By Michael Russo
I remember when I first started covering the Wild and everybody told me how much the Oilers treated Minnesota like a bunch of patsies.
Year 3 was the first time Minnesota beat Edmonton. Edmonton was the last team in the Western Conference that the Wild beat. On and on and on. All these miserable losses.
I haven’t see any of them. The Wild is 13-4 against Edmonton since I came to Minny.
Tonight’s 2-0 win wasn’t the most scintillating victory, but even when it was 1-0, I turned to our two columnists here tonight and said, “Doesn’t it seem like the Wild is just kicking their butts?”
Is it possible the Wild’s defense could be better than last season when the team surrendered a league-low 191 goals? The 3-0 Wild has given up two in the first three games, and zero even-strengthed goals.
Of course, Niklas Backstrom has a lot to do with that. He’s got two shutouts, a 0.67 goals against average and .981 save percentage. The crack PR staff came up with a good stat tonight. In Backstrom’s 44 career games, he’s never given up the winning goal in the last five minutes of regulation and only once given up the tying goal.
Brent Burns scored his second consecutive winning goal (remember he did that last season too, only in overtime). Pavol Demitra had a goal and an assist and Marian Gaborik, who looked very good, had two assists.
James Sheppard made his NHL debut. Often times Jacques will play these rooks a few shifts in the first and then sit them the rest of the game. Sheppard played 11:43 and got chances with Gaborik, Demitra, Rolston and Bouchard.
Still, he has a tendency to stray too deep in the offensive zone for Jacques’ liking and system, and Jacques reiterated that he better cut it out.
Kurtis Foster, who thought he was a scratch today and chowed down on pizza for lunch and Tums for dinner, played for veteran Keith Carney, who was a healthy scratch for the first time in eons.
Jacques only played Carney 9:27 in Game 1 and 10:34 in Game 2. After tonight’s game, he said the best defensemen will play and when Hill comes back, there will likely be “two unhappy [defensemen] every night.”
Patrick Reusse wrote a pregame column on Wednesday on Derek Boogaard and it included this reminder of when goonery was a given in our favorite sport:
“Glen Sonmor was coaching the North Stars in the 1980s. He had an office tucked in the back at Met Center. The artwork that decorated his wall was a cartoon that appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Sonmor was coaching the Birmingham Bulls of the WHA. The cartoon carried the headline “Glen’s Goons,’’ and showed Sonmor leading four of his players into a rink. The players were in chains and there was also blood dripping hither and yon.
“Those gentlemen were Dave ‘Killer’ Hanson, Frankie `Never’ Beaton, Gilles `Bad News’ Billodeau and Steve Durbano,’’ said Tommy Thompson, the Wild’s director of player personnel. “Durbano didn’t need a nickname. Everyone knew he was crazy.’’
Thompson was in Winnpeg over the weekend to attend induction ceremonies for the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame. One group being honored was the 1948 Brandon Wheat Kings junior team, the runner-up for the Memorial Cup.
Sonmor was a forward on that team and represented the Wheat Kings at the ceremony. This was a chance for Thompson to hear again his favorite Sonmor story:
“Durbano had been thrown off maybe four teams before he came to Birmingham. A serious-minded sportswriter said to Glen, `Nobody has been able to control Durbano. What makes you think you can control him?’
“To which Glen responded, `What makes you think I want to?’ ‘’
That’s it from here. Talk to you after tomorrow’s practice.
Finally, a road trip coming up. I was getting a bit stir crazy. I’m ready to fly to Phoenix, where I might even get to take in Game 2 of the NLCS Friday night.