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The Brawl in St. Paul

Well, this is exciting. The two hottest hockey teams on the planet will be in St. Paul on Saturday night, and it’s not some kind of Summit Series Exhibition or something.
Image courtesy of Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
While it’s easy to get excited, ah hell, get excited. This is a historic NHL game, and I’m not entirely sure what’s more crazy, that one of these teams will lose, or that one of these teams will keep winning. Neither team was really at the top of anyone’s list to play a ‘the world is watching game’ around New Years, but here we are, and my oh my, has it been a fun ride.

While most winning streaks look kind of similar in stats (The teams are scoring a lot and not letting in a ton of goals, wow, no way), the Blue Jackets are doing things will just a smidge more offense, and the Wild are getting it done with, shocker, some otherworldly goaltending. Here’s the tale of the tape for these two teams since the Wild’s winning streak started in early December. It’s pretty impressive.

Posted Image

The key for the Wild, it may seem, is to stay out of the box, even though they sport the top PK in the league during the streak, the Jackets have the second best Powerplay unit during the same span. The Blue Jackets have thrived on using their relatively unknown fire power during this streak, and giving them sustained pressure like on the power play might end up asking too much of the Wild defense corps and Dubnyk.

As far as figuring out Bobrovsky goes, your guess is as good as mine, and while he's not thought of as one of the most talented goalies in the NHL, you certainly can't argue with his results right now, and the defense in front of him seems to be playing well enough to keep that rolling. It's going to be even more important than usual to try to scrape up some garbage goals, with that in mind, so swarming the net should be high on the list.

I’ve been to a couple of the New Years Eve tilts in St. Paul, and I can tell you there a ton of fun when paired with the proper bar/house party before and after the game. But this one might be a little different, and this one might be a little bananas. The excitement over the Wild is hitting near capacity, and Columbus residents might actually watch something besides the Buckeyes game on Saturday. What a time to be alive.

While this game’s outcome isn’t really all that important in the grand scheme of things, it’s important because the Wild have made prime time television viewing within three short months of Boudreau tenure. This game isn’t just a Hogan vs. Andre type showdown, it’s an arrival for both teams into legitimacy this season. The rest of the league has noticed the 2000 Expansion Cousins, and this game makes them both impossible to ignore. As much vindication as it is for Bruce Boudreau, it’s also, unfortunately for some, the same for John Tortorella. After Team USA flamed out so spectacularly in the World Cup, who saw this coming?

So let’s have a blast, Wild fans. Our team has the spotlight on them, and it’s for positive reasons in this state for once. More importantly, the idea that the Wild have arrived as a contending team this season might be a tad premature, but it’s beginning to seem less and less likely that they’re fall apart when the calendar turns, as we’ve grown so accustomed to. The Streak may just kill off The Swoon. And that’s worth celebrating, too.

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