles. The break will do Hards nothing but good as well. In the mean-time Anton Khudobin (pronounced hoo-DOH-bin for those wondering) acts as backup to Backstrom. As for Wade I-Still-Don't-Want-To-Type-Your-Last-Name? He's back in Houston allowing their assistant equipment manager to return to his regular duties.

As mentioned, the Wild have two games to go before the NHL shuts down during the Olympics. Tonight they host the Ilya Kovalchuck-less Atlanta Thrashers (two points the Wild simply have to have). And Sunday afternoon they host division-rival Vancouver (two points that they need to get, if only to deny them from the Canucks). Because nothing says “Happy Valentines Day” like hockey, right?!


Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 18-6 (8-4 in the Big Ten). They're in 5th place in the conference and are ranked 11th in the country.

Though, unfortunately, that ranking will drop a spot or two after a disappointing 63-56 loss to Illinois on Tuesday night. Just because Illinois isn't ranked, doesn't mean they're not a quality opponent - their 9-3 conference record shows that. But it was a 7-point loss at home. And those don't often happen to Wisconsin.

It was just a weird game. The Badgers got out to a big lead early in the first half, but the Illini were able to trim that to just two at halftime. The teams traded the lead early in the second half, but with about seven minutes to go, the Illini went on a big run, and Bucky was never able to recover.

As I said, it was disappointing because it was a game at home, and you hate to lose an opportunity to win at home. But it was also disappointing because Wisconsin had been on a helluva run coming into that game. We talked last week about the big win over Michigan State and the possibility of a let-down. But the Badgers avoided that, and rolled big over Michigan with a 18-point win on Saturday. So considering the momentum they had, to stumble against even a quality opponent at home has me scratching my head.

What's that they say? There's a reason they play the games. Usually I despise cliches, but that one seems too apropos to avoid.

Maybe having fallen off the horse (why not keep the cliches rolling?) will refocus the club. They certainly have a stretch of very winnable games ahead of them. Saturday, they host a struggling Hoosier squad. Then Thursday night it's the renewal of the Interstate 94 rivalry as the Badgers travel to meet the Golden Gophers at “Legendary Williams Arena”. Given the number of times I hear that phrase during Gopher broadcasts, I assume that “Legendary” is now officially part of the building's title.


Maple Grove Crimson: The Lady Crimson Basketball team is 19-2 (13-0 in the Northwest Suburban) and in first place in their conference. They're ranked 4th in Class 4A.

I'm not saying I'm bored by reporting two more wins for the Crimson every week. But it is getting slightly repetitive (although, due to a schedule quirk, they've only won one game since we last Updated... of course, they've only played one game, so there you go).

So to spice things up, I'm going to write the rest of their section in German.

Okay, I'm not really going to do that, but you can understand my desire to change things up a bit, right?!

The Crimson dynamo keeps on spinning. After last week's demolition of Champlain Park, Maple Grove followed it up with a 62-38 beat-down of Andover on Tuesday night.

At home, on the road, the venue doesn't seem to matter. Senior Jen Field drops in 16 for the Crimson, senior Julie Kruse a tidy 12 and junior Ellen Edison 9 more and those three alone were nearly enough to beat Andover.

It was such a dominant performance, that had the Crimson scored just 3 points in the second half, that would've won the game. Think about that. It's just silly how well this team is playing, both offensively and defensively.

And the roll doesn't look likely to end any time soon. I abhor counting wins before the games are played, but look at the next three games: tonight vs. Elk River (Maple Grove won by 27 the last time they played), Tuesday vs. Anoka (a 51-point win for the Crimson in their last meeting) and one week from tonight versus Park Center (a 22-point victim of the fourth-ranked team in the state). Someone out there is mumbling something about chickens hatching, but I'm telling you, those are three more W's.

The next real test is coming on the 23rd when the Crimson host Centennial. And that game will be followed by another tough challenge at Osseo on the 26th.

Can the Crimson run the table? There's certainly no reason to think they can't. Maintaining their focus will be key.

One last note... Obviously I'm biased and have a rooting interest in the club. But in case you need more reason to like this club, how about this?

Maple Grove's having a “Pink-Out” at tonight's game to raise money for the Kay Yow Breast Cancer Fund which is affiliated with the V Foundation. (You can get more info here)

They've been selling the t-shirts you see pictured below (modeled by my nephew), and there's going to be a LOT of pink in the gym tonight.

Here's the front:



And here's the back (I love the slogan):



It's a great cause and I couldn't be more proud of the program getting together to give something back. There's going to be a few t-shirts left to sell at the door tonight. So if you want to see a red-hot (or should that be “pink-hot”?) basketball team and support a good cause, head out to Maple Grove Senior High tonight and check them out!


And with that, I'm going to wrap things up for the week. The Twins finally took a break from adding pieces to the puzzle, so I'll give them some time off before pitchers and catchers report on the 21st!

Have a safe and fun weekend and I'll be back on Monday.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Wednesday

2-10-10: 5 Best Trophies in Sports

Hello again everybody...

It's the middle of the week again, and those of us here in the upper Midwest are doing what we can to dig out of the latest round of the Snownami that is this winter. Fortunately, we're better prepared to do that than our friends on the East coast who apparently don't believe in investing in snow plows.

Seriously? They've got to shut the Federal Government down for two straight days because of a couple feet of snow?! That delays us a couple of hours tops here in Minnesota.

My God, what am I saying? I think my brain has frozen. Why does anyone live here?! I need a vacation!

(31 days til Phoenix... not that I'm counting.)

Seeing the Saints hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl 44 got me thinking. The VLT (not a bad acronym, huh?) is one of the better trophies in sports. So what would be my 5 favorites?

Glad you asked. Let's find out!

”I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I've ever known.”
- Walt Disney (1901 - 1966), American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, animator, entrepreneur, entertainer, international icon and philanthropist


Think about that little chestnut next time you wonder why they call it the “happiest place on Earth”. Oof.

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Time for a debate starter. Just what are the “5 Best Trophies in Sports”? Here are mine...

5. Paul Bunyan's Axe



I'll get my homerism out of the way first. College football trophies are amongst the best in sports. They represent the best in traditional competition. And no rivalry has been around longer than Wisconsin v. Minnesota.

The Badgers and the Gophers first met in 1890, and have played a total of 119 times, more than any other rivals in all of college football.

The Axe was created by the National “W” Club, the Wisconsin letter-winners club in 1948. And the scores of each game are etched in the handle. Wisconsin's wins on one side, Minnesota's on the other. If the team who currently possesses the Axe wins the game, they get to parade it around the stadium. If the other team wins, they get to rush the opponent's sideline and “steal” the Axe back.

As college trophies go, how can you not love the Axe? It's a natural trophy for teams from areas with a lot of wilderness. It represents the pioneer spirit. And it embraces the enduring legend of Paul Bunyan. Throw in the ease with which games are recorded on it, and you have my favorite college football rivalry trophy.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that the Badgers own a 35-24-3 advantage over the trophy's history!


4. The Commissioner's Trophy



Regular readers know that baseball is my favorite sport. And it's nearly for that reason alone that the World Series trophy ends up on this list.

Baseball has the richest tradition of any sport known to man, and the Commissioner's Trophy is part of that tradition. It's the only trophy that represents all the teams in its league regardless of whether they've won the championship or not.

The baseball, the crown, the pennants... all speak to the wonder of baseball.

But as I said there are limitations. First of all it's kind of unwieldy. It's not easily raised or passed around amongst the championship team. Plus, if someone were to stumble while holding it, they could get impaled about 30 times. Not something you want in a trophy.

The thing just doesn't look all that sturdy. I mean if you drop it, and break off one of the flag poles, how do you fix that? Can't be easy.

But between my two favorite teams (Minnesota and Arizona), they own three. And seeing as how I can't say that about the rest of my favorites, The Commissioner's Trophy makes the list.


3. The BCS Trophy



As an adamant opponent of the BCS system, it pains me to say it. But their trophy is pretty damned cool.

Think about it. A crystal football. Valuable, yet not your same old standard gold trophy. Plus when the Championship winners are holding it up and all those flashbulbs are going off around it, it creates it's own little light show!

Add to that that the football comes free of the rest of the trophy, and it's like the winner has their own semi-erector set!

No, it doesn't have the same tradition as other sports trophies. But it's just too damned cool-looking for me to leave off the list.


2. The Heisman Trophy



Okay, I know I said baseball is my favorite sport, and yet I'm claiming my third college football trophy as part of my Top 5.

What can I say? College football has a lot of trophies!

First awarded in 1935, the Heisman Trophy has created a legend all it's own. Other sports have MVP trophies, but none are as hotly debated as the Heisman.

It's also the only trophy to create its own pose. How many times have we seen a player score a touchdown in a big game and “strike the pose” while celebrating? Hell, how many times have we seen some schlub in a backyard touch-football game score and strike the pose? You won't see anybody trying to balance a basketball on the rim and imitate the Larry O'Brien Trophy after a big win!

The Heisman is also the only trophy on the list cast from bronze. I don't know why that matters, but I dig me some uniqueness!


And before we get to my #1 trophy, why not drag things out with some Honorable Mentions:

The World Cup Trophy



I came this close to putting this one in the Top 5. The World Cup is the biggest sporting event on the planet. And nations battle each other relentlessly for this trophy.

Tune in this summer and watch the passion and energy exerted by players and fans from around the globe as “the beautiful game” plays out on it's biggest stage.

Alas, Ricky Martin had to go and record that dumbass song called “The Cup of Life” and damned near ruin the whole bit. Hence, it doesn't make the list.

The Green Jacket



Okay, it's not “technically” a trophy, and that's a good portion of why it doesn't make the Top 5. But it is the most recognizable prize in all of golf.

You can have your Claret Jugs, you can have your Wannamaker Trophies. They're nice. But the second you see someone in a Green Jacket, you know which tournament they won and where they one it. The Masters. Augusta, Georgia. You can almost smell the azalea blossoms just looking at the thing, can't you?

The Lombardi Trophy



Simple. Elegant. Easy to hoist.

What's not to like about the Lombardi Trophy?

Named after perhaps the most recognizable name in all of coaching history, the NFL's championship trophy is also instantly recognizable.

So why didn't it make the Top 5?

It probably should have, I just ran out of room.


So let's get to the winner already. I'm sure you've guessed what it is by now...

1. The Stanley Cup



Like there was any other choice?

The only trophy that is actually functional, the Stanley Cup stands alone amongst legendary trophies.

Unlike the other major North American sports, the NHL doesn't create a new trophy each year. Instead, the Champion retains possession of the Cup until a new Champion is crowned.

And unlike most championship trophies which only list the name of the team that won it, the Stanley cup etches the name of every player, coach, management and staff member of the championship organization on to one of the rings which wrap around the trophy. Maybe not the most efficient use of space, but when more space is required, a ring is “retired” to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and a new ring is added providing a new palate for future champions.

I mentioned that it was functional. The Cup has been used as a beer mug, champagne flute, cereal bowl and yes, a jello mold. Each member of the winning organization gets a day with the cup to do as they please... within reason... mostly. The stories of where the Cup has been and what it's been witness to are many and wildly varying. Mostly, it's brought to home towns, and shown off to friends and family. Though legend has it, it's been witness to things that would make my Mom go gray - so I won't mention them here. Use your imagination. No, not you Mom.

It's also the only trophy with its own employee. The NHL has hired an individual with the unique title of “Keeper of the Cup”. It's the Keeper's job to travel with the Cup and make sure it stays in tip-top shape for every appearance. He gets to wear those kick-ass white cotton gloves. Some might think they're to maintain the polish on the trophy. But I suspect they function as much as protection for the Keeper. Seriously. Given where that thing's been, I wouldn't blame him if he wore gloves lined with lead and asbestos.

Hockey is a unique mix of athleticism, passion and guts. It's fitting that it's trophy should be equally as special.

So what do you think? Did I leave one off the list? Is there an egregious misplacement in my rankings? That's the beauty of a Top 5 list. It can be endlessly debated. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts and ideas!


That will wrap things up for today. One more column to go this week. I'll be back on Friday with your weekly Update which will include a troubling home loss for a certain basketball team.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Monday

2-8-10: Running Game Commentary VIII: Wild v. Flyers

Hello again everybody...

So what did you do yesterday?

Yes, I watched the Super Bowl. And like most people I talked to was disappointed in the outcome and the commercials. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy for the city of New Orleans. It's a great story for them. But between believing that Manning was going to take that next step into all-time greatness, The Who sounding off-key way too much during the halftime show, no commercials I'm going to remember for any period of time, and knowing how close the Vikings were to the shot that New Orleans took advantage of...

Well, let's just say it's not going to be a Super Bowl I remember fondly.

So if you thought you were going to get a column about the Bowl, you're going to be disappointed.

Instead, I'm bringing back a segment I've ignored for far too long. The Sports Take Running Game Commentary!!!

That's right. Saturday night I was in attendance for the Wild/Flyers tilt at the Xcel Energy Center, and today is your opportunity to relive the game with me.

So since these tend to run longer than your usual column, let's get to the getting, shall we?

"It is only possible to live happily ever after on a day-to-day basis."
- Margaret Bonnano (1950 - ), American science fiction writer


One game at a time people. One game at a time.

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Before I get going, a note on the times in today's RGC. In the past when I've done hockey RGC's I've noted times progressively during the periods. That's the way great hockey minds do things. But I'm not a great hockey mind. So this time, I just went with the time left in the period. Much easier to glance at the scoreboard and type, rather than have to convert it using Base-60 math. Trust me.

With that, it's time for...

Running Game Commentary VIII

Pregame...

Hammer's here. Why wouldn't he be here? It's the Flyers. The Hammer *hates* the Flyers. Actually, hate isn't really the right word. If you combined my hatred for the Red Sox, Stars and Gophers it would still be a mere candle flame next to the bright, burning sun of hate the Hammer harbors for the Flyers.

Think of the most mild, meek, teddy-bear like person you know. Now imagine that person threatening to go medieval on a particular franchise/fan base. That's what happens when the Flyers come to town and the Hammer's in the house.

In the Hammer's own words, “I'd rather get back together with my ex-wife who made me miserable for two years, than cheer for the Flyers.” That about sums it up no?

Press Box etiquette prevents the Hammer from using the kind of language that he'd like to. But taking a cue from a previous RGC, we're going to substitute the word “Lynch” (in honor of WCCO's veteran meteorologist) for any colorful metaphors the Hammer might otherwise wish to utter.

With about seven minutes left in the pregame festivities, they crank up “Wheels” by the Foo Fighters. Now, I love the Foo Fighters. They're in my Top 5 pantheon of favorite bands. I can literally throw the iPod on random under “Foo Fighters” and never feel a need to skip a song. All that being said, I liked “Wheels” a lot more the first time, when Tom Petty called it “Learning to Fly”. I'm just sayin...

The “State of Hockey” flag gets skated out to center ice and we're just about ready to go. That still gives me goosebumps. How cool does it have be to be a 10-year-old out on the middle of an NHL rink watching these tremendous athletes fly by. And then get fist-bumped by the home squad? Come on!

My man-crush's line is starting tonight. Latendresse to Havlat has been on fire of late. Let's hope they keep it up.

“Let's… Play... Hockey” is up next... Jonathan Yuhas from Channel 11's morning show does the honors...

Off we go...

1st Period...

17:31... The pushy-shovy has begun... Robbie Earl's going to go for slashing, but Boogaard backs him up when a few Flyers try to take some liberties.

Another note, rookie netminder Anton Khudobin is making his first NHL start tonight. He got his first win the other night in relief of Josh Harding who had to leave after tweaking his hip injury. So far the kid's made a couple of standard saves. Nice to get the feet wet with relatively little pressure. We'll see how he does on this penalty kill...

15:31... Kid killed off his first PK. Again, a few more standard saves. Nothing all that special, but he doesn't look as shaky as Doobers did in his start last week.

13:50... First media time out. Hard to get a feel for the game so far with an early man advantage like that. So far, the only profanity from Hammer was an early “Lynch the Fly-ers (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)” bit. It was fairly understated.

Oooh, they're playing the Black Eyed Peas. That NEVER happens in a sports arena. (Insert sarcasm here.)

9:47... Greg Zanon just grabbed the back of his leg and skated off. Might we see the first mid-game amputation in the NHL? I wouldn't put it past him.

So far this game falls under the “Bowling Shoe Ugly” category. The shots are 14-3 Philly. Part of that's a function of the power play. Part of it is the Wild playing too much “Dump-Chase-Clear” hockey.

5:51... Final media time out of the period. This has been a dog of a period. A dog with fleas if you will. I hope it gets better. I'm running out of “this sucks” metaphors.

4:47... Brodziak misses a wide open net as he ducks around Philly goalie Leighton. He was being checked, but you've still got to bang that one home.

4:23... Clutterbuck picks him up and breaks the seal. Leighton tried to play the puck behind the net, Nolan broke the pass up and it slipped out front to a wide-open Buttercup. I've never seen the Hammer dance while seated. It's a trip. 1-0 Wild...

4:07... Once again, the Wild let down after scoring a goal and Philly ties it. Dan Carcillo gets a rebound off a shot from the point and slips it under Khudobin... 1-1... Strib beat writer Michael Russo tweets that it's the 9th time this season that the Wild have given up a goal within one minute of scoring one themselves. That's bloody awful. Hammer lets off a stream of words I can only reproduce as “Lynching lynch it up their lynching lynch.” Or something like that. It wasn't pretty.

0:10... The Wild nearly grab the lead back as a Mittens pass lands on Koivu's tape. Koivu rifles a wrister that Leighton can't quite glove, and trickles wide of the right post...

End of the 1st... 1-1... Shots are 17-7 in favor of Philly... The period got better with the goals at the end, but still... not terribly entertaining. I don't think even Philly fans were entertained... it just wasn't good hockey.

First Intermission...

First time I've seen them do a youth hockey race... 4 kids have to do two laps around the ice, and on the final lap pick up a puck and put it in the net. Black jersey gets out to the early lead, but takes a huge digger rounding the 3rd corner. Gold jersey assumes the lead, but waits too long to shoot his puck and White jersey fires one from just inside the blue line to win. That's what cockiness will get you folks!

Went down to the commissary to refill my soda and see who's around. Saw Philly GM Paul Holmgren walk by. Hammer's going to hate this, but Holmgren will always occupy a special place in my heart. When I was a kid and at one of my first North Star games, Holmgren was playing forward for Minnesota, and got into one of the most brutal hockey fights I've seen to this day. He and his opponent were bent over at the waist, with a fistful of each others jersey in one hand and throwing uppercuts with the other. No attempts to block the incoming punches what so ever. By the time they were done, there was so much blood on the ice, it took 5 minutes to scrape it all up.

Yes, that's a fun memory for me. I might need some professional help...

Lord I hope the next period is better than the first...

2nd Period...

18:14... Chris Pronger goes for holding. And when they say holding, they mean a near mugging of Andrew Brunette behind the net. Time for the Wild to go to work on the power-play.

17:20... Back to back chances for the Wild... Nolan's pass skips over Johnsson's stick and then my man 48 got a loose puck in front of the net that Leighton had to make a scrambling skate save to prevent from going in... Flyers kill the penalty without further damage...

14:15... The refs decide to even things up with an interference call on Zanon... the problem? The puck was a mere 3 feet away when they made the call. Terrible.

12:28... Flyers have a great opportunity in front of a sprawled Khudobin, but Brent Burns is there to sweep the puck away and save the day. Burnsie's quietly having one of his better games of the season. I'll now begin the countdown until he gives up a gross turnover in his own end...

10:25... First media time out... turns out they called a penalty on Philly's Braydon Coburn right before the break. Wild on power-play for the second time this period... time to take advantage!

9:53... Some pretty passing from the Wild in the early goings of the PP. Mittens to Havlat to Koviu and back to Mittens for a shot Leighton has to glove and hold. Yes... I like typing “Mittens”...

8:12... The PP ends, but the Flyers are lazy in their clearing attempt and Owen Nolan gives the Wild the go-ahead goal. Belanger fires one from the wing and Leighton gives up a soft rebound which Nolan bangs home. Nolan's 14th of the year from Belanger and Johnsson makes it 2-1 Wild. Big Mo needs to stay in the Wild's corner now. No let-downs!

7:05... Shane Hnidy with a swing and a miss on a one-timer. Swear to god he looked like Pedro Cerrano flailing at a curveball. And if you don't get that reference, go rent “Major League” and don't talk to me until you do...

6:24... Mike Richards goes off for trying to bury Marek Zidlicky under the end-boards. They call it “tripping”. I call it, “attempted undertaking”.

4:50... Nolan almost does it again. He got a sweet feed in front of the net but couldn't quite knock it past Leighton. Great chance for the Wild.

3:35... I think Philly just whiffed on their 5th open net of the night. Seriously, Khudobin's been scrambling around like crazy, and the Flyers just haven't been able to connect. This might not bode well.

3:16... The Wild take their timeout. They just iced the puck after a long shift which meant that they couldn't make a line-change. Timeouts aren't used all that often in hockey, so it was a smart move by Coach Richards...

1:06... Philly gets whistled for offsides... but the real story is Scott Hartnell cheap-shotting Owen Nolan. Silly Flyer... you don't take liberties with Nolan. Owen drops the gloves and proceeds to lay a whooping on Hartnell. In fact, had Hartnell not shrunk like a turtle, I think Nolan would've punched his mullet off. Both get two for roughing.

End of the 2nd... 2-1 Wild. Much better hockey that period. Shots are now 27-23 Philly. Better action overall.

2nd Intermission...

That means soft pretzel time! Back in a bit.

Mmm boy are those good. Personally, I prefer unsalted to salted, but you really can't go wrong with a soft pretzel ever. It sounds boring, but I skip the cheese and the mustard and just eat them plain. I've tried each and they just don't add enough to be worth the hassle.

And that's more about my eating habits than you ever wanted to know, right?

2-1 Wild... Should be an entertaining 3rd period... Will the rookie win his first start? Will the Wild get 2 crucial points at home? Will Owen Nolan punch the rest of Hartnell's greasy hair off? Let's find out!

3rd Period...

17:46... It's early, and it looks like Khudobin has gone into “pounce” mode. Meaning that if there's any puck loose within three feet of him, he's pouncing on it and holding for a faceoff. I understand there might be some nerves, but the Wild can't afford this many faceoffs in their own end.

16:51... Kaptain Koivu goes off for a hook... I didn't see it, so I can't opine on the quality of the penalty, but this will be a key penalty-kill for the Wild. Momentum is up for grabs...

14:05... Oh my god... they killed Mittens! Miettinen goes down from a crushing, and allegedly legal, hit from Coburn. Crowd doesn't like it. Russo said it should've been a high stick. Who am I to argue with either? Time for a media timeout.

12:53... For no apparent reason, Scott Hartnell tries to bury his stick in Eric Belanger's back. Um Mullet-King? That's a penalty. Doosh.

11:12... Wild give up their second odd-man rush of the power-play. Blair Betts gets a shot off, Khudobin does the “Do I got it? I think I got it? Yeah, I got it” look around and over his shoulder. The Flyers have gotten the better of the offense and they're on the penalty kill... not good.

10:01... A Belanger clearing attempt clears the glass and heads into the crowd. Ugh. That's a penalty. 2 for Delay of Game. Monstrous penalty kill here for the Wild.

8:46... Cal Clutterbuck with a sweet forecheck looses a puck to a wide-open Kyle Brodziak who tries to go high on Leighton's glove side, but misses the net. A shorty there would've been a killer for the Flyers. Dammit.

7:32... Media timeout. Wild managed to kill the penalty. Not as physical a third period as I expected. Attendance announced at 18,640. That constitutes the Wilds 834,271st straight sell-out.*

(* - That number might be slightly inaccurate, but the streak remains in-tact.)

6:33... Hammer's starting to look intense... he says, “They're (Flyers) getting lynching close to tying this game up”. Expletive aside, I agree.

5:00... Final media timeout of the game. I don't know what to say. It's been a weird game. It feels like something flukey's coming. I just hope it's coming in favor of the Wild.

4:08... Havlat sets Ebbet up for a one-timer that he rips so hard it glances off Leighton and deflects up out of play. That HAD to sting.

3:02... Clutterbuck skates hard towards the net and has a couple of chances, but can't cash in. Game has slowed waaaaay down.

1:58... Hammer announces he has to stand up for the final two minutes, “I can't lynching take this sitting down...”

1:46... Philly takes its timeout. Time to discuss when to pull Leighton. Faceoff is in Minnesota's end, so it might be time to do it right now. By the way, the “missed open net” count for Philly is at eight. And they did pull Lieghton... 6-on-5...

1:00... lots of Philly passes, not so many Philly shots...

… and....

It's a final!!! Wild win 2-1. Winner, winner, chicken dinner! No real chances for an empty netter for the Wild there, but they kept the puck to the boards and out of any real danger. Khudobin gets a big congratulations from the boys, who then skate to center to salute the fans. Love that.

3rd star... Cal Clutterbuck... 2nd Star... Owen Nolan... 1st Star... Anton Khudobin... crowd eats up the rookie getting first star and gives him a huge cheer.

Okay... off to the post-game press conference. Mittens never came back from Coburn's non-penalty penalty. We'll see what the coach has to say about it!

Postgame Press Conference...

Not sure why, but Richards took his time getting to the media room. Usually he shows up right after the beat writers do. But tonight it took a little while longer.

“Khudobin was great tonight. He was the difference in the game.”

I thought he was pretty good, but Richards was glowing talking about him.

Coach thought the Flyers caught the Wild on their heels in the first period. Came out skating hard, and the the early PP didn't help matters.

When asked for Mittens status, Richards said he took a stick to the face and was getting stitched up, and that's why he didn't come back.

When pressed to comment on the non-call on Miettinen's injury, Richards offered a “that's just part of the game.”

Translation? “That was a horrible lynching non-call and the lynching ref who blew it should get lynching fined.”

No, Hammer didn't attend the presser (he had to work at 5am), but he was there in spirit!

“Bottom line, we found a way to win the game.”

That's about it isn't it? They can't all be pretty. And sometimes you're going to out-play teams and lose. So you might as well enjoy it when you get a win where you were out shot 39-30.

So there you have it. Not the most exciting hockey game I've ever witnessed, but I'll take a dull win over an exciting loss most nights! Hope I made it interesting enough for you to follow along!


That'll do it for today. I'm back on Wednesday with more Sports Take goodness for you.

Until then, thanks for reading!