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


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!

1 comment:

  1. I'm gonna buy NHL 10 for the PS3, you have to come over and tell me who to use for fights. :-D