by Jas Faulkner, Nashville Correspondent
The week was pretty much one long homestand, but it was also rich in opportunities to do some armchair, well, actually rinkside traveling. From a nightmare trip through a tougher neighborhood in Los Angeles to the heady fun of St. Patrick’s day as celebrated in Ireland and Boston to Detroit, where emotions ran high and the arena ran red with Wings Faithful.
Let’s Get Physical!
LAK @ NSH March 15, 2011
The Ides of March proved to be cruel to the Predators. They may have outshot the Kings and played hard; but LA’s purple royalty was just that much faster and seemed to follow the Gretzky princple. They were everywhere the puck was going to be.
Ten minutes into First Period, what was beginning to look like an unbroken series of wind sprints from net to net was interrupted when Kopitar managed to get the puck past Nashville’s Rinne with the help of new acquisition Dustin Penner. Six minutes later, Jonathan Blum answered Andre Kopitar’s goal with a lamplighter of his own.
As the evening wore on, it became increasingly evident that this was not going to be the back and forth exchange of goals that marked most of the last two weeks of games for Nashville. Los Angeles added two more goals durng Second Period. Nashville would not score again until J-P Dumont found the back of the net with the assistance of Cody Franson at the twelve minute mark in Third.
As a night at Bridgestone goes, it was good hockey: tough, fast and physical without anyone leaving the rink feet first. The soundtrack of the evening was frequently punctuated by the sounds of bodies being slammed against the dasher boards.
Shouts from the ice could be heard in the stands as the extremely locquacious Kings called to each other and were eventually joined by shouted instructions between Nashville teammates. There was the final period and then there were the final two minutes. They felt like independently delineated spans of time. It was by turns exiting and heart rending as Nashville fought hard to try to gain some of the ground they had lost against the Kings.
Hockey brawls usually come in two varieties. Some people fight because they love to fight and when they encounter someone else with that same bent, they’ll fight for a while an then seperate, grinning like bad boys as they’re led to the penalty box.
Other people fight because of bad blood against a particular player or because the sight of certain sweaters give them the instinctual urge to start swinging. Tuesday night’s fights against the Kings might superficially fall into the second category, but it looked like they were fighting against so much more than just the other team.
They were fighting the clock. They were fighting the circumstances. They were fighting the rules. They were fighting that collective inner critic who was second-guessing why they were even out there. It was heartbreaking to watch.
When a team loses, especially after being on the cusp of a hot streak the way Nashville was, there are usually a hand full of clear reasons why. Many of the components of what makes for a good night in Nashville were out there. Kevin Klein and Patric Hornqvist pestered the other team’s goaltender. Pekka Rinne was often flanked by Weber and Suter. O’Brien, Franson, Dumont and Wilson brought speed and aggression between the lines. It just seemd that no one was ever quite at the right place at the right time. It was hockey loss by misandventure at a time when such things are critical to staying alive for the playoffs.
BOS @ NSH March 17th, 2011
Certain locations can transport a person to somewhere else just by dint of the people or conditions that populate and surround them. For instance, there used to be a lovely Eastern Orthodox reading room and cafe near Vanderbilt called Alektor. The oustide looked like a nice old house. Inside it was lined with bookshelves and icons and art from Russia. The smell of cloves, tea, coffee and incense wafted through the rooms. The warm welcome from Father Parthenos and his wife, Jessie, made every visit feel like a homecoming to some place you don’t know by experience or intellect, but by spirit.
The outside of Bridgestone looks like every other sunbelt arena, but descending the stairs to event level beyond the media entrance always takes me to a place that is a combination of Canada on the Cumberland, where it’s always cold, the accents indicate their owners have gotten their RDA of Vitamin Eh and someplace where my fathers’ generation’s brand of sports love still exists in the shared tall tales that are too outlandish not to have at least a grain of truth.
On Thursday I went to work at Bridgestone and found myself right in the heart of Boston sports fandom. A trip to see at least one Bruins home game on St. Patrick’s Day(and maybe a Red Sox game later on!) is now on my bucket list. Bruins fans showed up in numbers that we’re not used to seeing in Nashville when teams from the Northeast come to play. They were loud, they were proud and they came to show some love for their team and celebrate the day.
Nashville was ready for Boston on both sides of the glass. The green beer poured as The Celts played Irish music that spanned the centuries from ancient folk songs to a lovely cover of U2’s “Where The Streets Have No Name”. The second intermission featured a group of tween and teen Irish dancers who were simply amazing to watch. Think a dancer couldn’t possibly go en pointe in clogging shoes? Those girls did.
The good times didn’t end with the holiday festivites. Nashville and Boston put on one hell of a show for their fans. Seguin’s goal less than two minutes into First Period was answered a few minutes later by The Gelfling. That spark of Belarusian-Elfin goodness was just what Predsnation needed to see to realise that Nashville was still in the race and those tee times would just have to wait.
At the seventeen point five mark of First, Pat the Bear got too rambunctious and earned five for elbowing and an ejection for game misconduct. This action is a result of the new rules regarding hits to the head that were implemented after Precious Snowflake Sidney Crosby took a hit earlier this year and earnest discourse about concussions finally began. Still, it was a bit disappointing to see Hornqvist leave the ice so soon
Sabre-toothed tigers and bears, oh my! Boston and Nashville answered each other’s goals in tit for tat fashion for the duration of regulation play. The spectre of overtime loomed large in the minds of Predsnation and the Big Cats inside the glass.
As the one minute intermission between regulation time and oh tee wound down, I had to wonder if this evening would have a happy ending for Nashville. That was when I glanced up at the 300-something section and saw the sign that, like Jake and Elwood Blues, the Predators were on a mission from God:
There was no way they weren’t going to win at that point. Trotz’s Hockey Gods smiled down on the Big Cats and loosed The Cannon on the Bruins. As the seconds on the clock dwindled past the final minute mark, Shea Weber slammed the puck past Tuukka Rask and the whole arena erupted, some in joy, others in consternation.
Blum Where You’re Planted
DET @ NSH March 19th, 2011
Meetings between Nashville and Detroit are essentially continuing installments in a postmillenial rivalry that pits a storied Original Six club against a team that is in its second decade and still building its culture and traditions. In some ways, the teams and the cities mirror each other. The Wings have their octopus, the Predators have their catfish.
Detroit is fighting hard and making a comeback in the face of a crushing economic depression that was engineered by entities that had no love for the place or the people. They’re the fighters, the survivors who ignore the verbage from the brahmins that posit they’ll always be upstarts. Nashville was knocked sideways by a 150 year flood in 2010 that powered through the city. The Cumberland River was nudged from its banks by natrual forces that were insensate and uncaring about the dreams and conceits of those who call Music City home. In many ways, in many fields, Nashville and Detroit elicit eyerolls as upstarts and wannbes from those who think but they know but can never really understand either city. Niether city stops. Neither city rests. Powered by dreams and hard work, both cities keep moving forward in spite of the dubious wisdom of the amorphous “They”.
Similarities between Nashville and Detroit extend to the ice as well. Detroit’s gentlemanly Datsyuk has a doppleganger in Nashville’s veteran forward Dumont. Firecracker aggressors like Kronwall and Bertuzzi are matched by Tootoo and ursine swipes with a gloved paw from Hornqvist.
The captains of both teams are atavistic thinkers and doers. Lidstrom and Weber are respected by their colleagues and respectful of the game. Between the pipes, both team have matched sets of amazing goaltenders. Howard and Osgood, the veteran and the journeyman phenom are mirrored down south by The Great Wall of Finland that is Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback, the newcomer whose skill continues to amaze Predsnation.
First Period belonged to the pipesmen. Rinne and Howard played the shots on goal the way a fat kid on Jolt and Cheetos plays throwback Pong. The scoring chances were met with continual refusals on both sides as an almost seperate game of back and forth seemed to be going on between Rinne who was the personification of zen-like inner balance and the kinetic acrobatics of Howard.
For all of the shots denied by the goaltenders, there were few penalties. For both teams, this night was all about focus. The low score and the the dearth of time spent in the Sin Bin was counterbalanced by the goalie’s stats. Jimmy Howard clocked in with 38 shots stopped only to be bested by Pekka Rinne’s 40 utterances of “Ei!” by the time the final buzzer sounded.
Detroit’s Dan Cleary’s single netter during First wasn’t enough to hold off a trio of goals by Nashville’s first and some of their latest draft picks. NHL scion Blake Geoffrion and Predators wunderkind Jonathan Blum lit the lamp during the Second and Third Periods, sending the message to Detroit that they would have some catching up to do if htey wanted to bring home a win to Motor City on Saturday. Their goals were followed by sweet hit to the back of the net by First Gen Predator David Legwand.
By the end of the night, Nashville was back in the race for the cup. Would they continue to be contenders? Only time, and a trip to Buffalo, would tell.
This is Jas Faulkner who is now going to take some time to rest before tomorow’s match with Edmonton. She hopes everyone will come out and cheer on the Smilodons. After all, they can golf when they’re old! Until then, I’ll see you at the ‘Plex and the ‘Stone and online at Facebook and Twitter!