I was watching the NFC Semifinal game between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants, and I had my Twitter feed up and as the game went on I saw a lot of fans maligning the NFL's replay system. This was especially true after the NFL officials upheld what was clearly a Green Bay fumble even after they took the time to watch it again via replay. The obvious question being, how can they still miss the call when they view it again with the benefit of slow motion, multiple angles etc. It got me thinking about the NHL's current use of instant replay which unlike NFL only occurs on scoring plays. In all honesty, that is just fine with me the way it is. However, we still see calls that are made with the benefit of replay that boggle the mind and no matter how 'conclusive' they sometimes say a play it is amazing the referee can give that explanation with a straight face. Perhaps the most simplest and arguably most important replay involves whether or not a puck completely crossed the goal line. Unlike football where the nose of the football only has to 'break the plane' a puck has to completely cross the goal line to count. Even with cameras in the goal, its sometimes almost impossible to determine (especially if the puck is obscured) if that took place. Why not fix this situation with a little paint. Last summer, the league experimented with a verification line that sat behind the goal line. If a puck touches any part of the verification line then its completely across the goal line and thus a goal.
Should the NHL implement the verification line ASAP?
So why wouldn't the NHL immediately implement such a simple change? It wouldn't require the NHL to do anything other than put a small line at either end of the ice. It isn't changing any current NHL rules, simply giving replay officials another tool to make the right call. The Wild had a hard-fought game Saturday against the St. Louis Blues and now they're facing another gritty team in the Philadelphia Flyers. The Wild will have to dig deep if they expect to get a win over one of the East's best teams. So will the Wild step up their game or will they wither faster than the Packers' Super Bowl hopes?
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1st Period Thoughts: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." That classic line that opens the the Charles Dickens novel, A Tale of Two Cities accurately describes the opening period. Unfortunately, some of the worst times came early for the Minnesota Wild. A problem this team has had for more seasons than not, has been unphysical and ineffective defensemen. This season, we've had to deal with the poor play of Nick Schultz and Marek Zidlicky. What is even more disappointing is that management seems to feel no real drive to improve the abysmal blueline. Because of the poor, unphysical play of Schultz, who time after time after time, is still unable to clear the crease, was essentially responsible for the lone goal (and a power play one as well) of the period scored by Philadelphia's Kimmo Timonen. Schultz doesn't even have an offensive presence on the ice that would normally give a defenseman an excuse for being "soft." So if he's not putting up points, and he's not being physical, what purpose does he serve? Don't even get me started on Zidlicky. However, I'm not so cynical to admit that things were all doom and gloom in the first period. The "best" of the period came from the extremely hard working fourth line which consists of youngsters Casey Wellman, recent call-up Carson McMillan and believe it or not, Brad Staubitz. Even better, a major gold star goes to the team for taking shots. While they're being outshot by the Flyers, one cannot discount the fact that the Wild, especially the younger players, are at least attempting to get the often elusive shots on goal. For a team that struggles to score, and often to get even shots on goal, I'll take shots any day of the week. One has to imagine that eventually something will have to get past Philadelphia's Ilya Bryzgalov.
2nd Period Thoughts: The opening minutes of the second did not have the sustained pressure one would hope to see, especially after the hard work of the skaters during the second half of the first period. Things started to improve about five minutes in. However, just when you think things are getting better, Minnesota's Darroll Powe took a cross-checking penalty. Call me homeristic, but I must say that Andrei Meszaros certainly went down rather easy. Thankfully, the Wild were able to kill this penalty. Once again, Minnesota was able to gain some pressure, well until Meszaros took Cal Clutterbuck with another dangerous hit into the boards behind the net. One should not be surprised, that the penalty was nothing but a single minor to Meszaros. And a re-visit to the worst of times come near the end of the Wild's first powerplay. Once again, no thanks to Zidlicky for refusing to take the body, or even poke check, the Flyers found themselves up by two on an extremely weak "shot" by Sean Couturier. Thankfully, former Flyer, Darroll Powe decided that someone needed to take responsibility, and just over one minute later, Powe found the back of the net. Yet, while fans are starting to feel a little bit better, the Flyers take advantage of more poor decisions by Zidlicky and Schultz, and Braydon Coburn has Philadelphia ahead by two again. It gets even worse, when Josh Harding lets another shot from the point past him, this time by Scott Hartnell. Sure, there have been some deflections, however, there comes a point when someone in white, either skater or goaltender, has to stand up and do something about those shots. Either use your body to block them, or clear the crease so your goaltender can see the puck. While Greg Zanon hasn't been playing so well lately, I'd rather have a man who is willing to sacrifice his body than the likes of Zidlicky and Schultz who won't. Since the Wild dads are along on this roadtrip, you almost wish some of them would go downstairs and become the bad hockey parent that many of us have seen over the years. You know the kind. The kind that yells at their kid, and blames them for everything that has gone wrong in the game. The kind that on occasion gets kicked out of the arena. Yes, there are some players that desperately need their dad to yell at them.
3rd Period Thoughts: According to the "brilliant" broadcasting of Dan Terhaar and Mike Greenlay, the Flyers showed why they're one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. What's funny about that comment, is that the Wild didn't put up much of a fight. Minneapolis Star Tribune writer, Pat Reusse recently called out Fox Sports Net North on just how homeristic the Wild's TV announcers are. That comment pretty much sums up Reusse's case quiet well. The third period was pretty much nothing but players collecting paychecks. You know things are bad when Warren Peters had as many shots on goal as the entire top line. To pour salt in the wounds of fans, the Wild now find themselves 0-8-2 in our last ten games on the road and 2-10-4 in our last sixteen games total. If there's any sort of silver lining from a fan perspective, is that we're not waiting until 9pm for the game to start. If we're going to lose like this, at least we're now on an Eastern Conference road trip and not messing up our sleep cycle. It is getting harder and harder to watch this team. Between the horror that is the Wild's blueline and the injuries that keep piling up, they simply are unable to right the ship like they were earlier when dealing with injuries. So now, Minnesota heads to Toronto. I'd just assume not have another embarrassing night in the center of the hockey universe that is Toronto.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi, Darroll Powe, Dany Heatley, Brad Staubitz, Casey Wellman, Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck, Nick Johnson, David McIntyre, Warren Peters, Carson McMillan, Mike Lundin, Marek Zidlicky, Clayton Stoner, Justin Falk, Jarod Spurgeon, and Nick Schultz. Niklas Backstrom backed up Josh Harding.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by the fans were: 1st star, Scott Hartnell; 2nd Star, Sean Couturier; 3rd star, Jaromir Jagr.
~ Attendance was 19,787 at Wells Fargo Center.
Wild Prospect Report:
Farjestad's Jonas Brodin
C - Tyler Graovac (Ottawa, OHL) ~ The 6'4", 190lbs center is a part of something special in Ottawa as they've loaded up their lineup to make a strong push for an OHL title. Graovac is trying to earn his keep by tallying an assist in a 6-1 victory over Belleville on Sunday.
D - Jonas Brodin (Farjestad BK, Eliteserien) ~ Brodin is feeling very confident after he impressed at the World Junior Championships, saying he feels ready for the NHL but acknowledging he still needs to add more strength. Brodin has just 5 assists for Farjestad, but its the little things he does with the puck that sets him apart from his peers and why he was such a force for Team Sweden.
F - Mikael Granlund (HIFK Helsinki, Sm-Liiga) ~ Mikael Granlund has returned to the Sm-Liiga after a decent showing at the World Junior Championships and he has picked up where he left off. He chipped in a helper in a 2-0 win over the Espoo Blues. Granlund is currently is 2nd in the league in scoring with 17 goals, 40 points in 32 games.
G - Dennis Endras (HIFK Helsinki, Sm-Liiga) ~ Endras has been absolutely outstanding between the pipes for HIFK after arriving from playing for the Wild's AHL affiliate in Houston. On Thursday, Endras posted his 3rd shutout and has been an impressive 13-0 with a 1.92 goals against average and gaudy .934% save percentage.