There was a funny moment on The Tonight Show last week, when Carrie Underwood appeared as Jay Leno's guest. It was Underwood's first visit to the show since her husband, Mike Fisher, had been traded from the Ottawa Senators to the Nashville Predators, a deal that put the happily married couple in the same town at the same time. Jay had heard all the talk on sports radio about the nickname, Yoko Underwood, about how she might have influenced the deal, and wanted the inside scoop.
"My fault," began Underwood, playfully. "Even my friends asked me, 'how did you pull that off?' I'm glad people think I'm that powerful. If you play for any professional sports team, do not mess with me, I will get you traded to Lord knows where."
Okay, so we get the sarcasm. There is no direct line from Underwood's home to general manager David Poile's office. However it unfolded, the Predators were thankful for Fisher's presence Wednesday, in the opener of their playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks. Fisher set up Shea Weber for the first goal and then scored twice himself in a convincing 4-1 Nashville victory.
Even though Fisher scored just 12 points in his 27 regular-season appearances for the Preds, they were happy enough with his overall contributions. Wracked by injuries to the centre-ice corps, coach Barry Trotz installed Fisher on the de facto No. 1 line, with Montreal Canadiens' castoff Sergei Kostitsyn and Patric Hornqvist, whose primary claim to fame is that he was the last player selected in the 2005 entry draft.
As a unit, it doesn't conjure up images of the Sedin twins and Alex Burrows, or the heavyweight Ducks' trio of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan, but in the Nashville scheme of things, it gets the job done.
Fisher is the quintessential Predators' player, even if he'd spent the first decade of his NHL career playing in Ottawa. Defensively sound, a decent faceoff man, good speed, disciplined, all are required elements to play the Nashville way. That the off-ice fit so well was just a bonus, in terms of expediting the adjustment.
"I think he was pretty comfortable with our team in the locker room because he spends a lot of time in Nashville in the summer," assessed Trotz, who noted that acquiring Fisher's contract was a big deal for the small-market Predators. "We've had a lot of injuries this year and that can affect your budgets and payrolls - but [ownership]said we are trying to win hockey games in Nashville, so let's go get him.
Fisher says it took "a good few weeks anyways" to adjust to Nashville's playing style. "I really like the way this team plays and fore-checks and plays a solid team game and doesn't, up front, rely on any big stars. It's people contributing from everywhere and it's fun to be part of."
Nashville managed a 99-point regular season, largely thanks to goaltender Pekka Rinne's excellence and good work from a defensive unit, led by Weber and Ryan Suter. Up front, the pieces are mostly interchangeable. The second line features David Legwand, with Martin Erat and Joel Ward - not exactly a unit that strikes fear in the hearts of opposition goalies.
According to Weber, who previously played with Fisher for Canada at the world hockey championship, the newest recruit has made a made an impact, on and off the ice. Nashville has never won a playoff series, but Fisher got to the final once before - with Ottawa in 2007 - and he might have been the Sens' most effective forward in the loss to the Ducks.
"He's got the most experience in here and he's been to a Cup final," Weber said. "That's irreplaceable."
Meanwhile, Fisher seems happily settled in. Underwood also mentioned to Leno that she is officially Carrie Fisher now - although that would create confusion with Star Wars fans if she ever tried to use it as her stage name.
But it is borderline fairy-tale stuff and provided the Predators continue to play as well as they did in the opener, who knows how far it might go? One game into the playoffs, midnight is still a long time away.
"It's been great," Fisher said. "They're good guys and I've enjoyed being part of this group.
"Hopefully," he added, "this is the start of something special."Report Typo/Error