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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Michael Russo, myself and the startribune.com team have loaded the website with photos, videos, blog posts, columns and stories. Here are a few notes you probably don't really need to know heading into Game 1...
-Nino Niederreiter scored two goals, including the game-winner, in Game 7 on Wednesday. He also had an assist, making him, at 21, the fourth-youngest player to record three points in a Game 7. He is the second-youngest to score in OT of a Game 7. (Via Elias and Wild media relations)
-Zach Parise is tied for the NHL lead with 10 points this postseason. That's a career high for his most points in a single series. He set a Wild single-game playoff record with four points in Game 6 against Colorado.
-Parise has scored 25 playoff goals. His dad, J.P., scored 27.
-Mikko Koivu tonight will play in his 24th playoff game, tying him for second-most in Wild history along with Nick Schultz. Marian Gaborik played in 29.
-The Wild is 1-6, including five overtime losses, in the first game of a playoff series. It has lost its last six.
-In the Game 7 victory, the Wild became the first team ever to score four-game tying goals in a GAme 7. (Again via Elias and the Wild.)
-Ryan Suter was on the ice more than any other player during all seven games of the Colorado series.
-Dany Heatley, who began the series as a healthy scratch, wound up leading the team in plus-minus rating at plus-5.
-Charlie Coyle leads the Wild in hits and is tied for the team lead in goals, with three.
-Mikael Granlund has scored points in five straight games.
I'll be on 1500ESPN from 10-noon on Sunday. We'll provide lots of material and a video to startribune.com after the game, and in the Saturday paper. Thanks for reading.
Settled in at the United Center for practice today. Mike Russo and I will be filing blog posts, stories and videos.
First thought of the day: Even if you buy that Matt Cooke's hit on Tyson Barrie was unintentional, it's one of the big reasons the Wild is still alive.
With Barrie out, the Wild dominated puck possession by keeping the puck in the offensive zone and fiercely forechecking the Avalanche defense, which did not handle the pressure well.
Cooke's hit not only hurt the Avs, it wound up unintentionally helping the Wild. Cooke's seven-game suspension opened the way for Kyle Brodziak to return to the lineup, and Brodziak wound up playing a major role, especially in Game 7.
Cooke is eligible to return in Game 4 of this series. Wild coach Mike Yeo said he's looking forward to Cooke returning to the ilneup, because of Cooke's ability to check and defend.
In reality, Cooke has already done the Wild a favor, even if you think, like I do, that the suspension was just.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 12:15 with Mackey and Judd.
Greetings from Chicago, where we met with Wild coach Mike Yeo and the players at the team hotel before they met to game-plan for the Blackhawks series.
Wrote my column for the Friday paper on the unlikelihood of a line of Kyle Brodziak, Nino Niederreiter and Dany Heatley dominating Game 7 of the playoffs, and while speaking with Heatley, he went out of his way to spread some of the credit around.
Heatley was scratched in Games 1 and 2. Instead of griping, he, according to Yeo and his teammates, kept his chin up and encouraged his teammates. He said he actually benefitted from the rest, and from working on skating and skills with two Wild coaches who also played for the team, Darby Hendrickson and Andrew Brunette.
Hendrickson is an assistant coach. Brunette is an advisor to hockey operations and a power-play consultant. So, a coach.
``It was tough,’’ Heatley said of being scratched. ``You kind of knew that if you get scratched and the team goes on a good run it’s going to be tough to get back in. I kind of took it as a positive, to get some rest. You’ve got to give Darby and Bruno a lot of credit. They really helped me, skating, working on different stuff that you don’t get to do if you’re in the lineup.
``I did feel like when I was in the lineup I was able to help this team.’’
I've been impressed with this group's maturity. So often when a team pulls an upset, you hear coaches and athletes taunting anyone who could have possibly doubted them, overlooking the fact that their own performances in the past made them underdogs.
This team hasn't whined about bad calls, hasn't made excuses. Kyle Brodziak and Heatley were benched and they didn't complain, and they were big factors in the series win. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are cool heads, and the combination of their leadership and that of the coaching staff has helped the young players develop and handle the pressure of the playoffs.
Even when I spoke with a prominent player in private at the team hotel, and noted that he must be exhausted, that the Wild has been put in a terrible position by having to play two days after an overtime night game in Game 7, the player said, ``This is great. This is what you live for.''
To me, Yeo has proved himself as a leader down the playoff stretch and through one round of the playoffs.
What Wild fans might want to remember is that this team wasn't supposed to make it to the second round of the playoffs. So if the expected happens, and the Blackhawks win this series, that shouldn't discredit what the Wild has done the last two months. For me, this season is already a success.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 and 1500ESPN in the Twin Cities at around 12:15 on Friday. I'll be in Chicago for Sunday Morning Sports Talk, 10-noon on Sunday.
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.
On a night like tonight, with difficult deadlines, you wind up writing a lot of stuff, and throwing a lot of it away.
I wrote an early column on Charlie Coyle (see earlier posts). Wrote about Parise's goal, and the Avs' comeback, but finally wound up writing about Wild coach Mike Yeo walking into the press room after the game and smiling.
I'm impressed. It takes real discipline to handle that kind of a loss with so much grace, and to immediately set the right tone for your team.
If Yeo had whined, or ranted about officiating, he would have been cueing his players to do the same. That wouldn't do this team any good.
Yeo immediately placed the emphasis where it should be - on winning Game 6.
I think the NHL should issue a waiver allowing this series to go, say, 11 games. This series keeps getting better.
One thought about Mitch McGary leaving Michigan because he smoked pot: Does this mean Mark Emmert will have to leave the NCAA because of thinking so obviously crack-related?
Korzo and Hunter will be in the 1500ESPN studio Sunday morning, 10-noon. I'll be calling in on my way to the Denver airport. Lots of talk about the Wild. Mostly I'll tell Korzo to stop whining.
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