Friday, April 13, 2012

The Hippodrome: Two Teams Enter, Only One Shall Leave

Posted by on Fri, Apr 13, 2012 at 5:51 AM

This Week In The 'Drome: ZOMG PLAYOFF HOCKEY, Hope Hines is famous(er), John Jenkins goes pro and more ...

Chris Walken as Gabriel (not Bourque)
  • Chris Walken as Gabriel (not Bourque)

Opening Face-Off

Angels vs. Demons: If Game One is any indication, the Predators-Red Wings series should be one for the ages.

Subplots are forever part of any playoff series and this one may have more than the best work by Tolstoy.

Wings coach Mike Babcock announced before the game he felt his third and fourth lines were better than the Preds. The Preds responded with three goals — the opener from lower-line center Paul Gaustad and the next two from third-line winger Gabriel Bourque. Two were seeing-eye goals, the kinds of lucky bounces that can prove the difference in the crucible of the post-season.

The last, though, was an absolute gem of a one-timer from Bourque off a pass from Nick Spaling. And Darren Helm, the guy Babcock felt gave his lower lines the advantage? Out for the playoffs after taking a nasty cut on his wrist which required surgery.

Shea Weber looked to set the tone early — or late, depending on how you look at it — slamming the head of Henrik Zetterberg into the glass as the game wound down. Many pundits expected a one-game suspension for the captain, who got off relatively easily with a $2,500 fine. Predictably, the outrage came swift. No doubt will the Wings seek their retribution for Weber's pro-wrestling move.

And it's a good thing Weber won't have to sit out, as big, playoff-ready, penalty-killing Ent Hal Gill still hasn't skated. If the officials remain as whistle happy as they did in Game One — with the commissioner watching, of course — Barry Trotz will want Gill ready.

And there's still at least three games to go.

Having fun yet?

The Week Behind

Run away!
  • Run away!

Shooting For the Stars: Surprising exactly no one, Vanderbilt junior sharpshooter John Jenkins will forgo his last year of NCAA eligibility and enter the NBA draft. It's no great shock since Vanderbilt looks to be very, very down next season, and had he remained, Jenkins would have been double-teamed nearly every possession.

Jenkins is an interesting NBA prospect. He has decent side for a guy who is basically a pure shooter — and when he gets space, there's few better at pulling up from long range. He does have the same knock as other similarly offensive-inclined perimeter players, in that he isn't a great defender. Despite the stereotype, which is pervasive and absurd, teams do, in fact, play defense in the NBA and defensive skill can mean millions of dollars in the big league.

He's projected to be taken either late in the first round or somewhere in the first half of the second. Ideally, a guy with Jenkins' skill set would go as late as possible in that first round to a team with a well-established core and where he won't be asked to be a front-line contributor from the get-go. Put him on a talented team and he could be a very useful player early, scoring points on the bench in protected minutes.

Are You Not Entertained? Boy, that was a good way to start things off, no?

The Predators and Red Wings got off to a rollicking start in the first game of their best-of-seven set — as I predicted here and here and even alluded to here.

Game ops answered the clarion call of fans and brought back "Run This Town" for the intro video (bootleg video here). Gold t-shirts were ready at the seats, producing an effect lauded by national bloggers. Even the mightiest of trolls, Ryan Lambert of Yahoo's Puck Daddy, was impressed, tweeting the best quote of Game One.

If you didn't dig Game One, hockey's just not for you.

Garbage Time: Brandt Snedeker finished The Masters at even par, good enough for a tie for 19th. This weekend, he'll defend his title at The Heritage. ... Belmont got the better lost to of Vandy on the diamond ('Dromemaster can't read headlines, apparently) ... The 'Drome wishes John Cooper best of luck in his new gig at Miami of Ohio and best of luck to TSU in replacing him. ... NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman basically promised an NHL All-Star Game to Nashville, which should come as no surprise since, you know, Bridgestone is a big NHL sponsor and put its name on the side of 501 Broadway.

Halftime Entertainment

The like us, they really like us?
  • They like us, they really like us?

They're Laughing With Us, Right? The Onion's hockey "coverage" (for lack of a better word) is usually a one-note tune about how no one likes hockey hardyharhar. And their recent swipe at the Preds wasn't really different, suggesting that fans really just want free t-shirts when they go to games. (P.S. - free T-Shirts are awesome.)

And if Nashville didn't get enough satirical celebrity there, we got paid big-time on Saturday, when SNL used former Channel 5 sports director's Hope Hines' name for a hapless traffic reporter character. To (the real) Hines' credit, he's had a great attitude about the whole thing.

So how did that happen?

"What the guy told me was when they do these skits they walk out to the audience and say, is there a sportscaster's name someone would give us? So some guy stood up and said, 'Hope Hines, News Channel 5, Nashville.' And from my understanding, that's where it came from," said Hines.

Hope said he has received many emails, Facebook messages and tweets about the skit.

"It was so funny, I laughed so hard. My computer has completely blown up with all sorts of emails and tweets, just hearing from people all over the country. I think it went viral," he said.

The Week Ahead

How bout three more times?
  • How 'bout three more times?

Now Can I Get An Encore, Do You Want More? : By the time next week's 'Drome hits your virtual newsstands, it could all be over.

But probably not.

The Preds and Wings face off for Game Two tonight at 6:30 (102.5 The Game, SportsSouth) before heading to Michigan for a special Sunday 11 AM start (NBC) and a 6:30 local start Tuesday (NBC Sports Network). Winning tonight is crucial for the Predators. Going to Joe Louis Arena needing to get one back is a tough task, for the Wings rattled off 23 straight home wins at one point this season.

Hopefully, the referees go back to calling a playoff-style game since Der Kommissar is no longer in town, allowing the game to find its own rhythm unlike the noise-band concert that was Game One. Of course, if the Preds power-play hadn't failed so miserably at capitalizing on the numerous chances, no one in gold would be complaining about the tightly called game.

Game Ones rarely define a series, but certainly being ahead 1-0 is better than the inverse. And, in a way, it's encouraging the Preds were able to eke out a win not playing their best.

Worthless Prediction: Look for the Preds to hold serve at home and steal one on the road. returning home for Game 5 and a chance at the second round.

Overtime

Pshaw! We never asked for compensation when we were Olympians, kind sir!
  • Pshaw! We never asked for compensation when we were Olympians, kind sir!

Olympic Shame: The Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade suggested this week that NBA players who join Olympic teams oughta be paid. He later reversed that position, but the cat was already out of the gym bag.

Someone needs to tell Wade this secret about Olympic basketball: No one cares about it. Winning that gold medal is the U.S.'s birthright, and the only attention the team gets is when they, in fact, don't win. When they beat Luxembourg 124-37, we'll just catch 30 seconds of highlights. Maybe, maybe, the gold medal game we'll watch, but mostly, we just want the men's team to quietly, efficiently and brutally bash some shorter nation into submission and come home with the gold medal.

I'm no ratings database, but I'd venture to say that most people are more interested in the sports we only watch during the Olympics: track, gymnastics, swimming, field, whitewater kayaking, modern pentathlon, dressage. You get the idea.

Michael Phelps: that's an Olympian. Usain Bolt: Olympian. Dwyane Wade? He's an NBA player who happens to be playing in the Olympics.

If we're going to end the great farce of purported amateurism at our quadrennial NBC schlockfest, let's pay the people we care about seeing for 16 days every four years (and no more). We'll watch Wade earn his dollars the rest of the time.

Need a digitalis prescription? Shoot an email to jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com and I'll forward you the contents of my spam folder. And be sure to listen Tuesday's at 4 p.m. as I join Willy Daunic and Greg Pogue on 102.5 The Game's Sports Revolution.

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