The Road Trip and Wild Notes
Finally, after delays and sleeping in airports, back home.
The site has been vacant as of late and there is most certainly a reason for this. The past few days, I have been in New Jersey being hosted by the venerable owner of Hockey Primetime, Sam Woo. A friend and I flew out for the Devils/Wild game on Friday night and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.
All of the buzz that I have heard about Devils fans was, quite frankly, that they were some of the worst fans in the NHL. I had heard to no end that they were dispassionate about their team and that when they did get riled up enough to actually go to the games that they were rude, loud mouthed and quite inconsiderate to visiting fans.
What I found, however, was that this was a group of fans that were passionate to no end about their team. The arena, while not filled, was not as empty as you are always led to believe. The upper areas of the arena were full, for the most part, and the majority of the seats open in the lower bowl were open in the Fire and Ice Lounge sections. Why? I can think of about 250 reasons why, as the price for those seats is astronomical.
As far as the characterization of the fans? Absolutely untrue. Yes, all fans have their bad apples, but the New Jersey fans I ran into were extremely friendly and extremely considerate. I was wearing my Wild gear, as I do to every game, and I got fans walking up to me asking questions about the team to no end. Asking about Gaborik’s return, about the team in general, everything. On top of that, any cheers that were focused at the Wild fans there were all done in good fun. There was no animosity towards the fans in the least.
There were also people telling me about the town of Newark and about the area surrounding the arena. I was hearing that the town and area around the arena was extremely dangerous. Again, I did not see that one bit. The area around the arena was no worse than in downtown Minneapolis or downtown St. Paul. Common sense should be exhibited but I, for one, never felt in danger in the least.
The bottom line is this. New Jersey fans are getting a bad rap. The team is a fantastic team with fans that are passionate about them. I was wearing my colors proudly and cheering on my team proudly (though there wasn’t too terribly much to cheer for in the 4-0 loss) and was met with nothing but the acceptance of knowledgable, friendly hockey fans. There is no doubt in my mind that I will return to Newark in the future to catch another hockey game and to spend some more time amongst some of the best fans in the NHL.
- The injury to Mikko Koivu has definitely thrown a wrench in the Wild’s postseason plans. With the loss of Koivu, the Wild’s season’s hopes lie squarely on the fragile “lower body” of Marian Gaborik. With Koivu out, Gaborik will be looked towards to replace him offensively. Whether or not this is something that he can do remains to be seen, but the hope for now is that he can return as soon as possible to help this team make a push for the playoffs.
- More news on the injury front for the Wild; Brent Burns is still sidelined with concussion-like symptoms. It’s hard enough when one of your top players is out, but having multiple star players on the shelf is just flat out demoralizing and could be the kiss of death for this team.
- On the up side, these injuries are giving us good, long looks at players that could be in the line up next season. Peter Olvecky has performed well in the absence of Gaborik and will need to continue to do so in the absence of Koivu. He has gotten time on the power play (which, in Lemaire’s book, means he’s doing something right) and has been placed on the ice in increasingly more important situations. John Scott is another that is slowly working his way up the depth chart. While not as offensively skilled as the other Wild defensemen, Scott is a fantastic physical presence on the blueline and is playing fantastic hockey at the moment.
- The Wild have a crucial road trip coming up this week. They have back-to-back games in New York (of the Rangers and Islanders variety) followed by back-to-back games in Calgary and Edmonton. This road trip will likely be the determining factor as to whether or not this team makes the playoffs. If they can come away with 5 or 6 points on this trip, they will be sitting pretty. Less than 4 points on this trip and I would wager that the playoffs aren’t anything more than a pipedream.
- Finally, as you can see on the side bar, the Clutter-Watch 2009 is getting close. Cal Clutterbuck, the Wild’s resident bowling ball, is just ten hits away from breaking the NHL hits record in his rookie season. While his stats may not be as impressive as other rookies, there are few other rookies this season that have made the impact that Clutterbuck has. So remember…You can’t spell Calder without Cal!