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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OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK.
This really is the state of hockey. It's not just a self-serving slogan.
There are two Minnesotas when it comes to winter sports. There are regions of the state where basketbal rules, and there are those where every backyard holds a homemade rink.
This winter, this is the state of...you know.
The Wild is on a remarkable run that will lead to a bound-to-be-compelling playoff.
Gopher men's hockey has righted itself and made the NCAA tournament, where it will face Minnesota-Duluth and share a field with No. 1 Minnesota State-Mankato and St. Cloud State.
Gopher women's hockey won its third title in four years on Sunday at Ridder Arena. (My piece on goalie Amanda Leveille is here).
Meanwhile, the Gopher basketball team did not make even the NIT, and the Wolves, for all the promise of Andrew Wiggins, are currently unwatchable.
So, until further notice, this is the state of hockey - a state filled with great arenas and great teams.
Tonight my guest will be former St. John's quarterback, keen football observer and relentless world traveler Tom Linnemann, at 5 p.m. at The Local on SouhanUnfiltered.com. We're going to talk about Peterson, Bridgewater, Zimmer, the draft, Melrose's state title in basketball (Tom's an alum), and what it was like for him to surf in Australia, or slum in Viet Nam, or live in Toronto, or return to Minnesota. I guarantee a great conversation.
You can drop by or listen live or later at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
Devan Dubnyk wasn't the problem in the Wild's 3-2 loss to Washington on Thursday night.
Alex Ovechkin made one stunning play to score a goal, and scored another off a faceoff on a shot that Dubnyk never saw.
In general, it was typical of the Wild's recent losses - by one goal, at home, to a physical team.
Wild coach Mike Yeo has played Dubnyk relentlessly since he arrived. I don't think Dubnyk looked tired on Thursday, but I was curious about Yeo's philosophy, so I asked if he has seen any signs of fatigue from his goalie.
Yeo's full answer:
``I thought he was really good tonight. I don’t think we could fault him on anything tonight. I know there’s a lot of talk about this right now, but looking at the minutes he’s played…
``We just played a goalie of a team that’s been battling for first place in the conference, (Nashville's) Pekka Rine, and they played him four games in six days. They’ve been playing him every day. Carey Price is playing every game. That’s where the league is at right now.
``The game means something so you're going to go with the guy you think is hot and the guy you think gives you the best chance that night. Certainly it's something to keep an eye on, But I haven’t seen anything. For some reason, it’s a story that keeps coming up, and I haven’t seen any reason for it.''
For the record, I'm not actually second-guessing Yeo on this. He has one goalie playing exceptionally, and two who can't be trusted. I'd do the same thing.
I do wonder if Dubnyk will wear down, and whether playing every game will catch up with him in the playoffs, if the Wild makes it.
The gap between Dubnyk and the backups is so immense right now, Yeo has little choice but to keep playing Dubnyk.
Last 3 podcasts this week on SouhanUnfiltered.com: Quincy Lewis, Peter Killen and Michael Russo. Friday night, 6 p.m. at O'Gara's, my guest will be Gophers senior associate athletic director Dan O'Brien, who was born in Winthrop and attended St. Thomas.
Stop by or use SouhanUnfiltered.com like a radio DVR. It's radio on demand, available any time on any computer or device.
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.
Twin Cities sports fans Let's enjoy today.
We wake to one of the best sports days of the year - NFL championship Sunday - after a day during which the Timberwolves, Wild, Gopher basketball team and Gopher hockey team all won.
While we can, let's cite a few positive developings in our winter of discontent:
-Andrew Wiggins keeps getting better. The Wolves' incompetence has given him and opening, and he has walked right through it, becoming more assertive as an NBA rookie than he ever was at Kansas.
-The Wild's trade for goalie Devan Dubnyk has paid off instantly. I believe the Wild would have been better off losing big this year, securing a high draft pick and resetting for next season, but Dubnyk has been better than expected. Maybe the positive development here is that the Wild gets to give Dubnyk a full tryout and decide whether he can become their goaltender of the future.
-It's been a terrible season for Gopher senior Andre Hollins. Saturday, he hit 7-of-10 three-pointers, and the Gophers won. That link shouldn't surprise. College basketball might be the most overanalyzed game in existence. The team that hits shots usually wins.
-Gopher hockey has been a disappointment. Saturday, the Gophers earned a blowout victory over a bad Wisconsin team.
As I wrote about in the Sunday paper, the four coaches and four quarterbacks in the NFL title games today all offer wildly different resumes. You never know who the next great quarterback or coach is going to be.
Strangely, of the four great or potentially great quarterbacks playing today, I think I'm most fascinated by Russell Wilson. Being a short, scrambling, running quarterback with average receivers is not supposed to be a formula for success in the modern NFL, but Wilson has made it one. He makes the right play at the right time, and is not only the best running quarterback in the NFL, he may be the only one who seems to know exactly how to avoid big hits.
Enjoy today...and yesterday.
Latest podcasts at SouhanUnfiltered.com: Strib hockey writer Michael Russo, former Viking Leo Lewis (who recalled that he and his father were both cut by Bud Grant), Twins GM Terry Ryan...and a lot of other fascinating people.
A Monday morning three-pointer:
1. Wrote Sunday that the Wild is so buried that there is no easy fix that will make this a playoff team, not even a competent goalie.
My theory is that at this point this team should hope for the best possible draft pick, which means not trying to salvage a lost season.
But, for the first time since Mike Yeo became the Wild coach, I think he's lost his team. His tantrum at practice last week was an indication that he's run out of reasonable tactics to spur his players on. And the last five periods the Wild has played have been an embarassment to the sport, as well as the perpetually-mediocre hockey club in St. Paul.
HIs players didn't offer much effort in the second and third periods against Nashville, and they were a step behind all night against Chicago.
If I were owner Craig Leipold, I'd fight the urge to salvage a 10th-place finish in the Western Conference, and I'd hope to finish poorly enough to land a high draft pick that could help this team as early as next season.
But if he wanted to fire Yeo, he would now be justified. This team has quit on Yeo, despite his good intentions.
2. I was sitting in the end zone in Miami when Peyton Manning won his only Super Bowl.
Manning is the greatest regular-season quarterback in NFL history. Sunday, hampered by injuries that left him with little arm strength, he managed 13 points in a home playoff game.
There are two things you should know about his postseason resume:
-He hasn't been as bad as you think as an overall playoff performer.
-He was lucky to earn his one Super Bowl victory.
In regular-season games, Manning has a completion percentage of 65.5, a yards-per-attempt average of 7.7 and a rating of 97.5. In the postseason those numbers are: 64.0, 7.3 and 88.5. The small dip can be explained by facing superior defenses, including many of Bill Belichick's, and not always having a productive running game to keep defenses honest.
But he might have become the new Dan Marino - an amazing passer without a Super Bowl ring - if not for a bit of luck in Super Bowl XLI.
That day in Miami (well, Miami Gardens), Manning completed 28-of-38 passes for 247 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was facing a good Bears defense. He was also facing Rex Grossman.
Manning's one touchdown pass came on a busted coverage that left Reggie Wayne wide open for a 53-yard touchdown. And the game was still in doubt in the fourth quarter, with the Colts leading 22-17, when Grossman threw an interception that the Colts' Kelvin Hayden returned 56 yards for a touchdown and a 29-17 victory.
If the Bears don't leave Wayne wide open, and if Grossman doesn't throw a pick-six, Manning's postseason record might be seen as even worse than it already is.
Overall, Manning's play didn't take a huge statistical dip in the postseason. But unlike Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw and even Joe Flacco, he didn't raise his level of play when it mattered most.
3. Dez Bryant's sideline antics have been intriguing us for a long time. Sunday, he walked onto the field holding his head in disbelief, then slumped on the bench in utter depression.
That was the appropriate response.
You saw the play - Bryant made an amazing catch that may have won the Dallas Cowboys a playoff game on Sunday. After he leaped, caught the ball, secured it, landed, dove for the end zone and had his elbow hit the ground, the ball came loose. After Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged the play, the officials ruled that he had not ``completed the process'' and ruled it incomplete.
This is the problem with NFL officiating; Even when the refs get one technically right, they can be utterly wrong when it comes to the spirit of the rules and common sense.
Everyone knows that was a catch. And Bryant still had the ball secured when his elbow hit the ground, which should end the play. He shouldn't have to carry the ball all the way to the team bus for it to be a catch.
The NFL should want to reward brilliant plays like Bryant's, not parse them out of existence with verbose language and bureaucratic excess.
A catch is a catch, and that was a catch.
On a recent podcast, Twins general manager Terry Ryan told me that he used to have long, red hair and ride a Harley. And that he still rides a Harley. Next podcast is 5 p.m. Wednesday at The Local, with my guest Leo Lewis, the former Viking who is now the athletic director at North High. Leo is not only a fellow Mizzou grad, he's the rare person in this market who knows what life is like inside the Vikings, the University of Minnesota (where he used to work) and on the high school scene.
All podcasts can be found at SouhanUnfiltered.com. Thanks.
I've picked seven of the eight NFL playoff winners correctly. I missed on the Broncos.
My pick for the NCAA title game tonight: Ohio State, maybe big.
I love everything about Oregon football, but Urban Meyer is the best coach in college football. His team is more physical and has plenty of speed. Oregon has lost several key players to injuries and suspensions. My guess is Ohio State 34, Oregon 22.
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