Apologies for not weighing in on the Wild-Red Wings playoff scramble bonanza this weekend, but my mens league team was trying to qualify for a fifth straight postseason appearance and they needed their goalie present (more on that later).
So, with that out of the way, I’ll throw some late-to-the-party observations at you, and toss around some fun links as well. I’ll also include one link that no one should find interesting (more on that later). So now, to the random thoughts.
– This week’s winner of the top-six forward sweepstakes is…Charlie Coyle, and based on his weekend hey may not give the spot back (of course we keep saying that about everyone who plays there). While the Wild have had five of their top-six spots locked up since the Moulson trade, but that extra spot on the second line wing has been open for business for weeks. Dany Heatley, Justin Fontaine, Nino Nieddereiter and Coyle have all had their shots, and Coyle was the man for both games this weekend. He was also the best forward the Wild put out over the two tilts. Nevermind his two goals, including a slick penalty shot, Coyle was a heat-seeking missile on the ice, engaging physically and banging bodies with every Red Wing he could find; usually Brendan Smith or Kyle Quincey. Sounds like he heeded Mike Yeo’s recent advice. The Wild will need him to keep the toughness going because…
-Minnesota’s lack of physicality is startling. No one is saying the Wild are the most rugged team in the world, but they seem to be incapable of throwing a big hit, and they absorb so many. The fifth time someone slammed into Nate Prosser or Jared Spurgeon, I wondered how any of the Wild players would hold up over the course of a seven game series with St. Louis or San Jose, their likely opponents. The Wild simply don’t have any big bodies, aside from Clayton Stoner, who is now “week to week” after spraining his knee on Saturday.
-Filling in for Stoner (and Keith Ballard, who is also out) was Jonathan Blum, whom I thought played a good game, despite blocking a shot directly into the path of Gustav Nyquist while killing a penalty in the first period for the opening goal. Blum was very active jumping into the offense, firing three shots on target (and a handful of others that were blocked) while doling out a pair of hits as well. As a former first round pick with NHL experience (including 12 playoff games), Blum is a great insurance policy for Ballard or Stoner. It appears that he’ll get a regular run of games for the Wild, and I’m intrigued to see what he shows. Defensemen are slower to develop, and Blum is only one year older than Marco Scandella, who I think we can all agree is turning into a reliable regular in the NHL. Not saying that Blum will ever live up to what Nashville wanted him to be, but he didn’t look out of place at all last night in Detroit.
And now for the links:
Gustav Nyquist is the NHL’s number 1 star of the week. And…you’re welcome for that, Gustav.
Jim Rutherford is apparently stepping down as the Hurricanes GM. Crazy news. When Rutherford took that job, the Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques were both still a thing, as were the (original) Winnipeg Jets and almost the Minnesota North Stars. No one had ever heard of a Blue Jacket, Thrasher, Predator or Wild. Here’s the roster Rutherford cobbled together in his first season. Wait, he traded Zarley Zalapski! He should have been fired 19 years ago.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are not waiting until the third period of game seven to implode this season. And James Reimer’s wife April took it on the chin via Twitter. Wow, Toronto. Just, wow. Good luck with that.
Jonah Keri previews the AL Central. It’s not pretty, but here’s the up side for Twins fans: if the weather stays this bad, opening day can be delayed long enough for Miguel Sano to recover. [sad trombone].
The Gophers’ Women’s hockey team can’t pull off the three-peat. If you’re going to fail, not pulling off a three-peat seems to be the way to do it.
And the Men’s team gets the top seed in the NCAA’s again. That’s the bad news. The good news is that they aren’t playing either Holy Cross or Yale.
And of course, your faithful writer is headed to the playoffs. This link is required reading. I’m very proud of my one assist and four penalty minutes this year, but I maintain that those guys were A) in my crease and B) cross-checked themselves.