Dec 14, 2013
For a player that has taken the long road to get to the NHL, trials and tribulations are nothing unfamiliar to Nashville Predators defenseman Victor Bartley. Recording his second point of the season, as well as his second in his previous five games, Bartley’s strong play as of late has given the Predators reason to move him onto Nashville’s second defense pairing with veteran Kevin Klein.
“I’m just basically trying to keep it simple. I’m not the guy who’s going to go end to end or make fancy plays. I’m just winning my battles, moving pucks efficiently, and playing solid overall. I’m trying to win every single battle out there and play solid,” said Bartley.
In his first 15 games of the season, Bartley played over 15 minutes only four times, one of those was a 21:41 outing against the Colorado Avalanche at the beginning of the season. After a series of healthy scratches between Halloween and mid-November, Bartley has seen his ice-time progressively increase to a point where he is now playing consistent 20-minute games every night. Including tonight, Bartley has played 20+ minutes in six of his last nine games.
“He’s battling. He knows there is an opportunity to stay in the lineup. He got the opportunity. At that point in time, I can’t remember who I was scratching, but he took that opportunity and said ‘I’m going make it hard for you to get me out.’ He’s done that,” said Predators head coach Barry Trotz. “He’s been all-in every game. He’s been physical. He’s been moving his feet. He’s been deserving the ice time and earning it. It’s all you can ask for.”
Bartley collected his second assist of the season on a shot from the blueline nearing the end of the first period. Deflecting in off of Eric Nystrom’s ankle and past Sharks goaltender Antii Niemi, it gave Nashville a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission against a San Jose team that has only lost six times in regulation coming into tonight’s contest against the Predators.
As the game progressed, Bartley found himself earning more ice time than usual due to his defense partner, Kevin Klein, taking a seat in the penalty box for five minutes after fighting San Jose forward James Sheppard. Early in the third period with Nashville leading 2-0, Bartley stepped up to help the Predators compensate for the loss of one of their top defensemen.
“That’s just kind of how it plays out, basically. Klein is a huge part of our back end. At the same time, we have guys like Jones and Ellis that step up, jump in those roles, and they did a great job helping,” said Bartley.
Bartley’s play of the game, though, may have been the hit he delivered on Sharks forward Tommy Wingels. With 4:52 left in regulation and the Predators leading 2-1 trying to hold on, Bartley lined up and delivered a check on Wingels, knocking the puck away from him as San Jose attempted to enter Nashville’s zone.
“It was one of those plays where he was coming down the wall and I realized he wasn’t going to cut back to the middle. I saw that we had great back pressure coming there so I figured I could step up on him. Luckily it was shoulder on shoulder and it worked out the best for me,” said Bartley.
The Predators have won their three previous games after a five-game losing streak. Nashville needs strong defensive play from their blueline, especially from their younger and more inexperienced players. As Bartley’s season progresses forward, he’s giving the coaching staff plenty of reason to continue keeping him in the lineup. With the Blackhawks and Canadiens coming to town next week, the Predators need Bartley to continue his strong play and his “keep it simple” approach.
Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua