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We celebrate the 1983 Wayzata Club Hockey Team and one of its stars, Jonny "The Mouse" Mikkelson, who once told me "Our team was so good the varsity wouldn't play us." When asked why he didn't play varsity Mouse said, "Too little." Cutest ever. So, we salute the greatest Club Hockey Team ever, a squad so vaunted even Jim Craig's Miracle team wanted nothing to do with it. Trottier, Bossy, Gretzky, Messier ... dead! Long live the 1983 Wayzata Club Hockey team!
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f the Wild were Judge Charles H. Older, the judge that sent Charles Manson to the clink: “2 weeks in the workhouse and 1 month probation!”
Champions Week commences tonight for three of our local -- favorite?! -- sports teams, and the hope is to sweep the card and dagger those with ring cred.
THE WILD -- Speedy 'Hawks are in town tonght and KANE, TOEWS and KEITH all are going great guns. No pesky BRYAN BICKELL due to injury, but Eden Prarie's NICK LEDDY has played every game, and with three goals he'll be looking to add to that with friends and family in the crowd.
The Speedy 'Hawks -- the champs -- just took a regulation loss at home to Dallas but prior to that were the hottest team in the game, having won six consecutive (five in regulation) and 11 of the previous 13. They beat us here, 5-1, in late October, two nights after we went to the Den of a Champion and beat them by two.
The Wild are not exactly lighting the lamp at a record pace but do seem to have correctoed some things after THEEEE CAPTAIN smacked one in at Colorado Saturday night with three seconds left to earn a much needed point. Then they clamped down defensively against Philly here Monday and won in shutout fashion. Cool.
Should be an intense game and one the Wild can win.
THE WOLVES -- Saturday the champion Heat is here, and the Wolves are looking to snap a losing streak. Minnesota will represent well in this one due to several practices during an elongated stretch of off time, and even though the Heat is one of the best three teams in the game it did take an ugly home loss recently to bump-and-grind Detroit.
Miami can be vulnerable to three-point shots, and that's what we do when our best two scorers LOVE and MARTIN are hot. Love is shooting like 37 percent the last few games. Miami will offer a quality showing but realizes we can put up 50 in a quarter if you sleep on the slumping Wolves. I bet we score a bunch this game and close on a little upset. Target Center will dig this game and atmosphere.
THE VIKINGS -- The champion Ravens are 6-and-6 and are closing a three-game home stand during which they have gone 2-and-0. Baltimore throws the ball 54 percent of the time and RAY RICE runs for fewer than three YPC.
Baltimore is a very tough place to win, the fans are empassioned and JOHN HARBAUGH has his boys ramping up quite nicely for the postseason. Thing is, though, Baltimore is in the Wildcard meatgrinder and two games behind Cincy in its division. The Ravens desperately need a win against us Sunday and we enter the game having run for nearly 500 yards the last two games.
That's the real shame of the 3-8-and-1 for the Vikings -- LESLIE has the running game battering players late in the year when minds and bodies are tired, but we are too far back to make the playoffs.
Tough predicting a Vikings win outdoors on the road, but this will be a close, fun, high-scoring game. If they have problems with ADRIAN, CASSEL will throw it to JENNINGS all over the field. Also, I expect rookie WR CORDARRELLE PATTERSON to continue to improve, which means he'll get many chances at Baltimore and most likely will score again. Think I'll make him my "one-hit wonder" tomorrow at Buffalo Wild Wings Crystal.
Stud QB MARCUS MARIOTA just announced he is bypassing the 2014 NFL Draft and will stay at Oregon for a final year. Good for him, recognizing he needs another year to become better prepared to compete in the big show, and good for him not tripping over the fact he may have been the top selection in the draft. I was told today by a NFL source it's best he stayed another year if he wanted to jump into the league and started right away.
This QB draft is the deepest in quite sometime, but, of course, around here we have known that for months because of signal-calling uncertainty with the Vikings. My newest take is CHRISTIAN PONDER absolutely will be on the team next year, MATT CASSEL probably will leave and JOSH FREEMAN most likely will not be around.
Mariota opting to stay in college means (a) instead of four QBs probably going in the top 10 three most likely will be taken or (b) teams will overdraft and reach for a guy to make sure they get him. As of now I see BRIDGEWATER, JOHNNY FOOTBALL and, maybe, DEREK CARR cracking the top 10. The Vikings very well might be in a position to get one, or they'll hit defense hard and move on one early round two. Who knows at this point, right?
And as we head into the Ravens game Sunday HC LESLIE FRAZIER tomorrow most likely will announce who the starting QB for the game will be. He has been using Ponder, Cassel saved the show against the Bears and still nothing on/from Freeman. I truly felt Freeman might play in that Bears game, and with Ponder overcoming a concussion and Cassel most likely not in the mix next season this could be a Freeman game. Probably not, though, as there still are no indicators the team is interested in seeing him play.
Into the final four games of the year, here are a few things for which I am looking from Our Favorite Team:
-- Continued aggressive play from DB ROBERT BLANTON from the "slot." He has done wonderfully against JORDY NELSON and BRANDON MARSHALL the last two weeks and has been a slice of serendipity for the woebegone defense. Blanton, a physical, confident sort, has manned the "nickle" two of the last three games, and over the last trio we lead the league in third-down defense (23 percent). He absolutely has something to do with that.
-- Continued development from rookie CB XAVIER RHODES, who bats away passes when it seem he has been beaten. His arms are so long, and his physical ability is starting to mesh with his timing and instincts.
-- A burst from DL EVERSON GRIFFEN, who has had a down year and is not mashing the stats sheet during a contract year. I want Everson to show the bosses he's capable of changing games through the final quarter of the season and in doing so earning a right to be back here next year.
-- More chances for TE CHASE FORD. The 'Cane is fast and runs good routes. He may be a liability in the running game, but that's why we have RHETT ELLISON. Chase has a flair to him I like and the physical skills to make the team next year and help.
-- Continued chances for CORDARRELLE PATTERSON. The kid is full of swerve and only is getting better. Let's sweep with him, let's unfurl some double moves down the field and let's fade to him in the back corners of the end zone. He's playing a ton these days and will be a starter next season along with GREG JENNINGS and either JARIUS WRIGHT of offseason-move du jour.
-- More risk taking from 3-8-and-1. Onside kicks, a fake punt, a fake field goals and two-point conversion tries after TDs. Each team we play the rest of the way is battling for postseason berths or playoff positioning; let's give them much about which to think and in doing so will make it fun for our fan base.
Three-eight-and-one was a ton for fun. No pun, so don't shun, just enjoy the run until it's done.
So much from the OT win against Chicago. Mind is spinning and the locker room was joyous after the game because that was a fun-ass win against a division foe. #92Noon has much to share tomorrow, but let's start with these:
-- RHETT ELLISON'S facemask penalty on THE 'CANE when BLAIR WALSH nailed a walk-off winner. Seriously, never, ever have seen that one before. Good call by stripes, too, and it may have been Ellison blowing that late Chicago FG right with all that steam coming out of his ears. Crazy.
-- The Lions love us. We tied Green Bay and beat the Bears, and Detroit is a game ahead of the battered Bears in the NFCN standings and owns the tiebreaker given it swept Chicago this year. We did the Lions a solid today.
-- ROBBIE GOULD'S miss is what shocked me most. He was Fool's Gould, if only for a kick. He missed the game-winner right from 47, and he's one of the best kickers in the history of the game.
Gould only had missed one kick all year, hit from 58 against Cincy earlier this year, hand't missed from 50 or beyond in more than three years is is a career 86.4 percent guy, which is the second best in the history of the game. He had 11 walk-off winners but still has none against the Vikings.
Midway through OT after MATT FORTE ran it three times for 20 yards and down to our 33, I thought the bit was over and it was 2-9-and-1. Gould amazingly missed, though, and seven plays later Walsh walked off a winner for the third time in his career.
-- ALSHON JEFFERY'S game is one of the best I have called ever. He was killing CHRIS COOK before Chris got ejected. While rookie XAVIER RHODES was covering THEGREAT BRANDON MARSHALL one on one most of the game, Jeffery was amassing 249 yards and two TDs. The silver lining from that thrashing is even though Rhodes missed some tackles and got beat a few times he continued to improve and show he's capable of checking elite receivers by himself and continues to improve in a hurry. That was one of the most non-descript games Marshall ever has had against us, and Xavier had a lot to do with it.
-- ALL DAY 10K. ADRIAN scooted for 249 and now has more than 10,000 rushing yards. Nothing too surprising, though, because he's HOF-to-be, but that he's doing it with a groin injury is impressive.
Seriously, if his groin is right today it might have been a 300-yard game because there's no way CHRIS CONTE stops him that many times on the edge if Peterson is more healthy. We have run for almost 500 yards the last two games, and FELTON'S blocking at the end of the game was of the mash-on-man variety.
-- The Vikings have 56 first downs the last two games. Our third-down defense at one point was not only the worst in the NFL but nearly historically bad. The last two games, though, Green Bay and Chicago have combined to go 7-for-34, and the Vikings defense deserves credit for that.
The Vikings had 357 yards of offense after halftime. GREG JENNINGS had six catches, 76 yards and a TD once MATT CASSEL took over. Cassel and Jennings were at it again, just like at Wembley when they stole the show. Cassel enters, makes our best receiver a game-changer, and that's that.
-- BRIAN ROBISON has been our best defensive player this year and managed a sack -- his fifth of the year -- at a key time late in the game. As mentioned/written, I have been super impressed with his effort/approach all year, and he's worth every penny he received via the new deal earlier this season.
-- Draft position. I know, I know -- winning during a non-playoff year bugs some of you because it puts us farther away from the first pick in the draft. Fret not, though, if you want a QB -- I am sure there's some Eastern Illinois stud out there we can house, so enjoy the win and the fact your favorite team is a happy bunch right now.
-- AUDIE COLE. Unoffically nine more tackles today -- 27 the last two games -- and the MLB spot just might be his the rest of the year.
I am anticipating a high-scoring contest between the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings tomorrow at MOA Field. Our defense gives up more PPG (31.4) than any team in the NFL, and the Bears are missing tackles at an alarming rate and will be vulnerable via the passing game due to selling out to stop the run.
QB LUKE MCCOWN is on the best run of his career and just was 36-for-47 and 352 at St. Louis. His accuracy never has been better, and his passes are mostly on time. He has seven TDs, just one pick and personifies a journeyman, having spent four years with Arizona, one in Detroit, one in Oakland, two with Carolina and three with the Bears.
This needs to be a day our four-man rush thwarts McCown's desire to spread around the ball, and I am feeling a five-sack day from the Vikings.
I think tomorrow will provide a Vikings effort of which fans can be proud, a big lead achieved early and a win as the Bears come charging late. We'll see.
Here are some Bears-related bits that made the game-calling depth chart. Interesting team:
-- WR BRANDON MARSHALL obviously is elite. He averages 8 1/2 catches per game against the Vikings and has nine TDs this year. He went for 10-160-1 at MOA Field last year, the first of four Vikings wins to close the season. He caught seven for 113 and one versus us week two this year.
-- WR EARL BENNETT is coming off a career-high eight receptions at STL.
-- Two-fifth of Chicago's OL are rookies in RG KYLE LONG (first round, Oregon) and RT JORDAN MILLS (fifth round La. Tech.).
-- TE MARTELLUS BENNETT was virtually unguardable at Soldier Field week two. He went for 7-76 and two against us and caught the game-winner against broken coverage and very late in the game. He has five TDs this year.
-- WR ALSHON JEFFERY is having a terrific season. He set a Bears record with 218 yards against New Orleans and is averaging nearly 10 yards a run on 13 carries. He does, however, have just one TD his last six games.
-- The Bears average 27.5 PPG, fourth best in the NFL.
-- Marshall and Jeffery are the game's top receiving dup with 1,805 yards.
-- K ROBBIE GOULD always has been super clutch. His hit percentage of 86.3 is second best in NFL history. He hit from 58 versus Cincy earlier this year. Gould is 15 of 19 lifetime from 50 yards or more and has made 12 consecutive in that scenario. Gould has not missed from 50 and beyond since 2010. He has 11 walk-off winners and none against the Vikings.
-- FB TONY FIAMMETTA has played 45 games and never scored a TD.
-- McCown has five 300-yard games and one with the Bears. He only has been sacked six times.
-- RB MICHAEL BUSH is averaging 1.6 YPC and toted it twice against us week two for zero yards.
-- RB MATT FORTE had 161 total yards versus the Vikings week two and no TDs. He has 16 100-yard games in his career and the Bears are 15-1 when he crosses the 100-yard mark. His 1,265 yards from scrimmage are third most in the NFL. His 56 receptions are second most for RBs this year behind JAMMAL CHARLES.
-- The Bears are allowing an average if 197 RYPG the last five. STL went for 258 on the ground last week versus Chicago.
-- The Bears have allowed at least 199 RYPG three of the last five.
-- The Bears have allowed nine rushing TDs the last five games.
-- The Bears allow 28.5 PPG, tied for 28th.
-- The Bears are plus seven in the take-give and have scored five defensive TDs. They scored seven last year. They have 22 takes and are plus 28 on points off turnovers.
-- The Bears will be sans defensive starters/key subs LANCE BRIGGS, PEANUT TILLMAN, DJ WILLIAMS, HENRY MELTON and NATE COLLINS.
-- Rookie LB JON BOSTIC will be making his sixth start.
-- LB KHASEEM GREEN is Briggs' replacement and is a fourth-round rookie from Rutgers. He's making his second start.
-- DE SHEA MCCLELLIN is a second-year guy from Boise State best known for sacking AARON RODGERS on MNF and knocking him out for at least a month. He has three sacks that night and just one-half sack the rest of the year.
-- S MAJOR WRIGHT picked off PONDER at MOA Field last year and leads the Bears in tackles this year. He had an INT TD at Pittsburgh this year.
-- DE JULIUS PEPPERS has just four sacks this year and a FR TD at Pitt. He's in his 12th year from UNC.
-- DT JEREMIAH RATLIFF is expected to debut for the Bears after being cut by Dallas. He formally was known as Jay Ratliff and was a four-time PB for the Cowboys.
-- DT STEPHEN PAEA missed the STL game with a toe injury and is expected to play tomorrow. He has four TFL this year and is very tough to move.
-- OLB JAMES ANDERSON led the Bears with 13 tackles against the Vikings week two at Soldier Field.
-- CB TIM JENNINGS has two INT TDs this year, including one from Ponder from 44 yards.
-- Tillman's replacement ZAC BOWMAN spent the 2012 preseason with the Vikings.
-- KR/PR DEVIN HESTER has 19 return TDs, tied with DEION SANDERS for most in NFL lore. He has four versus the Vikings, three via punt. His last TD versus the Vikings came in 2011 on a 98-yard TD, his last KR TD. Week two at home he set a Bears record with 249 KR yards against Minnesota and had returns of 80, 76, 42 and 31 yards.