by Jas Faulkner, Nashville correspondent
“It was hard. It wasn’t a game for guys that are faint of heart, that’s for sure.”
With that, Barry Trotz nodded, folded his hands and waited for the next question from the reporters who had gathered in the media lounge for the postgame coach’s press. The sedate answer from Nashville’s head coach followed a game that elicited anything but such a response from the 17,113 hockey fans who had gathered at Bridgestone Arena Sunday afternoon to see the Bluejackets take on Nashville.
For Bluejackets fans, it must have looked like an easy win. After all, Nashville was experiencing one of the more disappointing weeks of the 2010-11 season. A pair of shutouts earilier in the week from Columbus and Chicago and then a disappointing outing to Dallas made much of Nashville’s fan community cautiously optimistic about Sunday’s game.
Why any optimism at all? It all comes down to the numbers. The last fifteen times Columbus had played Nashville at Bridgestone, Nashville followed hthe final buzzer with a victorious skate to center ice and a salute to Predsnation. Yesterday afternoon was no different. Such a statisical nugget would be enough, but there was another reason for more than a little hope for a win yesterday.
The infusion of new blood into the lineup created a renewed sense of excitement and boosted energy on both sides of the glass. Predators development stalwart Jonathan Blum and legacy NHL-er Blake Geoffrion debuted in Dallas on Saturday and it was a baptism of fire for both men as they had just come from clawing their way through a game with a Dallas team that had a lot to prove. In spite of the usual rookie hazing that took place (Geoffrion was sent out to skate by himself before the game) it was apparent that both players realised there would be no easing into NHL play. They either fell into place with the team play or they would be returning to Milwaukee at some point in the very near future. When asked about the changes in the lineup, Trotz responded that the team had a wealth of talent in all areas but that he wanted to concentrate on speed when taking on the teams the Predators are scheduled to face in the near future.
The game was intensely physical in the way that it always gets when these two clubs meet. Nashville and Columbus have a history of bad blood that spans over multiple seasons. The matchup on Sunday was no different, with much of afternoon devoted to pulling multiple player apart every time the bulk of the men on the ice got near either net. Controversies, bloodshed and fits of temper were all spilled and now it’s in the books. Tomorrow marks the beginning of hockey’s own special brand of March madness. This game? It’s a part of the long history between these teams. It will cited and used as a prod for both sides the next time they meet.
Coming up for Nashville is another swing through Western Canada. Tuesday they play Edmonton with the puck dropping at 8:30 Central, Thursday they’ll be skating in Vancouver with a start time at nine and then on Sunday they’ll start the game at seven in Calgary.