The Nashville Predators looked like the Nashville Predators again in their Game 3 victory against the Phoenix Coyotes, who had previous made them look like a disjointed defensive mess in take a 2-0 series lead. The Predators best players played like it, including goaltender Pekka Rinne, and their overall level of competition was far better than in Glendale.
"We played Predators hockey finally in this series," said Coach Barry Trotz.
Besides a change in venue, the other major shift for the Predators were the healthy scratches for forwards Alex Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn for Game 3 after a curfew violation last Saturday, prior to Game 2.
It was characterized as a bold move for Trotz and GM David Poile, given that Radulov is the team's leading playoff scorer. Did they run the risk of adversely affecting the chemistry of a dressing room already facing a 0-2 series deficit?
CBC commentator/fashion plate/opinion maker Don Cherry believed that's exactly what would happen.
Trotz was more than happy to prove him incorrect.
On Coach's Corner on Wednesday night during the New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals Game 3, Cherry said the following about the suspensions (watch it here)
"It's funny, I just listened to some of the guys on the other channel … Roenick and the guys, and everybody is right. Absolutely. To make the franchise look good, it's politically correct, everyone says, 'Put a bullet in their head, bench them.' Well, not me. Not a chance. When you do that, you irk the club. You really … who do you hurt? You hurt the Russians? You're gonna teach them discipline? You're not gonna hurt them!
"But I'll tell you one thing: [Radulov] is the No. 1 scorer and [Kostitsyn] is the No. 2 scorer. Just watch these plays … you're gonna bench these guys? I love Tootoo and the other guys, don't get me wrong, but these are your top scorers. This is the playoffs. This could be the Stanley Cup."
His partner Ron McLean stepped in: If Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr are out all night before a game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs that Cherry was coaching, what would he have done?
"I would have never, ever benched them. You don't bench guys at this time. When I was a GM or a coach I never suspended a guy, or a never fined him. … A guilty conscience is the greatest motivator. What they did is they protected the franchise, they protected themselves, it was politically correct. … The rest of the guys, if you took a vote, they would say play them."
After the 2-0 win in Game 3, Trotz indirectly reference Cherry in his postgame victory lap over the organization's decision to scratch the two players:
"I think in the big picture, when you make decisions for what I felt were the right reasons, the group will respond. I listened to a commentator on CBC between periods of this game over here and he thought I was totally wrong because he would let them go out all night and still play them, and that's not how we do it here, so I disagree.
"The guys respond because everyone wanted to be a part of it. The group was committed to the effort. I will never apologize for doing what I felt was right. In life, I think a lot of people have done the right thing and have to pay a price for it. When you do it right, and you don't have to apologize."
As we've mentioned before, this wasn't Orr and Esposito, nor was it Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne; it was a forward in Kostitsyn the team could make an example of, and a forward in Radulov who went out the night before a game in which he played so poorly that he allowed NBC to embarrass him — and, in turn, the GM who lured him back from the KHL — for his lack of effort.
Neither one is guaranteed to play in Game 4, and Trotz stated he may not change his lineup after a Game 3 victory. A victory that happened despite what Don Cherry predicted would be locker room derision over the team's decision to sit Radulov and Kostitsyn.
Barry Trotz 1, Don Cherry 0.