"Scapegoat.noun1. a person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place.2. Chiefly Biblical . a goat let loose in the wilderness on Yom Kippur after the high priest symbolically laid the sins of the people on its head. Lev. 16:8,10,26."
Kevin Klein and Colin Wilson have been the target of much disdain over the past season or more. Both at times have shown their usefulness, other times the holes in their game have been exposed as gaping abysses in the NHL talent pool. They are still both growing into their roles (Wilson more so since he’s barely able to drink legally), and due to the changes in the roster over the past 18 months.
Klein especially, has been the target of much anger regarding defensive lapses. While some of it is warranted and much of it is not, having two of the top 5 defenders in the league doesn’t help him earn the appreciation for the things he does very well.
In their most complete game of the year, both Klein and Wilson showed their worth and potential against the Ducks (again).
While the score of the game ended at a pedestrian 3-2 win for the Preds against a team thoroughly despised with the heat of a thousand suns, from the first few minutes this game was controlled by the Predators. The Ducks finished the game with grand total of 17 shots on net. Remember how bad the Preds were at allowing shots earlier in the year? And while the Ducks aren’t world beaters this year (don’t kid yourself, Bruce Boudreau didn’t become an idiot in Washington), they do possess 4 of the best forwards in the game. Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, Teemu Selanne combined for six total shots. Getzlaf had zero. It wasn’t all Suter and Weber folks, Weber took two minors (neither were stupid penalties either) cutting his TOI down to a mild 27 minutes and change.
Klein was instrumental on the PK, took the body and showed something we don’t normally highlight in his game: VISION. He moved the puck well, and played much tighter on his assignments than in some other games we watch and throw highball glasses at our TVs.
Jordin Tootoo had some serious praise for Klein in his post game comments.
"“(Kevin) Klein made a tremendous play… I was slicing through the ice and when we made eye contact, we both knew what the situation was going to be, and I got it and pulled the puck to my forehand and went top shelf.” -Tootoo, AP"
Colin Wilson has been nothing but solid for most of this season. While not the ultimate defender that someone like a Spaling or Smithson is, he does things that typical Nashville forwards have been a bit shy to do thus far… create plays inside the blue line. The experimental third line from Saturday slotted Wilson between Nick Spaling and Jordin Tootoo, where Jerrod Smithson normally dwells. However, it was the Spaling and Tootoo combination that gave the Ducks fits during their first round serious. Tootoo is another player willing to skate the puck, and has been very aggressive in finding the open man at the right time in the offensive zone. While not the scariest line in the world, this could be a bit fun for a while… until Craig Smith finds his game again.
Wilson has turned up his since the start of the year, and is starting to show his upside even more. are 30 goals possible? Perhaps for him, but other factors will determine that more. But it’s hard not to nice that whatever line he’s been on, whether grouped with Legwand, Smith, Spaling, Erat, has been productive.
Nashville is not built like other teams at the top of the West. Chicago, Minnesota, Vancouver, San Jose all win by having the better top-6 on that night. Nashville’s formula to win depends on all 20 guys being better than the opposition’s 20. Games are won under Barry Trotz using 3rd and 4th line production just as much as 1st and 2nd.
Should Wilson anchor a successful third line with Legwand and Fisher guiding the top 2, it would afford better chances for Wilson and more flexibility for players like Smithson and Legwand who have a different set of skills.
The Predators will go as far as Rinne, Suter, and Weber can carry them… but without guys like Colin Wilson and Kevin Klein lightening the load, it won’t be far. Their maturity and development will be the key going further into the season. The next big test- Thursday.