Wild nights save the day

  • Updated: February 24, 2011 - 1:22 AM

If you can see over the snowbank and push the round ball away, you will notice this: The one saving grace among the big dogs in this winter sports season is the surprising Wild.

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Pierre-Marc Bouchard and the Wild have been a pleasant surprise in a winter of disappointing seasons for Minnesota sports teams.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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You're tired of the weather. Maybe you know the snow emergency rules by heart -- and if you don't, you might be on a first-name basis with the guy at the impound lot.

You're tired of being penned up inside your home by said snow, watching local basketball teams show a certain amount of promise -- within the season, and within particular games -- only to see it all fall apart. The Timberwolves' penchant for late-game disaster is well-documented. But it's also been the story of the Gophers men's basketball team. Tuesday night against Michigan State was just the latest, most egregious and most costly example of down-the-stretch failure.

But if you can see over the snowbank and push the round ball away, you will notice this: The one saving grace among the big dogs in this winter sports season is the surprising Minnesota Wild.

If the playoffs would have started after Tuesday's games, the Wild would have been the No. 5 seed -- which isn't too far off from where the Wild started the winter in the unofficial hierarchy of local fan interest.

We have to think that the Wild started out No. 3 among the three teams primarily vying for attention -- trailing the legitimate potential of the Gophers and the intriguing potential of the Timberwolves. But those other clubs have come up short, and the Wild has risen to the occasion with a steady climb to the No. 1 spot.

Maybe you are still hoping the Gophers can make a run at the end of the Big Ten season and in the conference tournament (first you'll have to wait for a crunch time possession and/or out-of-bounds play that doesn't look like chaos). Maybe the young Wolves will do enough in the final third of this season to sell some more hope.

For now, though, it's pretty clear the local NHL team provides the biggest glimmer of hope between now and the start of real baseball.

If had said that back before snow covered the ground, we would have handed you a shovel.

MICHAEL RAND

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