By Michael Russo
Happy Thanksgiving everyone. For some reason, it looks like Kent’s rewritten notebook didn’t get in the paper or at the very least online. Here’s it is (fyi, unedited):
By Kent Youngblood
Mattias Ohlund’s baseball swing on Friday was supposed to turn this rematch between the Minnesota Wild and the Vancouver Canucks into a boxing match.
Go figure. All that talk and and all that buildup. Oh, there was buildup. On the Xcel Energy Center scoreboard pre-game there was a video montage of past Minnesota-Vancouver run-ins. A bell rang along with the message: Round 2. ”Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky III blared out.
And all that hype? With the exception of a fight between Aaron Voros and Mike Brown — what, he couldn’t find Derek Boogaard? — what the sellout crowd got wasn’t a barroom brawl, but a knockout punch, thanks to Marcus Naslund’s hat trick.
Well, afterward, with more than a little smugness, Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault, talked about how he told his team not to focus on boxing, but hockey.
”It was a real big game for us,” Naslund said. ”We had a big talk before the game about responding.”
In a hockey sort of way.
”We (talked about) playing smart, and that’s what our guys did,” Vigneault said with a smile. ”They stuck to the plan, and they played high-percentage. And obviously (the Wild) played on their heels a little bit. When you have a player that makes threatening remarks, the way their player did, if anything happens on the ice to anyone, they’re responsible.”
On the Wild side, the party line was that hockey was job No. 1 there, too. Sorry, fighting fans.
”I think (the pre-game hype) was a little blown out of proportion,” said defenseman Sean Hill after making his Wild debut. ”A lot of time it is. If people wanted to see something that wasn’t good, clean hoekey, it might have been a letdown.”
That was the way the league wanted it, too. During warmups the four referees and linesmen stook on each bench to avoid any kind of pre-game brawl like the one the Wild had with Anaheim in the playoffs last season.
The first period was as good as it got, featuring four goals, lots of physical play, your typical dirty Matt Cooke low-bridge check on Nick Schultz and that Voros-Brown sparring match.
But once the Wild rallied for two quick goals to tie the game 2-2, it became, well, a hockey game.
One the Canucks won going away, which is probably the most satisfying way to put to rest a game like this, right?
”yeah, yeah,” said Canucks defenseman Willie Mitchell. ”That’s the best way to…”
Mitchell was about to go further, then stopped. ”There weren’t scores to be settled, what was on line was first place in the division. That was our mindset.”