Welcome to the Thursday edition of The Cooler, where sometimes things just look too easy. Let’s get to it:
*If there is a way to get me (and you) to care deeply about a curling tournament in Eveleth this weekend, here it is: Invite an eclectic team that includes ex-Viking Jared Allen and have that team face the U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning squad led by John Shuster.
That preamble brings our attention to the Curl Mesabi Classic, an Iron Range tradition that might turn out to be the best sporting event this weekend (and yes, I’m aware the Vikings play the Patriots on Sunday).
If I’m reading the schedule correctly — and hopefully at my age I’m able to do such a fundamental thing — Allen’s team will face Shuster’s team at 5:30 p.m. Friday during Draw 4.
Shuster is of course the skip of his squad, and he’ll be joined by fellow Olympians John Landsteiner and Matt Hamilton.
Allen is a third on his four-man team — pretty much the vice-skip and the one who typically throws the second-to-last set of stones in each end. Adding to the completely random and eclectic mix: former NFL quarterback Marc Bulger is also on Allen’s team.
But lest you think this is some sort of whim or publicity thing for Allen, think again. He’s been serious about curling for a while, and even indicated at one point that he’d like to make a run at the 2022 Olympics.
Allen posted an Instagram picture last month of him at a curling rink, talking about going “stones deep” (of course) into the sport. No word on whether he’ll wear his trademark 69 jersey or pretend to lasso his opponent after a particularly successful end. Perhaps someone who attends this weekend’s festivities can report back?
*There were a ton of memorable moments in the Timberwolves’ 128-89 shellacking of the Spurs on Wednesday, but perhaps the best came when fan favorite Josh Okogie entered the game in the fourth quarter and delivered a monster dunk.
The FSN broadcast caught the reaction from the Wolves, which included a priceless expression of glee from team owner Glen Taylor.
*Speaking of Okogie, by the way: Maybe fans can calm down a little bit about angst over him not playing. I agree with a lot of you (and Wolves players) that he’s talented and that he made the most of an early-season opportunity while several guards missed time.
But the advanced numbers also say Okogie, for all his flashes, has been one of the Wolves’ least efficient players this year. He needs to keep developing. He’s a bright part of the future, but the Wolves are 7-2 since trading Jimmy Butler. Tom Thibodeau is pushing a lot of the right buttons, and that includes sitting the rookie most games. His time will come, and he will be ready.
*Among goalies who have played at least 500 minutes this season, the Wild’s Devan Dubnyk has fallen to No. 19 in save percentage (91.6) after being near the top for much of the season. Even worse, he’s No. 35 in goals saved above average — an advanced stat that takes into account shot quality — at minus-3.69, per Corsica.