by Jas Faulkner, Nashville Correspondent, illustrations by Jas Faulkner (after George Herriman)
The blackened, dessicated hearts that hang by threadlike tendons from which they swing back and forth inside the thoracic cavities of each and every Nashville hockey fan were moved this week. All it took was the moppetty glee of Anders Lindback grinning and waving from the bench when he was awarded “hot stat of the week”. Even the big, burly, grizzled sportswriters all over the press belfry at the ‘Stone couldn’t help but grin and mutter “Aw shit. Now that’s just cute.”
Kevin Klein also earned some love from Predsnation after he stepped up to Pittsburgh behemoth Evgeni Malkin for taking a dirty hit on Jordin Tootoo. Maybe applauding this is not reasonable and a side effect of my personal struggle with Penguin Love. The mere presence of Matt Cooke within my vicinity still makes me want to slap a bitch.* We’ll explore that in a bit.
In the meantime, let’s take a look at the week that was:
Calgary at Nashville October 19th, 2010
The high points were to be found between the pipes. Pekka Rinne’sreturn to action brought fans to their feet as he was met with wild cheering and a standing O. Even though he might have told reporters it would be just another game whether it was The Kipper or your grandmother in the other net, fans were looking forward to a gruelling match of Finnish Pong.**
Aside from the goalie action, Tuesday’s game also meant the return of the Iginla Prettiness and Olli “Crazy Eyes” Jokinento the ‘Stone and…and…TWO national anthems. Score! Little did we know they would be presented at the, um, pace the singer had in mind. Don’t get me wrong, her voice was pretty, but as she wandered off into Canada, she took most of us with her. Her lovely, dulcet rendition of the song sent everyone to a place where streams burbled over rocks as blossoms wafted gently to the ground and a meadowlark…um wait… Hockey. Column. Let me get some tea and I’ll be right back.
The game itself was like a bad 70s’ Israeli knockoff of a Sergio Leone movie. You know it’s supposed to be tight and suspenseful and exciting but you just want it to be over. Suter’s injury early on made me wish there was something in my cup other than unsweetened cherry pom tea, and I don’t even imbibe***.
As scoreless as a frat guy at an Indigo Girls concert, the match dragged everyone from their pastoral Canadian bliss into the weeping need for someone, anyone to score. In the press box, people were taking turns going to the restroom because everybody knows somebody is going to score when you step away. Third period was punctuated by people returning to their seats, looking at the Orphan Annie eyes of the jumbotron and muttering, “Damn. That’s all I got.” The game was mercifully killed off in overtime, when Bourque knocked one home on Rinne’sstick side with an almost freakishly lucky assist from Brendan Morrison. In a gesture of Canadian friendship, Jokinen did not eat any pets or children on the way to the airport.
The Night Has A Thousand Ires
Pittsburgh at Nashville October 21st, 2010
I would love to tell you that I saw the whole thing. It came down to me losing my Emily Dickinson spirit after weeks of struggling to see around staffers who like to stand in front of me at crucial points in the game. Insult to injury came when one Preds staffer set up a big ass laptop at the edge of the table below us, thus blocking my (and another reporter’s view) of one of the faceoffcircles and/or a goodly portion of the goal area depending on where we were sitting****. Being in a state that could only be described as advanced creativity and vocabulary failure, I could come up with only one solution:
Take out the laptop with my thermos.
The problem was that this is a really cute thermos that I am not sure World Market carries any more and being diabetic, I can’t drink anything they have to offer at B-Stone, so the allure of hot tea and good hockey won out.
What can I say about the Pittsburgh game? Loving Pittburgh post-Cooke/Savarddebacle is analogous to being an Osmond and finding out that one of your cousins was a member of the Manson Family. There were some things about the Predators play that need tightening up to be sure. Still, when you consider who is out withinjuries and who is just now coming back and working out the kinks, I think the guys made a darned good showing against an elite team that was coming at them at full strength.
Legwand, Franson and Hornqvist lit up the lantern with goals that were flat out spectacular. Some of the attempts by other players deserve to be mentioned. Seeing Sully try to drive the puck home was by turns heart-stopping and heartbreaking. I am also so frickin’ loving seeing Smithson try (and try again) to achieve Bobby Orr altitude at the opponent’s net. It was a night full of gorgeous, heroic attempts and officiating that would make Gordie Howe want to kick someone in the umbo.
There have always been dark mutterings among the hoi polloi that the League Powers That Be in Tronna have an Eastern Conference bias. I have tried not to buy into that, but Thursday’s game made it mighty hard. This was especially true when it came to the dirty hit Evgeni Malkin took against Tootoothat ended up with Kevin Klein doing time in the sin bin while Malkin skated away the aggrieved victim. Even from my vantage point, it looked like Tootoo’s skates left the ice when the big Rooski slammed him. No. Just…no.
Even Trotz, who is usually almost Buddha-like in his patience was showing more than a little irritation at the referees. As he noted in his postgame press conference, strictly in terms of entertainment, it was a great game. The problem is, that no matter how you spin it with the whole “Wins and losses in regulation time”, it was a loss for the Predators. They’re going to do better. Predsnation just needs to be patient and hang in there.
On A Not So Silly Note..
Among the blazered NHL officials and soccer-playing Penguins at event level of the ‘Stone was a rather quiet guy who seemda little bit out of place with his Titans-issue golf shirt. A little bit later, I found out why he was there. Thursday was a special night and not just because of the visit from the Tennessee Titans’ costume mascot, a big, boogeying raccoon named T-Rac. He was visiting to help out with a cause that is very important to everyone in the Nashville hockey community. You see, Thursday’s game was devoted to the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancerintiative.
The Mayor of Smashville was a sweet, beautiful little girl named Brandi, who at age nine had grown out her own hair and then donated it to Locks of Love only to find out not long afterwards that she had cancer. She dropped the puck while wearing her own Predators jersey bearing her name and the number 13.
During preskate, the boys wore great looking grey and black practice sweaters bearing their names and numbers that were auctioned off as part of their fundraising efforts for the HFC program. If you missed it and still want to help, don’t fret! The Predators are going to host another HFC night on Thursday when the B-Hawks are back in town. So not only will you get to hear Sharp scream, “Please Mister Legwand, may I have another?”, you can bid on more great swag for a very deserving cause.
And Tonight at Seven…
The Big Cats take on the Stars in Dallas!
There’s no video broadcast so you won’t get the usual breakdown from Pete and Terry (and Mark makes three…) but you can listen live by going to the official Preds Radio site for Tom Callahan’s and Pete Weber’s coverage as the Predators rope them some SteersStars down in Texas. Yeehah, y’all!
**Ask your dad when he’s not busy playing with the Wii.
***Does this make me both a bad rabbi’s great-great-granddaughter and a bad Episcopalian?
****If I wanted to, I could have watched the baseball game along with him. You know, baseball loses something of its allure if it’s not experienced in its perfect zen form in the stadium or on the page. It’s hard to admit as a hardwired hockey fan, but most of the best sports lit is baseball lit.