Sunday, February 20, 2011

Nashville Predators Digest Season 13, Week 19 (or so)

In some ways, this trio of games was an even bigger test of the team and their fans' mettle than the huge ups and downs that marked the first two weeks of February. Even though there were more wins and losses, the crowd never faded into the background, with the Seventh Man reporting for duty at every game regardless of the score, the weather or inability of the Vancouver media to win over the hearts and minds of the natives with their trenchant wit.*

This was a week for sweet reunions and one noticable non-return.  Vern Fiddler would make an appearance wearing Desert Dogs laundry, Jordin Tootoo would make a triumphant re-emergence on Saturday night. On the other hand, Vancouver's Dan Hamhuis decided to stay home.

Sometimes You're The Windshield, Sometimes You're The Bug
San Jose at Nashville  February 15th, 2011

I would love to write that the Big Cats had a nice fish dinner on the fifteenth, but the truth is that Trotz's Hockey Gods must have been otherwise engaged because even though the team brought the smart and the tough, the Sharks eventually outshot and just plain outplayed them on Tuesday. 

The stats, which look pretty bland, only reveal part of the story. First period saw the Predators playing head games with EssJay Goalie, Anti Niemi.  Scrums at the Sharks' net included chirps and growls from the Cats and even a shove to the chest from Joel Ward.**. This was answered in the second period with a spray of Bridgestone Snow from the blades of Jumbo Joe to a kneeling Pekka Rinne's face.  Had the referees not been quick with the whistles and their bouncers' holds, it could have gotten ugly.

The objective from San Jose in general and Patrick Marleau in particular seemed to be to wear down Pekka Rinne. As hard is it might be, he finally found a chink in Great Wall of Finland.  With each team scoring a single goal in regulation time, it was San Jose who scored the winning netter in overtime.

Are You BLuuuuuuuuuuuuuu? Are You BLuuuuuuuuuuu?
Vancouver at Nashville February 17th, 2011

This was one of those games that looked like it was being run though a hand-cranked projected that was manned by someone with ADHD who was holding a spectacularly app-packed smart phone. The pace felt off for most of the night. Part of this could be attributed to the continally shifting lines. 

Though this was borne more of necessity with the growing list of injured players, it had the right effect on the Canucks who were sufficiently thrown off of their game to cede three goals to the Big Cats.  The Sedin Brothers' single puck behind The Great Wall of Finland felt more like a saving grace to a bad night for Vancouver than the hope that they'd leave Bridgestone with a win. 

Like Cats and Dogs
Phoenix at Nashville  February 19th, 2011

This longtime Predators fan wanted to see Verne Fiddler take at least one trip to the penalty box. It's not that I dislike Fids.  Far from it. He was one of my favorite Preds when he was here. It's just that I miss seeing him do what I call "The Vern Fiddler Dance of Denial".

Saturday also saw the return of Jordin Tootoo, who is easing back into his role as enforcer. Even though his ice time was rather limited, the sound of the Tootoo Train at BeeStone was a familiar, welcoem part of the Predators experience.   Did he get into a fight his first night back?  No.  But that doesnt mean there weren't plenty of those happening.  More on that in a bit.

For those of you who like your hockey with a side of shenanigans, there was plenty of that to go around on Saturday night. From the goal that wasn't to the questionable call on O'Brien that gave the Pooches the chance to hike their collective leg exactly when Nashville didn't need it; Predsnation had plenty of reason to keep the "Ref, you SUCK!" chant*** going for most of the night. 

For all of the fights and drama, there were some high points as well.  The rapid-fire duo of goals scored by Phoenix was quickly answered with a puck planted squarely in the Coyotes' net by the Gelfing.

Nashville's second goal was scored after an eleventh hour time-out and huddle with Coach Trotz at Nashville's bench.

  It could have been scripted by the Touchstone people as a template for Predators Classic Hockey.  Shea Weber let loose the cannon with assists by Erat and Honrqvist.  This was followed by the sellout crowd of seventeen thousand plus erupting in a cheer that seemed to make every inch of Bridgestone rattle and hum. 

When the crowd still comes to their feet, even when you lose as the Predators did, you know you've spent the night watching a good game.  And that, my friends, is what Nashville hockey looks like.

This has been Jas Faulkner who is  looking forward to another visit from Chelsea Dagger's boyfriend next week. Until then, I'll see you at the 'Stone and the Plex and online at Facebook and Twitter.

* Sarcastic?  Moi?

**Yes, you read that right, it was Joel Ward. He's like the guy you want to introduce to your cute single niece and then the puck drops...  That's hockey, people.

***My inner girl scout always flinches a little at the liberal use of  "sucks" at the 'Stone, but I couldn't have agreed with the crowd more when it came to the officiating on 2/19.

pictures and article copyright 2011 Jas Faulkner  Any use of either without express written permission will be dealt with in a swift and draconian manner, so do the wise thing than take your finger off the right mouse button.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Vern Fiddler Brings His Own Special Brand of Magical Interpretive Dance Back To Nashville

On Saturday night hockey fans in Nashville will be flocking to Bridgestone Arena to see some hockey and hopes are high that old school Predators fans will get a glimpse of a familiar sight on ice: The Vern Fiddler Dance of Denial. 

While Fiddler, who was a member of the Predators roster before signing on with Phoenix in 2009, was known for a number of things during his days in Nashville, he is remembered most fondly by some fans* for what came to be known as the "Vern Fiddler Dance of Denial."  The dance has been decribed as a pas de deux between Fiddler and whatever official is trying to wave him into the penalty box.  Once he is whistled down, Fiddler expresses his existential angst by denying the existence of penalties in his world.  The whistles are annoyances, pokes from a pedestrian civilisation that fails to recognise a tender soul who wants to fly.  As with any otherworldly creature who tries to break free from the bonds of this sad, sad world, he is soon grounded and skates slowly, dejectedly to the box, still seemingly unaware of the transgression that put him there in the first place.

While video footage of the dance was not available at press time, there was a rare audio feed of Fiddler preparing for a performance.  The quality was questionable, so here is a transcript of the event:

Fiddler (skating to the bench): So I gotta go to this pavement hockey thing in Hendersonville and..what's his problem.

Legwand: I think the ref is trying to get your attention, Fids.

Fiddler: Naah.  So lemme ask ya, have you been to... Buddy? Do you have a crush on me or something?

Legwand:  You sure you're not the one with the penalty?

Fiddler: Naah.  He probably wants Toots.

Tootoo: I've been sitting on the bench for the last five minutes.

Fiddler: Maybe it's a delayed penalty, Jordin.

Coach Trotz:  Fiddler!  For goodness sake GO TO THE PENALTY BOX!

Fiddler: All right.  If it will make everyone happy...

*Okay,  I might be the only one.

copyright 2011 Jas Faulkner

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Truth About Shea Weber (and Zdeno Chara and the Sedins and…)


Okay, I’m going to cut to the chase here. You know that gathering in Raleigh? You think it’s all about the cream of the crop of the NHL and the something someting of victory and the whatsawhosis of defeat? No. This is where all of the aliens who have come down here to observe us get together to compare notes.

That’s right. Chara? Ovechkin? Those damned Staal kids? They’re all from a galaxy far, far way.

Think about it, are humans really able to hit pucks in excess of 100 mph? Ovechkin sometimes forgets the to obey the laws of physics. And for goodness sake, who do the Sedins think they’re fooling? The surgical precision of their play on the ice, the fact that they really aren’t THAT identical…come on. Rub their foreheads and you’ll see the the makeup gives way to shiny, clear exoskeletons housing pulsing blue and green brains.

That brings us to Shea Weber. You see, he comes from a verdant but cold planet called Skwiiiii that is inhabited by tiny, hamster-like creatures with huge eyes who operate a global collective where they play ice games and raise millet.
Actually, they look more like tarsiers.

Their currency is a marshmallow-like substance called Jirlo. Their primary forms of communication are blinks and whisker twitches.The Skwiiiiikans thought long and hard about how they wanted their emissary to Earth to look and act. They pored over the information from the Voyager Project Record and recorded TMC satellite transmissions they found at Kagarg Interplanetary Library and Hummus Bar until they came up with the perfect amalgam of sampled earth specimens to create the image they wanted:

Alley Oop

Jimmy Stewart
Dudley Doo-Right.

With these new physical attributes in place, they embedded him in Nashville, where he was to eventually become the mission leader.

But…but…you may be asking yourself , “Is Shea Weber’s name in Skwiiiiikan actually ‘Shea Weber’?”
Here’s how they decided on the name: They were recording music from the library and came upon a theme song they loved. Unbeknownst to them, over the light years of travel, he transmission had gotten slightly garbled, so here’s what they heard:
Theme from SHEA!
Who’s the guy with the stick,
He’s a slapshot machine the goalies duck?
Ya damn right!
Who is the man that would risk his neck
For his teammate?
Can you dig it?
Who’s the Cat that won’t cop out
When there’s Blackhawks all about?
Right On!
They say this Cat Shea is a bad mother
I’m talkin’ ’bout Shea.
He’s a complicated man
But no one understands him
But his brother and sister Skwiiiiikans

The Skwiiiiikan high council was not aware of his special power of the slap shot until 2009 when he nearly outshot Zdeno Chara at the ASG skills competition. (Chara is not a Skwiiiiikan, maybe I’ll tell you about his home planet some day. Or not.) Then there was the Olympic shot that burned through Germany’s net. Relations have just now normalised between Skwiiiii and Burgoo, the planet of origin of Germany’s goalie, so he’s treading a little more carefully these days. This also explains the drop in speed at the ’11 skills competition. Shea, being a thoughtful Skwiiiiikan, did not want to hurt Chara’s feelings. When it was time for him to make final shot, he took his foot off the gas, so to speak. It wasn’t really about Chara being better, it was all about keeping interplanetary peace.
The end.
Or is it?

copyright 2011 Jas Faulkner 

Nobody Puts Ovi In The Corner

News of P!nk’s impending motherhood may have sidetracked Julie Taymor’s remix of “Grease”, but it isn’t stopping Alexander Ovechkin from spending time in front of the cameras during the postseason break. Taymor’s film was to go into preproduction next month and would have featured the Washington Capitals star as Sasha, a sweet, virginal Russian exchange student whose summer romance with a tough-talking Dani Zuko seems to be nothing more than a hot weather fling until Ovechkin shows up at Rydell High and hilarity ensues. It looks like everyone involved will have to wait until P!nk has the time and inclination to hear Ovi utter the classic line, “Tell me about it, stud!”

Earlier this week, the Coen Brothers announced that they have their own late 20th Century retread in the works. “Dirty Dancing” will start production sometime in late June. While there are still parts to be cast, the identities of the actors filling the lead roles have been revealed. “Baby”, the role that was originally played by Jennifer Grey will by played by Alexander Ovechkin.

In this version of the 80s classic, Sasha “Baby” Ovechkin, the overprotected youngest member of the Ovechkin clan, goes on vacation with his family to their dasha at a rural Russian resort. They plan to get some rest and relaxation while Baby decides if he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and step in as the head of the family busines, a distributor of fine canned food weasels, or if he wants to pursue his dream of running a zamboni rental hut in Saskatoon.

Feeling very under the thumb of his oppressive Matushka and Otets, he has almost given up on his dream when he encounters tough-talking Jonnie Castle, one of the dancers hired by the resort’s management company to provide entertainment for the guests over the summer. As Johnnie, Reba McIntire stated that she plans to make her interpretation of the role a tribute to the late Patrick Swayze. Her character will harken back to his Texas roots.

“Johnnie will be the kind of woman who never lives a quiet life. She goes big or she stays home.”

In an official statement to the press, the Coen Brothers have confirmed their own enthusiam for the project. “We couldn’t be more excited about working with Alex and Reba. We think the audience will laugh, cry and cheer as Reba escorts Alex into full-grown manhood and shows him how and when to use jazz hands.”

The movie is due for a Christmas, 2011 release, with Blu-rays and a handfull of DVDs hitting the shelves on Boxing Day.

copyright 2011 Jas Faulkner

Every Time Sidney Crosby Is Sad, A Kitten Dies

The only noise in the room was the whirr and hum of automatic camera shutters opening and snapping shut. On the dias, NHL Commisioner Gary Bettman paced as a seated Pittsburgh Head Coach Dan Bylsma looked like he wanted to be anywhere else in the world but where he was. Penguins Captain and NHL Spokesface Sidney Crosby talked animatedly to the stuffed penguin he was bouncing in his lap.

Bettman sighed, rubbed his eyes and then stepped to the podium.

“I have called this press conference today to express my displeasure with the NHL.”

The room fell silent. Members of the press stood frozen, poised to capture the revelation that was sure to come from the NHL’s most controversial capo.

“Please. Please. Hold your questions. It seems,” he paused to take a breath. “It seems that someone has been mean to Sidney. I don’t want to name names and I haven’t looked at the game reels. All I know is, when he came back to the locker room after playing, he had a lump on his little noggin, a nasty bruise and, well, he just hasn’t been himself.”

Everyone looked at Crosby, who was kissing the stuffed penguin and humming.

Bettman cleared his throat. “So all I’m asking, and guys, it really isn’t that much, is for everyone to be nice to Sidney.”

The room was silent. Bylsma lowered his face into his cupped palms. Sidney raised his hand.

“When I feel sad? I eat kittens!” Sidney cocked his head to one side and grinned.

“No he doesn’t!” Bettman quickly interjected.

“Yes I do.” Sidney looked confused.

Bettman strode to the right hand side of the platform and opened the door.

“Matt!” he shouted, “Please come clear the media lounge.”

No other information is available about Bettman’s thoughts at this time as the only audio and video feeds after that showed reporters fleeing the room.

copyright 2011 Jas Faulkner