This was the last game of the recent Wild homestand. You know, it's been interesting to hear people talk about the Wild on the national sports shows. Many believe that, "it's only been six or seven games. They won't stay this good." Still others think, "This is all smoke and mirrors." Whatever the case may be, the Wild were in fine form last night against a tough opponent: The San Jose Sharks. Though in 3rd place in the Pacific division, this is a team that is built for the long haul. Still, the Wild have been rolling. This was evident last night.
For the first time, the Wild started slow. With all of the scoring this team has done, the crowd was anxious that the Wild weren't really pressing harder. This could be because the team has new lines. With Marion Gaborik back, players had to be shifted around. Gaborik showed that he hadn't really lost a step. Sure, he was rusty at first. During one odd man rush, Gaborik was a little hasty and stepped into the offensive zone before Walz brought the puck in. Fans, who were wanting to see Gaborik's speed were not disappointed.
After 15 minutes of back and forth, the Wild finally put the first tally on the board. Gaborik, showing why he is the fastest player on the Wild, fired off a nifty pass to Willie Mitchell, who slammed the puck home for the first goal.
As the first period ended, many fans believed the game was already over. "This is what they do," one guy yelled. "We RULE!" Still, the Wild had only 6 shots, while the Sharks had 12. Manny Fernandez, playing in goal again, was fantastic. This was no more evident than during the opening of the second period.
While on the power play, the Sharks charged in and pinged the puck off the goal post. Fernandez did everything but use breakdance moves to keep the puck out. The Wild seemed to be totally outplayed this period. Once again the Wild were outshot 10-12. And it was in this period the Sharks would tie the game. Niko Dimitrakos deflected the puck off of Andrei Zyuzin's skate. How could anyone expect the goalie to stop that? The period ended with the score tied at 1. It was during this break that the fans who were so overly confident were now quieting down. "Um....They'll be fine...yeah...fine," said the same guy who only one period before was screaming about the team's dominance.
When the Wild took the ice for the third period, it was obvious that Jacques Lemaire had spent the break screaming at them. They were moving quicker, grinding it out, and hitting hard. Just 2 minutes in, Derek Boogaard, the team's new Matt Johnson (if you've been a fan since the beginning, that makes sense), scored his first goal. Boogaard is huge. He's 6-7 for cripes sake. Most players aren't above 6'0" tall. Only a few minutes later, the flood gates would open. First, Chouinard scored a short-handed goal. Now giving up a goal is embarassing, but giving up a short-handed goal is down right shameful. For the uninitiated, a team is short-handed when the other team is on a power play. The team on the power play is supposed to score, not the penalty killing team. A short-handed goal means the team on the power play is playing sloppy. This was the case.
The Wild would score three more goals in the third period. Pierre Marc-Bouchard, Todd White, and Filip Kuba would all tally goals. The highlight of the period, however, would be Boogaard. He got his first goal, and at ten minutes, he and Rob Davison would drop the gloves and do the dance. Davison had no chance. Boogaard is bigger and has a longer reach. It looked a great deal like Mike Tyson and Peter McBride. Remember McBride? He was the guy who lasted about two minutes. It was like that, but on skates. In the end, the Wild had won 6-1, the crowd had their goal- and blood-thirst satiated, and everyone (but the Sharks) was happy.
Unfortunately, there weren't too many off-ice moments.
Tonight's "Let's Play Hockey" guest was George Gwozdecky. He's the coach of the University of Denver hockey team. The crowd, obviously largely made up of Gopher fans, was none too thrilled.
Boogaard got the second star of the game and was given louder cheers than Fernandez, who received the first.
No really stupid comments or anything from the fans tonight. However, someone did mention a shutout for Fernandez in-between the first and second period. What happens? No shutout. It's proven, kids.
The Wild are out of town until Tuesday, so no games for me.
5 down, 36 to go.