Last week was a busy week for the Minnesota Wild. They played four games, sandwiching two road games between two home games. Going 3-1, they stayed atop the Western Conference, but the Blackhawks continue to be the annoying car in the rearview mirror that just won’t stop riding your bumper. Chicago went 3-0 during the same span and look more like the Blackhawks team we’re accustomed to seeing come playoff time.
The schedule will not slow down for the Wild. They will be playing every other day for the rest of the regular season, including a five-game road trip that starts this week. That’s a grind. Jaded by Minnesota sports during my lifetime, I fear that this tailgating Blackhawks team will continue to ride our butts through this heavy traffic, only to pass us at the end. Life imitates art in that regard, and I’m sure we can all relate to that type of driving etiquette by our neighbors from Illinois.
Playing every other day means there are very few off days. By off days, I mean no travel and no hockey. Sunday’s game featured the return of Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, both of whom were diagnosed with the mumps. I’m sure that wasn’t pleasant, however, it did provide each of them with a few extra off days and they both said that the symptoms weren’t overly severe. Unfortunately, defenseman Christian Folin left the game early with what looked like a severe arm injury after crashing into the boards. Coach Boudreau offered this bit of clarity, “… didn’t look good.”
It’s not all doom and gloom though. The good news is that the Wild have not lost consecutive games since November 1 and November 5. That type of resiliency is why they’ve been front running for the majority of this season and it is going to be required for them to finish on top. Depth at defense, stellar goaltending and balanced scoring are key reasons they’ve been able to bounce back time and time again.
Continuing on the topic of scoring, I want to highlight three memorable plays from this past week that deserve your viewing if you missed them. First was Mikael Granlund’s OT winner against Los Angeles. Rarely, a player goes one-on-three, beats the goalie and then gets mumps germs spread all over his face by his teammates during the celebration. “Gee, thanks guys.”
Next was Erik Haula’s no-goal against Columbus. While there was a kicking motion, it was not toward the net at all, which is my grievance. Boudreau agreed and had this to say, “I don’t see how in Toronto that they’re calling it unless it’s a guy they just pulled in off the street that hasn’t seen hockey before.”
Last but not least, was another no-goal from the Sharks game: Chris Stewart hammered a one-timer from the face-off circle that literally went into the jersey collar of Sharks’ goalie Martin Jones. Never seen it before, probably won’t see it again.
Signing off, Ryan White, not Martin Hanzal, has more goals (one) since being traded here from Arizona. I apologize for not dedicating the previous article’s 500 words to White’s sweet salad. That’s hockey for “hair,” and you’ll see some great ones this week at the boy’s state tourney. Good luck to all those participating.