To say last night's game between the Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators was a roller coaster of emotions would be selling it short, as would be saying Filip Forsberg had somewhat of a say in it.
Indeed, the young Preds star scored a hat trick in his team's 6-5 loss, but his goals had them rally from a 4-1 deficit to a 5-4 lead in a 10-minute span. He also factored into the Flames' overtime winner, as the Mark Giordano shot hit his skate and deflected into the net behind backup goalie Juuse Saros.
I'd been holding off writing about the 22-year-old sniper since September, when I purchased this card on Ebay. After signing a huge contract extension last summer, one that will see him make $6M per season for this year plus another five seasons, he was either going to step into the next gear after two consecutive 60-point seasons, including a career-high 33 goals in 2015-16... or he was going to feel the pressure get to him and have a disappointing season. So far, it's been the latter, as even with his hat trick, he's now at 19 goals and 20 assists for 39 points in 59 games, a 0.66 point-per-game average, whereas he'd had us used to a 0.78 rate (63 and 64 points in 82 games, respectively).
The Preds are a work in progress. Pekka Rinne has been up-and-down (as he had been the previous three seasons), and while the defense boasts big names such as Roman Josi and P.K. Subban, coach Peter Laviolette is still struggling to find the right combinations for all three pairs to be as solid as they'd been in years past.
The offense is the biggest sticking point, however, with Forsberg struggling, James Neal falling similarly, Mike Ribeiro being sent down to the AHL and Ryan Johansen being his usual whiny self, recently complaining about not getting recognition from the Columbus Blue Jackets on the Jumbotron to celebrate his time on the team, seemingly forgetting what can only be described as a tumultuous relationship that saw him refer to the team's leader Brandon Dubinsky as their "second-line center", hold out for a contract that would have priced him so high as to cost at least one teammate's job and essentially be a walking - and more importantly, talking - distraction to the entire team.
I mean, shit, here's a guy who is supposed to lead his current team - one that if it can find its groove before the playoffs start just might become a Stanley Cup contender overnight - and instead makes it all about himself. Again. While failing to have either of his elite sniper wingers reach the 30-goal plateau.
Neal's a veteran, he's seen a lot of things happen with both the Preds and the Pittsburgh Penguins in his day, but Forsberg's still a kid. I'm fairly certain he's smart enough to know the difference between right and wrong and how, for example, Subban's limelight-taking is much better for a locker room than Johansen's, but there still needs to be a working environment that is conducive to having success.
GM David Poile seemingly has a knack for acquiring both the good (Hal Gill) and bad (Andrei Kostitsyn) type of leaders at once. Here's hoping he can get his team to change its current course before the season's a write-off in what should have been the first of a three-year window to the Cup with this crew.
And here's Forsberg on card #PM2-FF from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Portfolio set, one that may have featured nice action photos on the regular-issue cards but whose inserts left a ton to be desired, including how the die-cuts that allowed for these jersey swatches were botched the whole way through (click on the picture for a complete zoom-in):