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published Sunday, December 18th - 12:18pm

And there's another thing that drives me crazy about the NHL: Every game is reviewed as a morality play, with more attention paid to the perception of a team's effort than the actual result.

If you were to ask hockey zealots to identify the hardest-working athletes in team sports, they would answer: "Hockey players, of course.''

Yet, we need a full discussion from the coach, the participants and the reporters as to whether a team offered A) an inspired effort, or B) an inadequate effort, after every game.

It's a rare occasion that the analysis of an NHL game is that the other team won. Your club either showed extreme energy and didn't get the result it deserved, or your club had a game for the taking and didn't give a proper effort.

The Wild was in St. Paul for two games this week:

On Wednesday night, the Wild lost 4-3 to the Chicago Blackhawks in a shootout. They came back from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to get a regulation tie and the NHL's chintzy consolation point for an extra-time defeat.

The players were lauded by all as a group that never quits - a team dealing both with injuries and the fact it had played a fast-paced game the previous night in Winnipeg and yet able to fiht back against the talented Chicago lads.

"It sucks that we don't get two points, but this is a win for me,'' coach Mike Yeo said. "As far as I'm concerned, that's a win for our guys.''

On Saturday night, faced with more injuries, the Wild lost 2-1 in a shootout to the New York Islanders. This time, Cal Clutterbuck scored in the third period to give the Wild a regulation tie.

Were these still the players that never quit? Nope. To hear the coach tell it, they were basically a bunch of lollygaggers that had slept through two periods and didn't really deserve the consolation point.

"We had no business being in that game after two periods,'' Yeo said. "We got one point because of [goalie Niklas Backstrom]. The last game [Chicago] was a shootout loss that felt like a win. This was a shootout loss that felt like a loss.''

Yeo said that "urgency and desperation'' were lacking from the Wild's game.

These reviews go on all season: A couple of games you're warriors, then you're an embarrassment to athletic competition.

Can't we ever have an NHL game where the theme isn't "effort?'' I mean, if hockey players are the hardest-working participants to be found in team sports, why isn't effort taken for granted and the review from the coach, the players and the reporters centers on who did what to determine the outcome?

All season long: We deserved more. We deserved less.

What a bunch of endless nonsense. It's competition. You deserve what you get.