Hello again everybody...
We've made it through another week!
Okay, okay, it was a short one for me. Actually it was back-to-back short weeks now that I think about it. You have to love four-day weekends, no?
Anyway, the weekend is nigh, and that means it's time to catch up on the current states of my favorite teams.
And we'll get to that... right after the quote.
“An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows.”
- Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890 - 1969), Supreme Allied Commander and 34th President of the United States
Ummm... no comment?
It's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment...
Dan's Favorite Teams Update
Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 6-1 (2-1) and tied for fourth in the Big Ten.
I wrote it on Wednesday, but I liked it so much I wanted to write it again...
“Down goes Brutus... down goes Brutus... down goes Brutus!!!”
Outside of the third quarter, the Badgers completely dominated the #1 ranked Buckeyes. In fact, that might've been the most complete effort I've seen out of Wisconsin against a highly-ranked opponent since the Rose Bowl years.
I thought offensive coordinator Paul Chryst called nearly a perfect game. When Ohio State packed the box to stop the run, he called high-percentage pass plays, and when they loosened up to stop the passing game, he sent John Clay out to punish them and James White out to blow by them.
Put simply, wins don't get any better than that.
Lost in the shuffle of the big win over Ohio State is that the victory officially made the Badgers bowl eligible. Granted, being bowl eligible is something that's expected with Wisconsin football these days, but it's still nice to see that they've accomplished the feat in only seven games.
The next goal for the Badgers? Winning the Big Ten. After the loss to Michigan State, I thought it was a pipe-dream, but now? It's in play. If - and this is a big “if” - they can find a way to beat Iowa on the road on Saturday.
The three teams ahead of Wisconsin in the conference right now are Michigan State, Iowa and Purdue. We know the Boilermakers are going to lose some games, so I feel fine writing them off. If the Badgers can beat the Hawkeyes, they own the tie-breaker there. Then they'll need help with somebody beating the Spartans a couple of times and boom, there's your Big Ten title.
What about the rest of the Badgers' schedule? After Iowa it's: at Purdue, vs. Indiana, at Michigan, and vs. Northwestern. You can never assume wins in the Big Ten, but it's safe to say all of those games are very winnable.
Does this club have Rose Bowl potential? Perhaps. It's dangerous to speculate about these things this early, but after beating #1, I think the karma gods will allow me a little leeway!
One thing's for sure, we'll have a far better idea after Saturday. Iowa is a quality football team, and the Badgers have not looked especially good on the road so far this season.
They won't feel any more confident than they do now though, so I'm really looking forward to seeing what they can do at Kinnick Stadium!
Kickoff between the Badgers and Hawkeyes is set for 2:30pm central time on ABC/ESPN. Check your local listings.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild are 3-2-1, good for 7 points. They're currently in second place in the Northwest Division.
Two wins in a row!
Okay, so last night's 4-2 road win in Edmonton was hardly a thing of beauty, but over the course of 82 games, you're going to have some clunkers. If you want to be a playoff team you have to find a way to win some of those ugly games, even if they're on the road.
First, let's go back to Tuesday night when the Wild dominated the Vancouver Canucks in a 6-2 win. Sadly, the game was marred by the Rick Rypien incident and the win got over-shadowed. Others have covered what happened far better than I could. If you're unfamiliar with the story, you can check it out on The Hammer's new blog: Between Blue Lines. He does a nice job breaking it down.
Instead, I'm going to focus on the fact that the Wild completely dismantled a Canucks squad that many (including the Hammer) predict will go deep into the playoffs this season. One game doesn't prove much, other than the fact that the Wild do have the talent to hang with the upper-echelon clubs in the NHL on any given night. The key going forward is to put out that kind of effort consistently.
As head coach Todd Richards put it in the post game press conference, if you can't string 3 and 4-game winning streaks together, then dominating one game like that doesn't mean much.
The Wild followed that game up with the aforementioned 4-2 win last night in Edmonton.
In the game, the Wild were out-shot 33-22, and gave up 10 power-play opportunities to the Oilers. Both of Edmonton's goals came with the man advantage. The Wild clearly out-played the Oil 5-on-5, but they won't win many games giving the other club that many power-plays.
So if Richards wanted a consistent effort after the big win against Vancouver, did he get it? It's tough to say. I asked the beat writer for the Star Tribune Mike Russo (if you like hockey and aren't reading his stuff regularly, shame on you) if Richards would consider this game to be that “consistent effort” or just “damned lucky”... he responded with “damned lucky”. Clearly, I'm willing to defer to him on the subject.
Like I said earlier, sometimes you have to take an ugly win and move on. For the Wild that meant hopping on a plane immediately following the Oilers game and heading out to Vancouver where they'll face the Canucks for the second time in four days, this time on the road.
So we'll see what kind of effort Minnesota puts out tonight. If they're on their game like they were on Tuesday, then maybe things have finally started to turn around for the Wild. If not? Well, let's cross that bridge when we get to it, shall we?
Tonight will also likely mark the first start for the Wild's most recent free agent signee, goaltender Jose Theodore. After Josh Harding went down with his knee injury in the pre-season, the Wild looked around for an experienced back-up. Nikolas Backstrom's a solid starter, but he's had injury issues in the past, and the Wild didn't want to be left with Anton Khudobin as their starter if Backs had to miss any serious time.
Enter, Theodore. Jose is a 10-year veteran in the NHL with a Hart and Vezina trophy to his credit (both in 2002 in Montreal). He's not going to play at that level over the course of a full season again, but as a back-up, he's got a solid resume.
Tonight, then, becomes a big game in a lot of ways. Win it with a solid effort, and the Wild take over first place in the division for the first time since Chuck Fletcher and Todd Richards took over the reins of the franchise. Lose it with a poor effort, and we're right back to wondering if this club's capable of competing on a night-in and night-out basis.
Puck-drop is at 9pm central time. Check your local listings.
After the game in Vancouver, the Wild return home for a healthy five-game home stand. Former Wild standout Willie Mitchell and the L.A. Kings visit Monday night, Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals come in on Thursday night.
That's going to wrap things up for this week. Enjoy your weekend, stay safe, relax... do whatever it is you do.
Then check back on Monday to see if I was able to cobble anything together from the weekend!
Until next time, thanks for reading!