Is a turtle a predator? Because I know a certain Predator that is also a turtle!
His name is Jordan Tootoo. You have undoubtedly seen him before. His specialty is charging, although he rarely gets called for it. Sometimes he misses his man and goes flying wildly into the opposing teams bench (hysterical). Sometimes he hits his mark and inures a player - like Brian Willsie (not so funny). But one thing you can always count on - when challenged to a fight, he will back down. Oh, he might justify it by saying he's being "smart" and drawing a penalty for his team. But Mr. Tootoo only fights when he can get the first (sucker) punch in. It's just not fair if the other guy wants to fight too.
In today's relatively antiseptic NHL, there are few players left that I truly love to hate. But Jordan Tootoo fills that bill quite nicely. His game is more annoying than those whistles the fans in Nashville blow. Coincidentally, his actual hockey skills have "blowing" in common with said whistles - witness his massive 6 point tally in 34 games this season.
If you're going to take a 6 stride run at a guy, then you should be prepared for some fisticuffs. Tootoo took a run at an Av in the first period, and it wasn't called. Then in the 2nd Tootoo took his run at McLeod. The only reason it wasn't charging is because he missed and sailed over the boards in to the Colorado bench. Tucker came over a few seconds later to indicate his displeasure with Jordan's antics. Granted, Tucker did not do it in a smart way. He came in with his hands in Tootoo's face. But tough-guy Tootoo's turtle act was embarrassing nonetheless. Sure, Tucker got a 4 minute double minor. But the Preds were down 4-0 at that point. At what point does Tootoo have to answer for his actions? It should be remembered that this all came on the heels of the last Preds-Avs game where Tootoo did the same thing when challenged by Laperriere after doing his usual charging bit.
If the refs won't call charging, and Tootoo won't fight, the only thing left, I'm sorry to say, is to start running Preds. I respect Trotz as a coach, but he hasn't shown any willingness to curb Tootoo's behavior. It has continued unabated for the better part of three seasons. In fact, Tootoo's act has become so routine that last night's incident doesn't even merit a mention in Mr. Fedler's Preds blog on this site. Lappy and Tucker aren't exactly Probert and Shelley; there's no excuse for avoiding these guys. Stand up and take your medicine or your teammates will have to start taking it for you.
Let's move on to more important things, like the fact that the Avs won for the third straight time last night and swept all 6 points on their 3 game homestand. Budaj was outstanding and the Avs were the benefactors of some fortunate bounces. Before you call them all lucky goals however, remember that the third and fourth goals were scored in 2 on 1 situations. The fifth goal - the give and take between Liles and Smyth - was fun to watch. I almost felt bad for Rinne. Almost.
I hate to regurgitate points made by Haynes and McNabb, but I think it's important to reiterate the effect point production from the d-men has on this team. In the Avs heydays, the D was at or near the top of the league in scoring. It is not a coincidence that this sudden surge in production from the blue line has been accompanied by wins. While the Avs still lack that true PP QB, the fact that all 6 D-men are now getting the puck to the net has instilled a new level of confidence in the forwards. They now know that a pass out of their cycle in the corner to the d-man won't usually result in a turnover. They can confidently make that pass and get to the net - not worry immediately about backchecking.
The Avs were outshot, but that was mostly a product of the double minor in the 2nd period. The Avs controlled the balance of play in this game. The only blemish was special teams - one PP goal against and no PP goals for - but 5 even strength goals makes a lot of other things irrelevant. Smyth had another good game, but it's nice when it doesn't feel like the entire offensive burden is on his shoulders. There will be plenty of games in the next month where I fear that will be the case.
One line adjustment for the Avs last night - moving Lappy on to the line wth Wolski and Jones. I like this move because it allows for some swapping of positions between Wolski and Lappy. I still would prefer to have Lappy playing the wing and Wolski centering although last night Lappy pretty much exclusively played center from what I could tell - and he had a better night at the dot going 9 for 14. Wolski was 0 for 2.
Perfect homestand - can't ask for anything more than that. Now on to Phoenix tomorrow night before returning home again. Another game against another bubble team and another crucial two points. And buck up Avs fans - the team is back in the top 8, if only for a day!