Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Season 13, Week 20

Week 20 is late! My usual digest writing time was taken up by me covering the rare Sunday matinee game and spending some time taking pictures of and talking to the lovely people at the annual Sitcks-n-Stitches event. More on that in the next post!

Do we really want to talk about last week? Yes. Even though things got off to a rocky start, Sunday's win was everything an old school Nashville hockey fan could hope for. But I'm getting ahead of myself, let's start at the beginning of the week...

You're A Mean One, Mister Nash
Nashville At Columbus February 22, 2011

This was one of those games that had Nashville fans everywhere in a state of shock, clutching a warming, sweaty beverage as friends who are nonfans patted them kindly on the shoulder and assured them that it was not the end of the world.

Its not even the end of the season. According to the Tao of Crisp: "It's just one game." True. But it's a game that Nashville had every reason to win. Even with the absence of Ryan Suter, Marcel Goc and Frances Bouillon, there is ample talent on the team to make facing off against the Bluejackets a much less dire undertaking than it turned out to be.

Chris Mason was quoted as saying, "We have to be patient with a team like this." Well, yeah. So do we here in Predsnation. Nashville has the fortitude and so much potential, it's just a question of all of the pieces coming together. The problem is, when you look back on a shutout like the one that happened in Columbus, you realise that you have to do better than just assuming that all you have to work with are three blown-out G.I. Joes*, a Stretch Armstong that has survived the mean twins across the street who love to say m**********r when your mom is at the other end of the house and the amorous advances of a neighbor's yorkie, two Breyer horses** and a hamster in a Habitrail Ball. If you're on the roster or wearing the windbreaker: NO! Nonononononono! As Shakespeare would say, "Mark this!" Nashville is absolutely ridden with talent. They just need, as Captain Arnottnomore (emeritus) once said, the mindset that they are an upper tier team.

Who worked hard? The usual stalwarts: Cody Franson, Pekka Rinne, Jerred Smithson Shane O'Brien, the Gold Dust Twins and a few others. Joel Ward and Jordin Tootoo have emerged as players who aren't afraid to intensify their roles as enforcers, screeners and pests. Nashville needs these guys and I applaud their choice to don the red overalls and get all Dennis Mitchell on the asses of the other team.

What I Like About You...
Chicago at Nashville February 24th, 2011

Okay, it was a shutout. Nashville was on the wrong side of the goose egg and by the end of the night they had temporarily dropped out of the dance and were languishing at tenth place. These things happen. Let's talk about who and what did work:  

Ryan Suter:  I'm not a fan of penalties.  The whole idea about "character over characters"? I'm fine with it.  Thing is, there needs to be someone who will broadcast that if you poke the quiet ones, you will cause the impact-triggered badass bags to release.  That person is usually Ryan Suter, who did not disappoint on Thursday, even if the schoolmarms in ugly shirts saw fit to send him to the sin bin.
Joel Ward: Screening and pestering, Ward rarely let Chicago goalie Corey Crawford have a moment of peace when he was on the ice.  He's been spending more time at the other team's net all season. On Thursday, Ward was not to be deterred from getting in the Beehawks pipesguy's grill.  

Colin Wilson and David Legwand:  Both players made herioc, no-holds-barred attempts to get a puck into the Blackhawks' net.  Even when the goalies and the officials told them, "No!" over and over again, these guys were the Energizer Bunnies, not giving an inch when they could help it.

Predator Love from the fans, and I'm especially talking to you, Adorable Little Boy in the KCF skybox!  Predsnation brought the noise and the energy to the 'Stone as they always do, especially when CHI is in the barn.  There was one standout fan who deserves some love for his contribution to the noise.  At one point while I was taking pictures of the game, I heard what sounded like a small child shrieking, "Go Pwedatows!  Go Pwedatows!" I looked around and saw mostly adults.  Hmm.  Was I hearing things?  As the action got closer to Pekka Rinne's net, I heard it again, "Go Pwedatows! Git 'im!  Git 'im! Go Pwedatows!"  accompanied by the sound of something hitting the wall just over my head. I looked up to see a cute little six-year-old boy with no front teeth leaning over the wall and gleefully yelling at the game below.  The closer the action came to his end of the arena, the more excited he got, slapping the wall, and screaming.  It didn't matter that it was second period and everyone else wanted the puck and the players to stay at the other end of the rink.  It didn't matter to him what the score was. It was all about seeing those ten-foot-tall guys flying towards him. 

What Would You Say?
Nashville at Dallas February 26th, 2011

Sweet lord.  Legwand, Wilson, Franson, Rinne and Suter owned the day as far as local stars were concerned.  What saved the day for the Stars was that beautiful, weird little wrister from Goligoski.  Eriksson might have made the winning goal, but the game was turned by Gogo.  Enough said.

Of course this means war...
Columbus at Nashville Sunday, February 27, 2011

As a preteen band geek in West Texas, I was fascinated by the continual jockeying for first chair that went on in the trombone section.  Dr. Lowell, the director, made a rule that everyone could issue one challenge a week to any chair, so there was a fair amount of shuffling around in every section except the trombones. No one had managed to unseat First Chair Boy, who sat smugly, secure of his place in the band.

Bear with me.  I have a point.

So one day the kid in the last chair, who had unsucessfully challenged the kid in the next to the last chair nearly every week for the first two months of school, told Dr. Lowell he wanted to issue a challenge.  Lowell figured he wanted to move up a chair or two and pointed towards one of the boys at the end of the row. 

The kid shook his head.

"I want that chair," he said, pointing to the first chair position.

Dr. Lowell tried to talk him out of going for first chair but Last Chair Kid wasn't hearing it. He would try for first chair or he would just go back and down in his last chair position. Dr. Lowell gave him an encouraging pat and nodded towards First Chair Boy, who stood up and played a beautiful piece from Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue". 

Last Chair Kid blinked, pushed his glasses up his nose, flipped open his lyre, and played an excerpt from Copland's "Fanfare For The Common Man".  Flawlessly.

Dr. Lowell smiled at Last Chair Kid and told him to go get his case while motioning to First Chair Boy to scoot over a seat.

First Chair Boy yelped and was immediately shushed.

"Son?" Dr Lowell leveled a stern look at him. "You don't ever turn your back on somebody who has been getting his butt kicked over and over.  At some point, they're gonna kick back and you don't want it to be at you.  Now move your stuff over."

So Columbus came to Nashville, expecting "Three Blind Mice", broken notes and playing that fell flat.  The didn't count on the cumulative effect that three straight losses can have. They didn't see that they were going from taunting bullies to fresh meat balanced on blades, ready for delectation as time and inclination would permit.

They didn't expect this to happen, not once, but three times.

Like First Chair Boy, they made the mistake of assuming that Nashville would know its place and there would be no contest.

They were mistaken.

Nashville had spent the past week taking a drubbing from teams that were not half as good.  Teams that could not have done nearly as well if faced with the challenges that the Predators had faced over the season. 

March was two days away.

It was time to either decide the season was worth fighting for or let the Bluejackets possibly walk away with much needed points. At that point, the Predators decided they were not going to take a return engagement with Columbus lying down.

They fought hard.  Pekka Rinne told Columbus, "Ei!" time and again, stopping 27 of 29 shots that came his way. 

Suter, O'Brien and Legwand refused to take no for an answer. 

Pat the Bear roared.

When instructed to leave the ice with a bloody face, Weber pretty much told the referees*** they'd have to carry him off skates first. And then it was over.  Call it a hissy fit.  Call it having courage of one's convictions. What can't be argued was the fact that his teammates had his back on Sunday afternoon.

The proof, the test of mettle for Nashville was what was on the ice and what was on the scoreboard when the final buzzer sounded.  The score was two to three in favour of Nashville.

This is Jas Faulkner, who is feeling happy to be a part of Predsnation and hopes everyone else is as well. I'll be seeing you at the 'Stone and the 'Plex and online at Facebook and Twitter!

*one with Kung Fu grip, one without...

**Misty and Stormy of Chincoteague, for daydream-addled little girls who loved Lisa Frank unicorns and all things horsey, they were the shit.

***One of whom held up the game for almost ten minutes talking to his pretend girlfriend in Toronto where she was, uh, in, um, college.  Yeah!  That's it!  She's studying archaeology at U of T!  Hang on. Booboo, I'm in the middle of a game...

all text and images copyright 2011 Jas Faulkner any use of images and/or text from this blog without written permission is prohibited.  Violators will be flailed and set upon by my mean sumbitch New York lawyer. 

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