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.

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