The local Hockey Wilderness staff took in day two of Minnesota Wild training camp today, attending the free scrimmage this morning. It was absolutely wonderful to be in the Xcel Energy Center again, to see the media again, to see the fans again, and of course, the Wild staff again. For hockey fans, just being in the building is some how welcoming, it almost feels like home.
We did not talk with players, as we had some plans to meet up with some HW readers over at Tom Reid's (go there, have a beer), and some other time constraints to overcome for the rest of the afternoon.
However, we did take in the entire scrimmage, and a few things stood out to us. Make the jump, let's get back to talking hockey.
There was zero puck cycling in either zone. The players drove into the zone, made made a deke or a pass, and immediately shot the puck. They did not stop and control the puck or try to set up many plays at all. All of this is likely due to it being early in camp, and the point of the scrimmages to really just get the legs back under them and going. While the fans would have appreciated some goals, the point was not to light the lamp as much as to simply ramp up.
The Devin Steoguchi - Mikko Koivu - Dany Heatley line was impressive, if not overly productive. It is clear they have some chemistry and just need to work through things and play some minutes together. Could be very dangerous.
More impressive was the Guillaume Latendresse - Pierre-Marc Bouchard combination. The two seem to mesh well, and with Lats driving the net and Butch's play making ability, this line should be fun to watch.
My bet, as early as it is, is that Kyle Brodziak centers the second line. Again, it is extremely early in camp, but Cullen was handcuffed a few times playing with Butch and Lats, and almost looked to either be a step behind, or just not on the same page as the other two. We'll see how it plays out the rest of camp. Certainly something to watch.
The goalies looked good, if not overly tested. Dennis Endras made a couple nice saves, though nothing extraordinary. Josh Harding looks loose, happy, and healthy. This can only be a good sign for the Wild.
Using only equipment to judge them, Endras (hereafter "Der Goalie") has the early edge. Solid black out theme going on with his eagle themed helmet. Very cool look. Harding's tribute mask gets style points, but Der Goalie has some solid gear.
The defense did not look overly terrible, but they were not impressive either. Of course, nothing was overly impressive today. It had a very loose feel, nothing overly pressured. Good second day to things. Pairings were interesting, seeing some Schultz - Lundin, ZZ Top, and Spurgeon was with Scandella. Prosser and Stoner looked good, and steady.
Brett Bulmer is an absolute pest. He got a little slash from soon to be teammate Matt Kassian, which earned Bulmer a penalty shot, but Bulmer deserved it. Strong kid, but still looks thin. He's young. That will change on its own.
Enough for Now
That's about all there is out of camp today. Shooting to talk to some guys tomorrow, get a feel for how things are progressing, and tomorrow is the first "real" day of camp. Team will remained split in two for awhile, making things more manageable. Should be fun to watch them really get ready for the year.
All-in-all, it was just excellent to be back talking hockey with the hockey folks again. More tomorrow.
Hockey is back, everyone.