Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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On Jan. 10, the Wild lost a home game to Nashville while looking completely helpless. After the game, I wrote that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher should not try to save the season, that doing so would cost him prospects or draft picks and probably not provide enough help to salvage a horrible season in which his team was damaged by illnesses, the deaths of family members, injuries, the failure of young players to develop, and, of course, terrible goaltending.
Fletcher wisely did not listen to me. He traded a third-round draft pick for Devan Dubnyk and saved the season. Even if the Wild failed to make the playoffs from here, Fletcher will have been proved right. He gave his team a chance, a chance I didn't think existed.
I'm going to write about this topic more in the near future: It's heartening when a local talent evaluator makes the kind of move that the average observer could not have envisioned.
Fletcher saw something in Dubnyk that was not readily apparent to most of the population. It might be his most impressive move to date.
I'll be covering the Wild-Panthers game tonight with colleague Michael Russo.
You can find recent podcasts by myself and Michael at SouhanUnfiltered.com. Just don't tell anyone about the stuff Michael says on the podcast. It will get him into trouble.
Also, I'll be appearing every weekday afternoon on 105.1 The Ticket with Bob Sansevere. Please check it out.
BREAKING NEWS EXCLUSIVE TO THE STAR TRIBUNE: Wild star Zach Parise told me what he eats for lunch every gameday.
``Lunch is going to be the same,’’ Parise said after the Wild’s morning skate at United Center. ``Pasta, chicken, a little salad with ranch, bread and olive oil. Home and road, it’s always the same.’’
That was about the only new out of the morning skate, other than this: The Wild, as it did before Game 7 in Colorado, changed the players’ locker stalls. ``Trying to reverse the luck,’’ Parise said.
Of course, the Wild’s only road win during the playoffs was at Colorado in Game 7.
The Wild is 0-5 in United Center during the playoffs the last two years, but this is a different team. Last year, when Parise and Mikko Koivu struggled to score against Chicago, the Wild had few other offensive options. This year, Koivu has just one assist in the four games, but the Wild has been able to win two games while Koivu has concentrated his efforts on stopping Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews.
``I think he did a really good job the last two games against Toews’ line, not only slowing him down but keeping the puck in the offensive zone,’’ Parise said. ``To me, that’s the best defense, to make them work in their own end a little bit.’’
I’ll be covering Game 5 tonight in Chicago along with colleague Michael Russo. I’ll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. and on 1500ESPN in the Twin Cities at 12:15ish on Monday to recap the game. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Quite a day on the tundra.
The Wild played brilliantly in a 4-2 victory over the Blackhawks. Wrote my column for the Friday paper on the Wild's dominance.
The Twins beat Justin Verlander in Detroit with a limited roster.
The Vikings introduced their potential franchise quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, and the guy, at least, passed the interview portion of his career.
Then Bridgewater attended the Wild game, and saw what I saw: The local franchise thoroughly outplay the Stanley Cup champs.
My takeaways from the Wild game:
-I'm no fan of Matt Cooke or his history, but he played extremely well on Friday. His energy and forechecking led to the Wild's first goal and set up a couple of other prime chances.
-Ilya Bryzgalov gave up a terrible goal in the first period, but settled down. He allowed two goals in two home games to the Blackhawks. That's far better than could have been expected.
-The Wild's quality depth at forward has led to an impressive forecheck and plenty of scoring chances. This team, unlike last year's, doesn't have to have Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu score to succeed.
-Marco Scandella and Clayton Stoner are becoming the defensemen the Wild hoped they would be.
-The atmosphere at the X was outstanding once again. Late starts on a Friday play havoc with newspaper deadlines, but they're good for pre-game lubrication.
-Wild coach Mike Yeo's ability to match Koivu against Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews has helped hold Chicago in check. Koivu has managed only one point during this series, but his defense has been exemplary, and he saved at least two goals with timely checks on Friday.
-If Nino Niederreiter keeps working for the puck and skating the way he is now, he's going to become a star. He already has a star's shot, and he's willing to go to the front of the net.
I'll be in Chicago for Game 5, so I'll be doing Sunday Sports Talk on 1500ESPN from 10-noon on Sunday, with Korzo in studio.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
If winning a playoff series didn't make Charlie Coyle feel like a big-time hockey player, his other takeaway from Colorado probably did.
Saturday afternoon, he was showing off a scar running from the edge of his right lower lip all the way to his jawline. After he suffering a cut in Game 7 in Colorado, he required 15 stitches, which he showed off proudly in the lockerroom.
The right side of his face is quite swollen, but Coyle was in great spirits. He said he can eat normally. My colleague Mike Russo joked that if Coyle gets a similar cut on the other side of his face, Coyle will have a permanent goatee.
``It's something I can bring to remember last series,'' he said. ``Let's see if I can get another one this series.''
Is it a badge of honor? ``Yeah, I think so,'' he said. ``But this one's pretty ugly.''
Russo and I will be providing content to startribune.com and the paper all weekend from Chicago. My show, Sunday Sports Talk, will run Sunday 10-noon. Scott Korzenowski and Hunter will run it from Minnesota, and I'll be on the phone at the United Center before Game 2.
Because of brutal deadlines (I hope none of you had to ready the first version of my deadline column), I wrote an early column about the Wild's budding rivalry with Colorado. Even more relevant now, after a great Game 7 in Denver...
We celebrate the arrival of a Game 7 in hockey because it promises a momentous ending to an escalation of drama and cultivated hatred.
The Wild’s first Game 7 in 11 years offers more: A glimpse into a future of renewed hostilities.
In the summer of 2012, Wild owner Craig Leipold signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to create these kinds of moments. With Parise and Suter locked into 10-year contracts with eight years remaining, and young players like Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle maturing before our eyes, Wednesday’s Game 7 against Colorado promises to be the first of many against the young lions of the new NHL Central division.
``I think it’s two teams that are definitely going in the right direction, with a lot of really good young players,’’ Parise said. ``There are going to be a lot of good games between the teams in the next little while.’’
The Wild is set up to win, with a host of young players filling in around its stars. The Avalanche features some of the best young players in hockey, including the irrepressible Nathan MacKinnon.
The Chicago Blackhawks, who are awaiting the winner of the Wild-Avalanche Game 7, are remarkably young for such an accomplished group. And the St. Louis Blues looked like the worst possible playoff matchup for the Wild before the Blues suffered injuries and fell to the Blackhawks in the first round after winning the first two games.
The arrival of Parise and Suter alone might have made the Wild dangerous in the Eastern Conference. In the Western Conference, and particularly in the Central division, they will need lots of help to survive these budding rivalries.
``I think we’ve done well from where this team was three years ago, to last year making the playoffs, to this year,’’ Suter said. ``We’ve gone through a lot of adversity, and to have the resilience to continue to battle…We were out of the playoffs and we battled back into it.
``This series, when you lose two games on the road to start, and you come back and win two at home, then lose a tough one and push it to a Game 7, those are the growing things for an organization. It’s trending in the right direction.’’
After a slump-ridden season, Coyle has scored three playoff goals _ two more than he scored between Jan. 12 and March 22.
After a slow start to the season, Granlund has impressed in the Olympics, down the stretch of the regular season, and in the playoffs, where he has produced four points, a spectacular game-winning goal and a surprising tough streak on defense and around the boards.
MacKinnon, the 18-year-old wunderkind, has matched Parise with 10 playoff points,and 21-year-old Gabriel Landeskog has produced four points and developed a feud with Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu.
``When you’re playing in games that mean this much and you’re playing the roles that they have, once you get a taste of it, you want to make sure that you’re always giving yourself a chance to get back there,’’ Wild coach Mike Yeo said of his young players. ``Most importantly, to learn how to go out and perform and enjoy these moments, that’s real important for our group.’’
The teams have played 10 times this season. Seven have been decided by one goal, and five have gone to overtime.
``I believe that we’re not going away and I know that they’re not going away, too,’’ Wild coach Mike Yeo said. ``This is a very skilled team that we’re playing against, and they’ve got a lot of youth over there. You can see that the two teams have a lot of similarilies, in a lot of ways - in the way they count on their young players, and the steps that they’ve taken.
``I would expect that, the way our division is lined up and with how important every division game is, how close every game was that we played against these guys ever year, it’s a budding rivalry, that’s for sure.’’
Mike Russo and I are traveling from Denver to Chicago to cover Games 1 and 2 against the Blackhawks.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15, and on 1500ESPN in the Twin Cities at 12:15 or so.
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