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OPEN: P.A. AND CHARCH 'FEASTING
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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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LATE APRIL B&B ...
Minnesota vs. Chicago – NHL Playoffs!
I am all wound up. Clompage coming from all angles, personally and professionally. Much on my mind and heart. Here goes:
-- Awesome win by the Wild yesterday. Hearing again Blackhawks have another gear they will hit and we need to be concerned. Heard same thing after game one and, indeed, we couldn't match strides in game two, which went pear-shaped.
Hey, Speedy 'Hawks, we don't care about your "new gear" or "wake-up calls" or vibe. We are an eight seed, were nearly 5-to-1 'dogs into the series and are inches from being up 2-1 in this sucker. You, too, are inches from being up 3-0 -- I get it -- so let's play the games and see where your '27 Yankees status takes you.
Anything else we can do for you, by the way? Starting goalie out 15 minutes before game one, HEATLEY not there to grind in front of the net, POMINVILLE not sounding better in FM, calling up guys from Houston who haven't played much with us of late? Every facet of your team supposedly is better than ours so let's see you steal the commanding lead in the series tomorrow night and assert dominance. This game will be a typical meatgrinder between Minnesota and Chicago -- most are one-goal affairs -- and if we pull the upset it's more than on; it becomes anybody's series.
... CHRIS KLUWE RELEASED: Had the punter on the 9-to-Nooner 30 minutes after he tweeted a goodbye bit. I understand why they released him and in patented SPIELMAN fashion he's taking a stand. That's what he does -- he makes big moves and sticks by them (PONDER pick, cutting TONY RICHARDSON, letting WINFIELD slip away, trading PERCY, KALIL over CLAIBORNE, JARED ALLEN trade, etc.).
When the UCLA kid was drafted it was lights out for Chris. He has played here for nearly a decade and leaves owning all the franchise's most significant punting records. Statistically ,he is the greatest punter in team lore. Rick is making a move like he did last year with LONGWELL out and WALSH in. And until HAUSHKA became injured end of the season in Seattle, sadly Ryan was on the street. Remember the theme -- Rick wants to get young and stay good. That's what this is.
Chris had an average season last year, some of his numbers are on the decline and from a directional punting standpoint they think they can do better with the fifth-round selection. The decision is an incomplete until we play the games, just like everybody's offseason moves. That's in part why I refuse to grade teams off drafts because until they play the games we have no idea how new players will impact the game. Same with the new punter here.
I very much enjoyed Chris's company and unique look at life. His outspoken nature never bugged me, I enjoyed his prose and never felt it was a team-wide distraction. The guy set all the Vikings records while playing bass and/or video games until 4 a.m. many days of the week. He's off injury, into the final year of his deal and Spielman trusts the rookie more than Chris with a bunch of outdoor games coming the next three years. As usual, I hope he's right.
... VIKES ROOKIE CAMP: I am excited CORDARRELLE PATTERSON is on our team and hope he is a scholar of the game and learns all the plays so they become second nature. His after-catch moves are quite wonderful and it was a treat to watch him this weekend at Winter Park.
A guy who is in a wonderful spot if good enough is CB RODERICK WILLIAMS, who last played for Edmonton in the CFL. He's charismatic and was a star in the CFL. BRANDON BROWNER, who also back in the day was a CFL stud, starts at CB for Seattle after years in the minors, but Williams is not nearly as stout or big as him.
Not sure off this week's camp whether Williams can play in the NFL, but he's fiesty, those I trust like him and with COOK, RHODES, ROBINSON, new guy and former Colt JACOB LACEY and SHERELS there might be a job to be won. My guess is Robinson becomes the "nickle" and plays inside or closest to the line of scrimmage. I trust Josh will improve off his rookie year and he had a pretty good start to the season last year.
I'd make Cook, Rhodes and Robinson favored to play the most, but this spry Williams may jump into the race starting at mandatory camp middle of next month, and that will be fun to follow during training camp/preseason games.
This is the third time this week have I written about PSU LB MIKE MAUTI. Add to the fact I interviewed him for 10 minutes on "Vikings Tonite" last night and briefly met him today at the end of the 3 p.m. practice, yeah, one could say I am rather obsessed with the player/story.
Mauti is the guy off three ACL surgeries, yet after two last year managed to produce numbers requisite of the best LBs in the Big 10. His PSU teammate GERALD HODGES was running around making plays, and as a fourth-round selection has a big chance to win the starting OLB job. While Hodegs was executing his toil, Mauti stood off on the side, rather silent, and listened closely to the teachings of LB coaches FRED PAGAC and MIKE SINGLETARY.
You could tell Mauti hated being an injured bystander. He has to, right? Seriously, the kid was making splashy plays in the Big 10 last year and now has to watch undrafted guys from obscure schools run around in search of a longshot chip, chair and chance.
Mike Mauti is an impressive looking human being, one who looks the part of a stud MLB. He's stout in the upper body, seems to have long arms and looks like he belongs. He's considered a longshot to play significant downs in the NFL given the series of knee injuries, but I very much am pulling for him and know i my heart he has the cliched "it" to make it in the NFL.
Mauti played 30 snaps in the Rose Bowl as a true freshman, had a game later in his PSU career against Alabama and amassed 13 tackles and two PBUs in the big-spot game and was approaching 100 tackles last year when he was chop blocked in a game versus Indiana. That was his season dagger.
Get lucky, kid.
Elsewhere from the Rookies Camp scene:
-- Holy Cross TE ALEX SCHNIEDER introduced himself to me.
AS: "I am a big fan of the 'FAN and your show."
ME: "Well arent't you a kind young man. What's your story."
AS: "I played at St. Thomas Academy, went to Holy Cross and now I am here."
ME: "STA? Were you on those teams that lost in the 'dome in heart-smashing fashion? You guys couldn't just lose the big games, they had to come right down to the wire and kids ended up crying."
AS: "I was one of them."
Schneider is a very nice kid and at 6-foot-7 an impressive figure. Shoot, I forgot to ask him about Holy Cross hockey from back in the day. Sorry Gophers fans, my bad.
-- CORDARRELLE PATTERSON looks the part. I see what they see. He's smooth, fast and elusive. He also was opposite CB XAVIER RHODES a couple of times and I loved how they competed to beat each other and how aggressive they were with each other at the line of scrimmage.
Rhodes looks good in uniform. When I first met him at BWW MOA his build didn't look like anything special. In uniform he's big and tenecious. I liked what I saw from him today.
The whole thing is one big incomplete until we get to training camp and play preseason games. The high-enders like Patterson need PONDER, ADRIAN, JENNINGS and the gang to get up to speed, and Rhodes needs to jam CALVIN JOHNSON before we know what he can do. Talent-wise and physically speaking, Patterson and Rhodes are very impressive.
Image courtesy of @JimmyKnutson
Plenty of noise today from Chicago that the Blackhawks got the "eye-opener" they needed to jumpstart a sweep. Even heard it a tad locally, too. Dohkay. I know, I know ... top seed, Speedy 'Hawks, HOSSA, KANE, TOEWS et al. I get it. I saw it last night and thought it was good.
The belief seems to be these Blackhawks have another gear they will use and speed by the Minnesota Wild like BICKELL by RUPP. They will improve and we cannot possibly, right, because we are a lowly eight seed?
I say "whatever." The defensive execution by the Wild last night was terrific and the blocked shots were impressive. Minnesota brought it defensively, kept the Blackhawks well under their GPG average in regulation and also forced OT and almost won sans BACKSTROM and POMMINVILLE.
I happen to think both teams played very well last night and don't see why the Wild cannot be a team to take a jump and improve for it was the visitior hitting the crossbar to win it (ZUCKER) and also sniping in OT (PARISE from dead center) to house the prize.
Not sure what to think about the goalie situation and it's hard to say JOSH HARDING can play as well again. Chicago's goalie CRAWFORD got a little shaky at times and has a reputation for folding this time of the year. We amassed 27 shots and need even more to put him in compromising situations. Can't just shoot to shOot, though, because these Speedy 'Hawks will saunter the other way and jack with the tempo.
D RYAN SUTER played 41 minutes and Chicago much better balanced its TOI for its defenders and that will take its toll on the Wild as the series winds away. Suter is such a stud, though, and was going along well very late in the game.
Like game one I expect a wonderful second game and don't envision any blowouts in the series. I still feel Minnesota wins at least two games and had a glorious chance to steal one last night. That was a huge loss, and when the radio show is at the X tomorrow for a penalty box show we'll try to gauge the pulse of a team that has to know it let one slip away.
... VIKINGS: Taped an interview with seventh-round LB MIKE MAUTI, the kid from Penn State. He's the cat I wrote about the other day who may be the utlimate wildcard from our draft. By all accounts when healthy Mike can be a stone-cold stud, but he has absorbed three ACL injuries since 2009, including one late 2012 in a game against Indiana.
I asked Mauti what his expectations were for this season wth the Vikings and he sounds like he wants to win a starting role. He's a longshot but it's not like ILB for us is making the Niners blush. He's an interesting story in that he already twice has overcome ACL tears to play well, his dad played seven years in the NFL and before the draft he sent personal letters to all 32 GMs proclaiming his desire, improving health and hopes to be drafted.
He and his PSU teammate GERALD HUGHES will be interesting to watch because there's a starting job open around here for a LB and the race is on.