I work with a sports geek, and it is so handy. Boyd is my “hockey Cliffs Notes;” whenever I want the shorthand on a game, I ask Boyd, who is somehow able to hold all the statistics, player and team histories in his head, and then distill them into a cogent analysis at the drop of a hat. Hooray for Boyd!
So I asked him about the game tonight. Here’s the words straight from the Sports Sensei, though he made sure to note that, with nothing televised, he’s relying on the radio and box scores (Boyd has his reputation to uphold!).
“The Blues are where Chicago was last year,” he says. “They’re an up and coming team, scrappy with young talent.” Erik Johnson, our local boy from Bloomington (who has the uncommon distinction of being one of the few Americans chosen first in the NHL entry draft), plays with the Blues. “They’re a nice young team,” Boyd says. “They’re a better team than people give them credit for.”
The Blues made the playoffs last year — third in the division and sixth in Western Conference. Besides our boy Erik and other youngsters, they have seasoned veterans Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk.
The Wild have won at home and lost on the road (though as we’ve noted before, the road teams have been mostly Aeros). Boyd thinks Martin Havlat is looking good, “but I’d like to see more [Petr] Sykora, see what kind of a role he’s playing and how he’s fitting in since we got him from Pittsburgh.”
Wild head coach Todd Richards’ new offensive strategy seems successful, Boyd notes. “I think [Benoit] Pouliot is really going to blossom under the new system,” he says. Why wasn’t Pouliot used more under former head coach Jacques Lemaire? “Scuttlebutt is that Lemaire didn’t like Pouliot’s work ethic and attitude,” Boyd says, noting that his more aggressive style will benefit the team’s new system. “We need a strong center.”
“I think the Wild players will respond to Richards’ more aggressive play,” Boyd thinks, “Lemaire was kind of reining them in, but you could see at the end of last season when he just relaxed and said, ‘Go ahead.’ Everybody thought the Wild were done, but then suddenly they started scoring all these goals and we had a good end to the season. So I think the team can do it, and I think they’re ready to do it.”
But the more offensive strategy — and no longer having defense camped out on the blue line a la Lemaire– means we’ll have more breakaways. “And we need solid goaltending to handle that,” Boyd says. “It’s a really good thing we didn’t trade Harding — when you’re more offensive, you need a top flight goalie back there, somebody you know has a really good chance of stopping the breakaways.”