Blue Collar Hockey
By: Miranda Martin
Blue collar looks good on the Nashville Predators.
It’s only appropriate in a region that epitomizes hard work ethic and giving everything you’ve got that their hockey team reflects the same mentality. And, finally, the Predators started to embody that aggressive, outworking team again Friday night, resulting in the team’s first regulation victory in just over three weeks.
The dominating 6-0 victory against the Oilers had many highlights compared to the previous three weeks of play. The Predators, who have averaged less than 2 goals per game, scored 2 goals per period, proving that they can, in fact, score. Pekka Rinne once again looked on his game, registering his fourth shutout of the season, taking the NHL lead over Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith and Capitals Braden Holtby, who each have 3. The power play, which hadn’t scored since February 25th, registered 2 goals tonight for the first time since January 21 against the Blues.
But what might be more important is how the Predators won the game. The team played like they were ready to fight (and, in Clune’s case, literally). The Predators finally got back to basic, simple hockey without the fancy rubbish that has led this team nowhere. Quite possibly the most important element was taking shots and bodies toward the net. In the first period alone, there were 23 attempted shots on net, 13 of them meeting goaltender Devan Dubnyk. The Predators would then out-shoot the Oilers 34-24, registering the second highest shots on goal this season. The Predators would also stay out of the penalty box for most of the game, with the exception of two hard-fought scrums.
Each of the 6 goals had an ounce of “blue collar” gritty effort to them, and for the most part, the fancy triple lutz spin-o-rama junk was kept at bay. Patric Hornqvist and Colin Wilson were both crashing the net on the first goal, after the puck banked the net. The team finally realized that dumping on net has its purpose, resulting in a bouncy, fluke goal. Had David Legwand dumped it in the corner like the Predators usually do, there’s no telling how that game would have really ended. Rich Clune’s goal was made by Paul Gaustad pushing the puck toward the net, and Clune did not stop whacking at the puck until it was behind the net. The same could be said about Colin Wilson’s early third period goal, as well—no stopping until the puck was behind the net. Every goal happened because traffic was in the net screening the goalie. The team jumped on rebounds, crashed the net, and played to score, not to pass.
It worked, didn’t it?
The three new players on the team each had their own contribution, too. Zach Boychuk and Bobby Butler, both who were claimed on waivers earlier in the week, and defenseman Viktor Bartley, who was recalled from Milwaukee, showed just that they could add to the team. Butler was able to draw three penalties, including the first one that sparked Hornqvist’s goal, and Boychuk ‘s deflection of Shea Weber’s shot resulted in his first goal of the season.
None of the goals from Friday night were highlight worthy. Yes, Legwand’s blooper goal will likely make highlight reels, but it will reflect goaltender Dubnyk’s mistake, not Legwand’s agility and talent. But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if the goals don’t make the ESPN Top Ten or cause twitter to explode. All that matters is that the red light comes on and the results in two points in the standings. The hard work pays off once in a while.
It’s hard not to be optimistic after such a successful game, but in reality, the Predators will have to play with the same hard work ethic the rest of the season if they actually want to succeed. There can’t be any more of the defeatist attitude that the team had just a few days ago. The team is only two points from 4th, but likewise is only 4 points from the cellar.
It’s going to be a difficult run, but with a tough effort like that every game, anything is possible.