Hey Wilderness. Been a while since I actually had some time to write. I seem to start each and every one of my posts this way, don't I? I've finally hit a small lull as a result of my insane near-sleepless week working on my projects, so I decided to revive my Thought Bubble segment. By looking at the title, you might be thinking: ''Oh oh, don't tell me the moose is gonna go and promote Canada here on HW!''. Breathe easy gang, I'll actually be talking about our matchups against the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs, two games that are very important to me, but pretty much meaningless to anyone else in the three fanbases, except my friends and family. Because of my rivalries with both teams, I've become quite knowledgable when it comes to both of them. I'll be talking about the two matchups seperately, and then, I'll give my take on the Pacioretty situation. I know, you're probably all tired of reading about it, so am I in fact, but hey, you've got the power to skip it!
Please join me after the jump.
Opening panel: A sunday date with the Habs.
Most of you know my relationship with the Habs and their fans by now. Being a Canadian living in New-Brunswick, I'm surrounded by Canadiens fans. Most of them mock my rooting of the Wild, pretty much because no one knows them or cares about them.
What's sad is that I have actual reasons for liking this team: The great fans, the rich Minnesotan hockey history, Jacques Lemaire being one of the best coaches ever and my favorite, guys like Wes Walz, Brian Rolston, Niklas Backstrom, Mikko Koivu, Nick Schultz, they drew me into the Wild with the heart they show each and every game and their leadership skills and guys like Brent Burns, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Marian Gaborik drew me in with their sheer talents and wow factor that way too many people underestimate. I'm not a fair weather fan, I'm not a bandwagon fan, I'm a true fan (in my mind any way). No one can question my allegiance, I've seen the best of times and the worst of times with this team. I'm quite likely the biggest Wild fan in New-Brunswick, perhaps even Canada. I'm partly happy we don't have a guy like Sidney Crosby in our team so we don't have to deal with the kind of fans that just like the Penguins because of him, of course a guy like him would help the team win, so... nah, I don't want him anyway. Screw bandwagon fans.
I've always, ALWAYS hated the Canadiens because of many factors: They seem to have an aura of arrogance around them (OLÉ, OLÉ OLÉ OLÉ... ugh), they have one of the most detestable fanbases ever (not everyone is in that group, of course), they often have problems within the team, like fights in practice, shady dealings in bars, and whatnot, and more importantly, because of my friends, who always throw the Habs' 24 Stanley cups in my face (you know, the Stanley Cups that they mostly won before the expansion and before my friends were even born) and always laugh at my team, just because.
Sunday, the Wild play against the Canadiens, in their first matchup since this year's preseason, in which the Wild lost 4-3, although the game wasn't nearly as close as the score indicates, because the Wild looked quite horrible. Of course, as my friends decided when the Wild clobbered the Habs 3-0 in their last preseason meeting, preseason doesn't count, so I'll be hoping for a Wild win, not only to keep our slim playoff chances alive, but to keep my sanity intact until the next regular season matchup between the two teams.
As for history between the two teams, there isn't much to say. There used to be the Koivu brothers rivalry, but Saku is now with Anaheim, so all that's left is the fictional rivalry between Guillaume Latendresse and Benoit Pouliot (providing both play, as Pouliot missed the last two meet-ups between the two teams.) The Wild are 4-3-1-1 all-time against the Canadiens.
Fun fact: Clayton Stoner made his NHL debut against the Canadiens in a 3-1 Wild win on December 17th 2009. It was also the first time Guillaume Latendresse faced his old team.
Middle panel: A Tuesday date against the Maple Leafs
Two days after our date with the Canadiens, we'll meet up with the Maple Leafs. While I have a hostile personal vendetta against the Canadiens, with the Maple Leafs, it's more of a respectful, friendly rivalry. I have exactly three family members who root for them, a young cousin, his dad and another cousin, who happens to be my best friend. Every time we see each other, we talk hours about our teams and we keep the flame alive in our rivalry with some NHL action on our PS3s. We often play best-of-seven series with the Battle for the cup feature, and the cup's owner often switches between the two (the current holder is my cousin, but I'll take it back soon, I promise!)
As for our history with the Maple Leafs, it is even more inexistant than the one with the Canadiens. However, the fans of both teams have a certain link with each other. Hockey Wilderness and Pension Plan Puppets, SBNation's leafs blog, have even formed a friendship of sorts. (Be sure to visit them, great people, great writing, all-around great fun. My personal favorite non-Wild hangout spot.) Both teams are currently on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs and both teams' chances are getting slim. It's been this way for a few years now and this is why fans of both franchises, or at least my cousin and I, know how the fans of the other team feels.
I wouldn't necessarily say that the Wild are the East's Maple Leafs and vice-versa, but they're admittedly quite similar: Players not meeting expectations, prospects that are always ''almost there, but not quite'', often show a frustrating amount of non-effort. If you read the link I put above, you'll see a lot of those similarities in PPP's answers.The biggest thing I have in common with Leafs fans though? An unhealthy hate of the Habs!
The Wild have recently done quite well against the Leafs, winning the last two regular season matchups by a combined score of 11-3, making my cousin pretty angry both times! :) ... All-time though, the Wild are 3-5-0 all-time vs. the Leafs. In fact, before last year's win in the Leafs' home arena, the Air Canada Centre, Toronto was one of three cities the Wild had never won in.
Final panel: Pacioretty = Wolverine?
You all know the story. Zdeno Chara hits Max Pacioretty, Pacioretty gets hurt, Chara gets off scot-free, Canadiens fans ask for police to step in (I laughed my ass off...Was involving the police necessary? Who else but Habs fans would do that?), Canadiens owner writes letter, Canadiens fans riot in front of Bell Centre before game, Pacioretty aims for return in playoffs.. Wait, WHAT?
That's right, all this commotion and Pacioretty, who suffered a SEVERE concussion and a BROKEN vetebrae, is apparently feeling great, able to return to practice very soon and might return for the playoffs. Am I missing something here? Doesn't anyone else smell something wrong here? The guy was actually doubtful to ever even play in the NHL again and he may be ready to return in about a month?
The reason I ask Pacioretty = Wolverine is because either the guy is a member of the X-men, or his actual injury situation was massively overblown. You don't just magically heal from a severe concussion and a broken neck that quickly. Call me crazy, but I'm actually thinking there's been some kind of fabrication in the extent of Pacioretty's injury, perhaps to draw punishment for Chara's action. I agree it's not OK that the league did absolutely nothing, because players need to learn to be responsable for their actions on the ice, and I don't buy that Chara didn't who he was hitting or where he was hitting him. No one is that lost on the ice without alcohol or a head malfunction, sorry. That being said, I understand that the hit in and of itself didn't warrant a suspension. It's just a matter of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, but the league's inaction in the matter just helped make it even more of an embarassment and solidified its status as the worst disciplinary system in the world of sports.
I'm not saying Pacioretty is a faker, far from it! That was as scary as a hit can get and I'm glad he's O.K., but the whole thing reeks of dishonesty to me. I don't think what whoever was responsable for the diagnosis was being completely honest about the injury. Players have missed way more time for way smaller injuries. I'm no doctor, but I don't see how the concussion was that severe if he stopped feeling its effects so quickly. Also, you think a broken veterbrae would take more time to heal.
Of course, all of this may be just me spewing conspiracy theories. Overall, I'm glad this budding young player's career isn't over, even if he plays for my hated Canadiens. I'm not the kind of guy hoping for my rivals, or anyone else for that matter, to get hurt. I'm reasonable in that sense at the very least.
Punchline: Yes, I am looking forward to have every Canadiens fan alive attack me for my post. En garde.
Also, enjoy this masterpiece, drawn by me a few games after the Latendresse-Pouliot trade.