The bottom line was the score, four to three in favor of the Predators, but the rest of the story was what made for compelling watching.
The Great Wall of Finland held off the usual suspects from The City of Brotherly Love in spite of a number of missteps from the normally dependable lines. Avoidable turnovers, missed chances, sticks that hit the mark just a beat too late and the usual logy feeling that can sometimes hit after a west coast road trip plagued the forwards. Pekka Rinne got the much deserved first star of the game last night to go along with the third star of the NHL overall he was awarded last week . To everyone who groused about his contract renewal/extension thingie a couple of weeks ago: Hush.
The other stars of the game were Martin Erat and some guy on the other team. Okay, it was Daniel Briere, but I have another name in mind for that star. More on that in a minute. Erat did what he does best and I’m not talking about making commercials where he reads to little kids and gets medieval on vending machines. He added a sweet coda to the three goals that were delivered courtesy of Tootoo, Hamhuis and Smithson with a coup de grace in the shootout that sent the Flyers out of Bridgestone in vain search of a decent comfort steak and cheese hoagie. The mitigating factor for fans who were feeling some sympathy for Rinne being caught in the game that wouldn’t end had to be the prospect of hearing that internal Mortal Combat command to “Finish Him!” as Erat skated into place for his turn at Boucher’s net fu.
The remaining star should have gone to the Seventh Man. Denizens of Prednation in attendance got the message fairly quickly that the Boys were facing two sets of opponents on the ice: the Flyers and the officials. Constant viewers will attest that their presence is most obvious when Tootoo hits the ice and the Tootoo Train whistles cause dogs all over Middle Tennessee to bark madly. Last night their protests of missed calls that would’ve had Stevie Wonder saying, “Wait a minute”* were loud and lasting and sent a message that the coaches might be zen about the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that seem to hit anyone wearing Mustard and Blue with uncanny frequency, but the fans weren’t having it.
Let’s hope their taste for win grows as it comes down to a game of inches, minutes, wins and points. They won by a hair** last night, but they need to shift back into gear for the challenges to come.
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* A stick inserted in Arnott’s skate and Hartnell picking up Legwand by the scruff of his neck and bupkis from the Men in Ugly Shirts? Especially when they saw fit to send Hamhuis to the Hamster Ball for two minutes for what as essentially an accident and Tootoo netted a major for fighting in first period? Girl, please…