A lesson in comparative hockey violence for Predators fans

After tying the Stanley Cup Final series at two games each on the backs of two emotional, dominant wins at home in the first NHL championship-series games ever played in Nashville, the Predators returned to Pittsburgh hoping to convert their momentum into their first lead in this series. Instead, they fell flat. The Penguins scored three goals in the first period, and three more in the second on their way to a 6-0 shutout victory.

It was a very disappointing night for Predators fans, who reportedly had more people in attendance in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena to watch the away game on big screens than the number of people who were in the seats at the actual game in Pittsburgh. They certainly were upset with the result of the game, as well as with the way in which the Penguins– Sidney Crosby in particular– played it.

Crosby has been sparring with Nashville’s P.K. Subban throughout this series, but their clashes mostly have played out in the media and off-ice press conferences. Last night, however, things became decidedly physical, peaking with this moment:

Hockey is a contact sport, obviously, and the issue of fighting in hockey is a broader conversation for another day. I think most agree, though, that there is not a place in the game for Crosby’s behavior captured above.

Understandably, Predators fans are incensed and are calling for Crosby to be suspended for his actions. (Crosby also threw a water bottle on the ice in apparent response to what he thought was a missed penalty call against the visitors.) If the league decides to go in that direction, I would not have any objection.

I would remind the Predators fans that their team does not exactly have a clean record in this department, however. Five years ago, hosting their then-division rival Detroit Red Wings in the early rounds of the playoffs, Nashville ended a game-one win in ugly and embarrassing fashion. That night, it was Shea Weber who brutally bashed Hendrik Zetterberg’s face into the boards as time expired:

(In a bit of hockey irony, the Predators later would trade Weber for Subban, the victim of last night’s skull dribbling.)

I know from first-hand experience that Nashville hockey fans are good hockey fans who know the game. They’re justified in directing their anger toward Crosby (welcome to the club!), and I do want them to win the Cup because of what it would mean for the sport; a city I love; and all of my friends there, whether they’ve been on the hockey train or are jumping on now (again, welcome to the club!). All teams have had their dark moments, though, and hockey memories run deep. On the other hand, does it seem like Crosby’s Pens have more such moments than, say, Subban’s Preds? You bet.

Go Perds.

Red Wings Prospectus

More like Gustav Nyquist Prospectus. The generous folks at Hockey Prospectus have offered up the Red Wings chapter from their annual season preview free of charge. Despite laudatory language sure to please any Detroit fan, HP projects the Wings to be worse this season than they were last season, and one of the worst teams in the league overall. Chapter author Adam Gretz‘s thesis is that the Datsyuk-Zetterberg era is coming to a close (just as I’d learned how to spell their names!), and, with next-gen’er Nyquist’s meteoric scoring rate due for a regression, the depth and readiness of Detroit’s prospects will be tested.

As for the individual players, HP projects notable improvement over last season’s performance for Justin Abdelkader, Datsyuk(!), and (EGR’s own) Luke Glendening. On the downside, they see regression for Johan Franzen, who already was facing criticism for a perceived lack of production at the end of last season.

To date, the Red Wings sit in fourth place in their division. They have the eleventh-most points overall, suggesting that, at least for the first quarter of the season, they’ve outplayed their expectations.

How did the Detroit Red Wings manage to take a 3-1 series lead over the Chicago Blackhawks?

I’m not exactly sure, but it sure has been a fun series to watch so far. My main concern is not that the Blackhawks may get a game back when the series returns to Chicago Saturday night, but that one of their players will do something to injure one of the Detroit players. This undoubtedly is one of the NHL’s oldest rivalries, stoked in recent years by the matching successes of both squads, but as last night’s game demonstrated, one team’s handling most of the extracurricular physical activity, and one team’s handling most of the goal scoring.