While Nashville regularly gets between 10 to 13 thousand fans, depending on how many freebies the team hands out that night, the hockey-crazed fans in Hamilton (and Winnipeg and Quebec) have to make do with minor league teams.
This is one of the few criticisms I have of a guy like Bettman. His vision was a televison contract that would recognize that the NHL is a truly a major league sport. But as Don Cherry says, anytime you have in a team in a town that calls it “ice hockey” you’ve got a problem.
And this is not a criticism of the fans of Nashville and certainly not of the team…let’s face it, they have some excellent players lead by Shea Webber. It is Webber, by the way, who will be the next great defenseman in the NHL…not a guy like Dion Phaneuf. Phaneuf is just too weak defensively and no matter what the Calgary PR department tells you, not that tough. Webber has the complete package. Terrific offensive instincts, superb defensive play and an excellent fighter.
To the game:
Well, if you’re counting spectacular hits, we are up 3 to nothing after the first, courtesy of Ohlund, Mitchell and of course Davison who sent young Scott Nichol into another time zone. But the scoreboard tells a different story with the Canucks straining to keep themselves out of the penalty box. Particularly egregious is the un-sportsmanlike penalty of Kesler. I love Kesler but it was his mistake on the too many men penalty and again his mistake on trying to draw a penalty near the end of the period. Kesler is showing the strain of not scoring and he’s lost his way in this game. Of course a player’s performance, much like life, can turn on a dime.
Kesler just needs to play his game…
Which he seems to in the second period. Once again, we send some bone rattling checks at Nashville and they are forced to respond. Unfortunately for them, they respond with Arnott and Webber, two of their best players, who must serve the lengthy penalties.
And as I write this I realize, that in watching hockey for over 50 years, I don’t recall ever seeing a team shorthanded for seven minutes. I mean, by definition if Arnott gets five for fighting, who was he fighting with? I’ve never seen a ref call a fiver when there was no opponent.
The problem with a seven minute power play is that your PP does not play with urgency. That was most evident in the seven minute scenario. But to give our guys a break, when you are trying to play a patient road game, it’s tough to switch the urgency switch back on.
John Garrett accused the refs of bad game management in the first period and I think that has become evident in the second period, even though we have largely been the beneficiary of that same bad management.
Kesler’s boarding penalty was well-deserved, but I confess it was the one play where I really noticed him playing with his well-known edge. But just as it seems that Nashville might come out of this with a one minute PP, and really take the momentum away from those big Canuck hits, Nashville takes a tripping penalty that will start in the third…
And we score on a four on three PP. Wonderful no look pass by Daniel Sedin to a wide open Edler, giving us the lead and the kid a boost of confidence.
The third period is the classic defensive battle. We stretch, we strain, but we don’t break. This was the standard character win after the shootout loss to Colorado. The boys deserved the two points simply by way of their work ethic.
And those big hits in the first two periods? Well, I saw a half dozen instances in the third where Nashville players hesitated along the boards and lost the puck.
And then lost the game.
Back in first!
The Dawg’s Three Stars:
1) Curtis Sanford…huge bounce back game.
2) Willie Mitchell…did not make a mistake all night.
3) Martin Erat…the only dangerous pred tonight.
Unsung Hero: Ryan Kesler…turned his game around after being called for the dive.