Ever been told by one of your friends that the book is so much better than the movie? As a person who has Bachelor's degree history, this is something many of my colleagues often told me. In recent years I've decided to investigate it for myself. Maybe its just me, but I had a hard time believing a book could be more entertaining than a movie. Sure, the movie has to be well done but if you get a marquee cast that shouldn't be too difficult right? Although I have to admit it, I've attemtped this in reverse where I watch the film and then read the book and see if it is just as good (or better) than the film. The first movie I attempted this with was 2005 (book) Public Enemies after I had watched the film starring Johnny Depp in 2009. Ryan Burrough's book was absolutely outstanding and went a lot farther than the film, and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to know the whole story on the crime spree that captivated America back in 1930. Yet it doesn't always turn out that way. Case in point, Tom Clancy's (1984) book The Hunt For Red October. Mind you, I have always loved the Hunt for Red October movie (1990) so I was looking forward to reading Clancy's book hoping I'd be rewarded as I was with Public Enemies. Wow, was I wrong. Clancy's book was clunky and disjointed. I didn't mind all of the intricate military jargon he included but I felt the story line was plodding and predictable. This was a case where the film shined and the book failed to live up to it. So what in the heck does this have to do with the Minnesota Wild?
On Tuesday night, the Minnesota Wild rallied back from a 1-0 deficit to defeat the San Jose Sharks 2-1 playing most of the game with a rookie goaltender Matthew Hackett making his NHL debut, albeit in relief of an injured Josh Harding. After the game, on NHL Network's On the Fly which is the nightly highlight show which covers all of the games on that particular day the two they had working were Brian Duff and former NHL tough guy Kelly Chase.
What does Tom Clancy's book share in common with Kelly Chase?
Duff is your typical sportscaster, but Kelly Chase decided to talk some trash when asked how the Wild keep managing to win games and stay atop of the NHL standings. Chase then tossed out long-time Wild criticisms about Minnesota being "boring" and that the club just sits in the neutral zone and waits for opposing teams to attack. He could've given the team credit for the tremendous play of its energy line (which you'd think an career 3rd-4th liner would recognize) being the team's true strength, but no he didn't try to actually add anything insightful and simply regurgitated old Wild stereotypes. So like Clancy's book, it left me disappointed and wondering what people see that is so special about him. During his playing career, Chase loved to chirp so I am sure he's simply disappointed his Blues are behind Minnesota in the standings. So if you want to hear clunky disjointed crap, listen to Kelly Chase. But if you want to see just how the Wild have managed to do what they have, watch a game for yourself and see that it really is a product that fits the notion of you can't judge a book by its cover. Will Minnesota keep giving uninformed oafs like Kelly Chase a reason to eat crow or will they have another bad game in Los Angeles?
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1st Period Thoughts: Minnesota would put out its top line to start the game, and it was Jeff Taffe making his presence felt right away as he tried to set up Mikko Koivu. The Wild would control the zone, and Jared Spurgeon would blast a slap shot from the point that missed wide and the puck would carom off the boards behind the goal which would be picked up by Koivu and he swept a shot through the leg pads of Jonathan Quick to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead just 24 seconds into the game. The Kings tried to answer back but would be a little careless and Justin Williams would trip up Matthew Hackett while attempting to forecheck for an obvious goaltender interference penalty. Minnesota had a great first chance on the power play as Kyle Brodziak redirected a point shot by Spurgeon that was blocked aside by Quick. The Wild would have another great chance a few moments later as Jeff Taffe pounced on a shot just underneath left faceoff circle that Quick absorbed. Minnesota would come up empty on the man advantage, but the Wild continued to win the races to the loose pucks. Los Angeles tried to get something going offensively with its top line as Anze Kopitar tried to dangle his way around the Wild defense but Minnesota was quick to circle to wagons around Hackett. The Kings tried to assert itself physically, using its plethora of big-bodied forwards as Dustin Penner shielded off a Wild defender before spinning and firing a shot on goal. Los Angeles started to win the territory battle, keeping Minnesota bottled up in its own zone and the Wild would help the Kings' by icing the puck. The home club was taking the body with great frequency as Dustin Brown was dealing out big checks as he tried to spark his team. The Kings were getting closer and closer to finding the equalizer as a sneaky wrist shot by Drew Doughty would trickle by Hackett but he was bailed out by Jared Spurgeon who swept the puck out of harm's way at the last moment. Minnesota was scrambling a bit and they were not helping their cause by reaching with the stick instead of skating and the Kings would start to regularly out hustle the Wild. The Wild would start to counterpunch, and a blocked shot by Pierre-Marc Bouchard who would follow the puck for a breakaway but he didn't have much time to do anything with it and his backhand shot was stopped with ease by Quick but the puck would be corraled by Matt Cullen but his centering pass back to Bouchard would fail to click. Minnesota continued to counterpunch and Marco Scandella would try to lead the rush he'd slide a pass over to Casey Wellman who stepped into a slap shot that was directed to the corner by the leg pad of Quick. The Kings tried to slow down the Wild's momentum with a little offensive pressure of their own as Los Angeles would move the puck well in the Minnesota zone and Rob Scuderi set up Kopitar for a heavy wrist shot that was steered away by the glove of Hackett who made a fine save. Minnesota and Hackett would stop a few late wrap around attempts and the Wild kept a 1-0 lead with both clubs tied at 12 shots apiece. Not a bad 1st period on the road for the Wild, as long as they keep moving their feet effectively and stay out of the penalty box I think they should be just fine.
2nd Period Thoughts: Minnesota had an excellent 1st shift of the period as the line of Taffe, Koivu and Dany Heatley caused the Kings some problems. Taffe was especially pesky along the wall and Minnesota was able to keep Los Angeles bottled up in its own end and it was Koivu directing a shot on goal. Just moments after this solid shift the Wild continued with another solid effort by the 3rd line of Kyle Brodziak, Darroll Powe and Nick Johnson as they swarmed near the Kings' crease and Quick would find himself a little out of position and the puck was poked home by Powe, 2-0 Wild. The Kings' defense was remarkably lazy as they showed no effort to sweep away the puck and they'd pay the price for this lack of dilligence. Minnesota continued to dominate early as the 4th line of Brad Staubitz, Cody Almond and Colton Gillies established the forecheck and were winning the small battles for the puck along the wall. Los Angeles just wasn't skating very well and Dustin Brown would take a rather lazy interference penalty. The power play would be short-lived as Kyle Brodziak would deliver a shoulder and shoulder hit that sent Kopitar sliding into the boards and predictably this led to a bit of a shoving match near the collision as the Kings star laid on the ice in discomfort. The officials apparently felt Brodziak was guilty of something else he tagged with a 5-minute major for boarding along with a game misconduct. It was a completely ridiculous call for a hit that should have maybe yielded a 2-minute minor. I doubt we'll see a suspension on such a marginal hit; and Kopitar wasn't that worse for the wear as he'd be out on their power play just about a minute later. The call was made by the center-ice official (Tim Peel) who was the farthest away from the puck while the referee near where the hit took place never raised his arm making the call all that much more supsect. The Kings' power play tried to set up the big one timer but its blasts from the point would miss wide. Minnesota was content to just play in a fairly tight box near the Wild crease and some timely stick play gave their penalty killers just enough rest to prevent the Kings from really threatening too much. Hackett had a few fine glove saves with some Los Angeles forwards camped out near his crease and Minnesota would get the big kill. After the killed penalty the Wild seemed calm and composed to control the pace of play as they were quick to retreat and defend their end of the ice. The Kings were trying to work the puck deep and then crash the crease but Hackett was equally poised as his team and would make the saves and his defense was there to take the puck out of danger and keep Minnesota holding onto its 2-goal lead. Los Angeles' Dustin Penner, would get his stick into the grill of Jared Spurgeon and on the delayed call Minnesota would pull Hackett for an extra attacker. The Kings rather lazily tried to go after the puck but Minnesota woudl carry it into the Kings' zone and Marco Scandella found a little open ice and he took a pass and fired a wrist shot by Quick to put Minnesota up 3-0. About a minute after the Wild goal, Los Angeles would give Minnesota another power play when Jarrett Stoll was given a holding the stick penalty. Minnesota's power play was efficient as Bouchard set up Dany Heatley for a big one timer from just inside the left faceoff circle that was stopped by the shoulder of Quick. The Wild continued to move the puck effectively and it was Marco Scandella who made a pretty move near the blueline which would draw a hooking penalty on Kopitar. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo would call a timeout as Minnesota hoped to apply the dagger in the closing moments of the 2nd period. Minnesota had Koivu and Heatley working the points but the Kings were wise to keep a player challenging Heatley from just taking the big slapper and the Wild were unable to capitalize on the 2-man advantage. Cody Almond would take a foolish retaliation penalty as he gave Dustin Brown a wack after taking a hit by the Kings' hit leader. Minnesota still had to feel very good about leading 3-0 going into the 3rd period. It was a quality period despite an atrocious call on Kyle Brodziak.
3rd Period Thoughts: After less than a minute of 4-on-4, the Kings would have a shortened power play as Anze Kopitar left the penalty box. Yet it was Minnesota that would have the best initial scoring chance, as Darroll Powe fired heavy wrist shot that was gloved by Quick. The Kings were able to get absolutely nothing accomplished the power play and Minnesota continued to play its safe, quiet but effective defensive game. Los Angeles just was not moving with a lot of urgency and Minnesota continued to win battles for the puck along the wall. Just as I say this, the Kings generate as Kopitar wheeled his way around the zone where he fired a shot that was stopped by Hackett but he gave up a big rebound and Penner buried it on a shot taken from the slot to cut the Wild lead to two, 3-1. The goal would give the Kings some much-needed confidence and Kopitar started to assert his star talent with some outstanding puck handling, as he had it on a string as he drove towards the goal and Hackett would try to cover it with his glove but it was knocked free and directed to the corner as the net was knocked off the moorings. Minnesota started to counterattack a bit and a nice play on the forecheck by Pierre-Marc Bouchard nearly put the Wild back up by three as Bouchard rang slap shot off the post. The Wild would have another great chance a few minutes later as Koivu set him up for a quick snap shot that missed just wide. The Kings answered right back with a rush of their own and their wrap around attempt was again denied by Spurgeon who bailed Hackett out for a 2nd time. Minnesota was scrambling a bit in its own zone as Drew Doughty tee'd up a blast from the point that Hackett knocked down but the puck was swept up by Trent Hunter who gunned a snap shot wide of the Wild goal. The Wild started to counter punch and a nice little play by Nick Johnson to tip a pass from along the wall to Cody Almond who wound up and he hammered slap shot that just snuck through the pads of Quick to give Minnesota a 4-1 lead. It was a soft goal by Quick and you could sense the air going out of the Kings' sail as it crossed the goal line. The Kings' had given up as the 1st line of the Wild entered the Los Angeles zone with ease as Taffe set up Koivu for a one timer was nabbed out of the air by Quick. With the Los Angeles fans starting to file out of the arena while play was still going on (shakes head in disgust), the Kings top line half heartedly tried to forecheck. Minnesota had more than enough hustle and energy in the tank to thwart the Kings' attempts to create offense and the Wild also deprived Los Angeles of flow with good active sticks and on-ice positioning. The Kings would score late as Trent Hunter would bury a rebound after a good intial stop by Hackett and Kyle Clifford would prevent Greg Zanon from sweeping it away to make it 4-2. The goal gave Los Angeles a little spark, and they started to swarm in the Wild zone in the closing minutes but Hackett would make a beautiful glove save on a shot by Stoll. Moments later it was another flurry near the Wild crease as Hackett was on his leg pads but Minnesota would collapse and clear the zone. With about 2 minutes left the Kings would pull Quick for an extra attacker. Minnesota would step up their game defensively and the Wild had a few near misses on the empty cage, including having Bouchard hauled down by Kopitar to a no-call right in front of Tim Peel.
Matt Hackett was very solid, giving up 2 goals on 44 shots. I thought he looked more steady between the pipes although he was guilty at times of being too far back in his crease. Defensively the Wild continued to be quick to collapse near their young goalie which really kept Los Angeles stymied for much of the game. I think Hackett owes Jared Spurgeon a nice dinner after bailing him out twice on wrap around attempts by the Kings. Still, Hackett is showing a ton of promise as he's given up just 3 goals on 78 shots which is a ridiculous .961% save percentage and a 1.50 goals against average.
Offensively, the Wild got away from their modus operendi by scoring first but that was key as the team's last memory of playing against the Kings was perhaps their worst effort of the season. The goal put the Kings under more pressure and allowed some of those doubts about their offense creep back in. Minnesota continues to show great depth scoring-wise as they got a goal from their defense in Marco Scandella who showed lots of confidence tonight carrying the puck and 3rd / 4th line grinders in Powe and Almond. Nick Johnson chipped in two assists as he scored his 7th point in 7 games. Powe also had a helper in the winning effort. I thought Jeff Taffe looked decent on the top line; he has good offensive instincts although I wish he'd back check a bit harder; but his willingness to shoot makes him fit in rather well with Koivu and Heatley.
On another note, the call on Kyle Brodziak was absolutely stupid. It wasn't an egregious hit and it could almost be argued it didn't even deserve a boarding call. If Brodziak recieves any supplemental discipline it would be a huge travesty and in my opinion a huge disservice in what was a completely overblown call in the first place. As was the case with Nick Johnson in Calgary, there was no reason to toss Brodziak for that marginal of a hit that did not appear to cause Kopitar any permanent injury on a clear shoulder to shoulder hit. Tim Peel should be ashamed of himself and issue the Wild an apology. Perhaps officials ought to be suspended if the league won't issue suspensions in games where they eject players because lets face it, the call left Minnesota shorthanded. If Minnesota loses the game because its tired due to the bad what relief does the Wild have with the poor call?!?!
Minnesota breaks a franchise record by winning its 6th straight road game, by sweeping all 3 California teams. The Wild was paying the price to make the little plays with the puck and it paid off with goals. This time it wasn't as much resilience as it was persistence and attention to detail that took the heart out of the Kings this evening. Minnesota has another tough test as they face another club that seems to play greater than the sum of its parts on Saturday in the Phoenix Coyotes. I wonder if its enough to get the team the respect it clearly deserves and in my opinion, the respect its earned.
~ Wild roster tonight is as follows: Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Jeff Taffe, Matt Cullen, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Casey Wellman, Cody Almond, Brad Staubitz, Darroll Powe, Nick Johnson, Kyle Brodziak, Colton Gillies, Nick Schultz, Greg Zanon, Clayton Stoner, Mike Lundin, Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella. Niklas Backstrom backed up Matt Hackett. Josh Harding, Nate Prosser and Cal Clutterbuck were the healthy scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Matt Hackett, 2nd Star Jared Spurgeon, 3rd Star Darroll Powe
~ Attendance was 18,118 at Staples Center.
~ Jeff Taffe wore #23 for the Wild.
~ The Houston Aeros lost 2-1 in a shootout to regional rival Oklahoma City Oil Barons Thursday night. Fridley's Jarod Palmer had the lone goal for the Aeros while Darcy Kuemper made 34 saves in a losing effort. Houston could only manage just goal in the shootout despite having 6 shooters take a chance as Warren Peters was the only Aero able to beat Yann Danis.
Wild Prospect Report:
F - Mikael Granlund (HIFK Helsinki, Sm-Liiga) ~ The Wild's top prospect continues to heat up as he lit the lamp twice on Monday against arch rival Jokerit in a 4-2 win for HIFK Helsinki. Perhaps its the upcoming World Junior Championships that Granlund is expected to be apart of that has him wanting to raise his level of play. He's currently the top scorer in the Sm-Liiga with 14 goals, 36 points in 28 games.
G - Darcy Kuemper (Ontario / Houston, ECHL / AHL) ~ Last year's WHL Goaltender of the year is having an outstanding start in his first official full season as a professional. Kuemper has shined for the Reign of the ECHL, going 7-1 and posting a 1.74 goals against average and a gaudy .941% save percentage. With some injuries to Wild goaltenders and Dennis Endras' release to Finland this had Kuemper getting his chance to show what he can do at the AHL level. So far Kuemper has done well, going 2-1-1 with a 2.21 goals against average and a .931% save percentage.
LW - Brett Bulmer (Kelowna, WHL) ~ Like Granlund, Brett Bulmer is fine tuning his game as he gets ready to represent Canada at the World Junior Championships. Bulmer led the way against the Lethbridge Hurricanes as he contributed a goal and two assists as the Rockets rolled to a 5-2 victory Wednesday night. The Prince George, British Columbia native is currently 3rd on the Rockets' in scoring with 10 goals and 22 points and a +7 in 14 games.
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