The last forty-eight hours was the equivalent of the Wild fucking around and getting a triple double.
First, I want to talk about the game today, which includes the worst thing that’s happened to the Wild in that time frame. Harding and Setoguchi left the ice tonight, never to return. Unsure of Setoguchi’s status (UPDATE: Per Michael Russo, Setoguchi appeared to suffer a serious right leg injury and was in a soft cast. Hoping for his speedy recovery.), but Harding was hit in the head going down. Hopefully that doesn’t mean an “upper body injury” and Harding is OK.
The silver lining to that was getting to see
the best goaltending depth in the NHL Matt Hackett, and oh man, did he go off tonight. In his first NHL game, he made 34 of 34 saves, and gave the Wild a W when they shouldn’t have. I didn’t say “single-handedly”, because other than the first ten or fifteen minutes, where the team was outshot 100-2 (NOTE: That’s clearly an official stat), the Wild (not surprisingly) worked hard, probably harder than any team I’ve ever seen outshot 42 100-21. The defense was a combination of lucky and good, seeming to be in the right place at the right times on rebounds, especially in the last five minutes. But I’m giving most of the credit to Hackett, who, upon leaving the stadium, saw the lights of a Goodyear blimp, which were arranged to read “Matt Hackett’s a pimp.”
Now onto realignment. As every Wild fan in non-vegetative states knows, the Wild are back in the old Norris Division (sans the Maple Leafs, which in my wildest dreams I’d love to see, and the Lightning, which would be kind of weird) with Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Dallas, Columbus, Nashville and Winnepeg. This is pretty awesome. Being 22 years old, I’ve missed out on the intense rivalries between the North Stars and Blackhawks, Blues, and Red Wings, and while it will take a while to build those rivalries up with a new franchise, divisional playoffs and this year’s chippiness in the STL should do a good job of kickstarting that.
Throw that in with more Central Time Zone starts, the Minnesota Wild fans could be the big winner in this realignment, restoring rivalries with three fan bases, competing against the team that left Minnesota, and being able to watch the games and not have to
blog about them go to sleep at midnight or later are huge victories for the Wild fanbase.
The downsides are minimal. I don’t want to hear any complaining about having an extra team in our conference. If the Eastern Conference are going to do the right thing and vote for their travel to increase, it seems only fair for the Western Conference to make that concession. And if anyone is upset about the road to the playoffs being tougher competing with stalwarts like Chicago and Detroits, a solid Nashville and Dallas teams, and an up-and-coming Blues squad, tough. Win, and the playoffs won’t be a problem. It’s not baseball, everyone’s (theoretically) on the same playing field financially, and if you can’t beat in the top four teams in your division, you probably shouldn’t make the playoffs anyway.
The only thing I’m going to miss is the Minnesota-Vancouver rivalry, the only really good rivalry the Wild have throughout their first 11 years. But would I trade that for being in the old Norris Division? 100 times out of 100.
Today (and yesterday) the Wild didn’t even have to use their A-K. I gotta say it was a good day.