Nashville (7-3-1) at
8 p.m. MT
For more than a decade, I've believed that Robert Altman's Nashville was one of my favourite movies of all time. So you can imagine my surprise a few months back when I decided to revisit it one Saturday afternoon for the first time in years, only to realize halfway through that I was completely and utterly bored. I'm still a big fan of Altman's work, of course; his mastery of the ensemble piece, the skill with which he can wander a camera through a room and craft a narrative, a palpable sense of immediate time and place, out of nothing more than glimpses of improvised conversation, is simply aweing. And while his films tend to deal with themes that single out the worst aspects of humanity — war, class struggle, oppression — Altman is most fascinated by the tiny interactions between individuals that combine to create these greater flaws, the way in which people bounce off one another like molecules in a pot of boiling water, constantly changing direction based on the influence of everyone else around them, every once in a while creating little lightning bolts of profundity out of the routine and mundane. Nashville is simply teeming with these moments, and remains one of his best works. But it no longer effects me the way it apparently once did. The love affair, it seems, is over.
I mention this because this year will likely also mark the end of an infatuation with another Nashville-related source of entertainment, the Predators. I've always felt kind of ashamed to admit that I like this franchise, but what can I say — as an Oilers fan, I'm a sucker for fast-skating, hard-forechecking teams with good goaltending and a shaky defensive corps. And besides, you have to admit they've put together a pretty entertaining little product over the years, thanks to some solid drafting early on (inaugural pick David Legwand excluded, though 1998 was kind of a lacklustre first round outside of Lacavalier, Gagne and Gomez), good, patient coaching and a recent handful solid FA pickups, in Paul Kariya and Jason Arnott. (Incidentally, Andy at BoA is suggesting that Arnott is an ex-Oiler we love to hate, and frankly, I'll have to take his word for it on that. By the time I really started caring about the Oilers on a regular basis, Arnott had just been shipped to NJ for Bill Guerin, and as such I never really got the chance to develop much of a hate-on for the guy. I do, however, remember the Oilers doing TV promos with Arnott dressed as the Terminator — Arnie, GET IT?? — and saying things like, "Hasta la vista, Mighty Ducks" and things, which I recall hating. So maybe that counts.)
But a large part of my crush on the Predators had to do with their underdog appeal, and frankly, that's kind of been fading fast as the team improves as a whole while their division crumbles into mediocrity around them. And after racking up 49 wins last year, the Predators are no longer in need of my sympathy. I'd like to say I've outgrown them, but really, it seems to be the other way around.
Anyhow, should be a gooder tonight, and not just because I won't be able to watch it thanks to work and living outside Sportsnet West territory. Both teams are riding impressive streaks — the Oilers have won six straight at home, the Predators six straight on the road — but you have to think the stars will align for Edmonton tonight. The Oilers owned the Preds last year, going 3-1 against them last year while outscoring them 14-8, and Nashville should be nice and sleepy tonight, having just helped us out by downing the Canucks last night in Vancouver. This likely also means that Chris Mason will get the start in net tonight instead of Vokoun, which could be good or bad, depending on how you feel we play against marginal backup goaltenders. But at the most basic level, it simply seems more likely to me that a rested team with an impressive home record will beat a tired team with a impressive road record. It won't be easy, but Edmonton will get it done. 4-2 Oilers, Sykora, Pisani, Stoll, Petersen with the EN.
In conclusion, Goilers! Also, Galtman.
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