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RandBall: Genuine optimism about the Wild

  • Blog Post by: Michael Rand
  • January 29, 2014 - 9:37 AM

 

Regular readers of this blog know we probably spend two, three, four  … maybe 10 times as much space on the Timberwolves as we do on the Wild. It’s not that we don’t like hockey. When you grow up in Grand Forks, N.D., it’s pretty much in your DNA.

 

Rather, our writing preference is often a function of many things: typically beat writer Michael Russo would write a 3,000-word blog post, leaving very left uncovered … we flat-out enjoy the NBA more than the NHL, though not by much … and we often find the Wolves more INTERESTING, even if they are not necessarily BETTER.

That said, we put in pretty close to a full 60 minutes of ice time with the Wild last night, and anyone else who did so has no other choice but to be impressed. That level of being impressed can vary anywhere from cautious and temporary to delusional and all-in, but a 4-2 victory at Anaheim – the team with the most points in the NHL, and a very tough beat at home – was notable in both result and the manner in which it happened.

The Wild didn’t just score four times. The Wild moved the puck wonderfully in an up-and-down, back-and-forth, entertaining game. Minnesota hit three goalposts – all of them in the second period while clinging to a 2-1 lead – but was not deterred or discouraged. Instead, the Wild kept pushing and built a 4-1 cushion in the third period.

Mike Rupp attempted to let Anaheim back in the game with the dumbest of dumb penalties – a double-minor while trying to prove a tough-guy point midway through the third, a move that would have been better-suited for the final two minutes (or not at all). It almost worked, as the Ducks scored on their first power play and clanged the post on their second, but the Wild survived that and a dominant stretch by Anaheim in the final few minutes.

For the first 50 minutes, the majority of the chances and the better of the play went to Minnesota. That is flat-out impressive. If the team’s early run in 2014 was built more on smoke, mirrors and goaltending, the same cannot be said for last night. And no matter how you carve it up, they have earned five points in the past three games against some of the West’s best teams (Chicago, San Jose and Anaheim).

That doesn’t mean they will do damage in the playoffs. That doesn’t even mean they will make the playoffs, as even that will remain tenuous, we imagine, through much of the regular season. But it does make the Wild interesting and worthy of our attention – enough so to bump those beloved Timberwolves from the top of the blog this morning.

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