by Jas Faulkner, Nashville Correspondent
Last season many people assumed that 2010 would be the year Barry Trotz would win the Jack Adams trophy. Even though he was the popular favourite in many circles, the award went to the Coyotes’ Dave Tippett. Tippett was arguably the right choice for 2010. The Yotes had faced a lot of adversity that year and Tippett proved himself to be the right man for the job in the wake of so much turmoil concerning the team’s future in Phoenix and the disappointment many felt about Wayne Gretzky’s tenure as an owner/coach.
It’s 2011. Is this the year? It should be. Barry Trotz has managed to keep the USS Predators afloat amist serious issues with roster continuity and more injuries than the thirty-odd men who call themselves “The Nashville Predators” deserve. Through this rather rocky season, the highs and lows for this team have hit the extremes and Trotz has managed to face all of this with a degree of grace and the kind of fortitude that eludes most of us.
Having said that, this week had some high points and the lows were lows, but they weren’t that bad.
San Jose at Nashville February 15th, 2011
Matches between SJ and NSH are usually past-moving, physical affairs. The match was at time frenetic, at time it felt like a chess match. Setoguchi and Marleau eneded up being the bane of Pekka Rinne’s existence that night, hammering at the goalie with sufficient force to tie up the game at one goal for each team and eventually get a puck past him in overtime. This was Nashville’s fifth loss in overtime.
Vancouver at Nashville February 17th, 2011
The meeting between Western Conference topper Vancouver and Nashville seemed slow and ungainly to many who are used to fast. physical play when those teams face off. Nashville managed to pull ahead of the Canucks by dint of aggressive, risk-takign play that might have landed them in the penalty box a few more time than their opponent, but it also paid off as Nashville’s willingness to take every advantage threw Vancouver off their game. The final score? Three to one in favour of Nashville, with one of the trio being new acquisition, Mike Fisher scoring his first netter for the Predators.
Phoenix at Nashville February 19th, 2011
Its always a mistake to underestimate the Coyotes. The Predators coaching staff and smart fans know this only too well. A game with Phoenix can and should be a dream matchup of physical toughness and smart play. There were elements of both present but the mix just wasn’t right for Nashville, who fell to the ‘Yotes with a final score of three to two in regulation.
Next week, Nashville visits the ice in Columbus and Dallas and faces off against Chicago at home. As the race to the playoffs intensifies and every point is a matter of survival, the Predators face their toughest stretch yet. In their favour is the fact that they have more home games remaining than any other team in the conference. Will this work out for them? Time and toughness will tell.