Marvel Week: The Predators Have the Stones

Infinity Stones. I’m talking about the Infinity Stones, people.

(Spoilers ahead...)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe introduced our mere mortal world to the six Infinity Stones—powerful gems that each represent a unique aspect of existence. Each Infinity Stone harnesses tremendous power, but when all six Stones are united together, they grant their possessor immeasurable and God-like power.

Avengers: Infinity War united Marvel heroes from previous Marvel movies against a common enemy, Thanos. Thanos was attempting to bring the universe into balance by harnessing the power of the six Infinity Stones to destroy half of all living things. Avengers: Infinity War culminates with Thanos gathering the six stones and destroying half of all life everywhere. This tragic ending left fans hanging for twelve long, anguishing months (“Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good”) waiting to see how the surviving Marvel heroes could right such a horrific wrong.

Hockey fans can relate to that “left hanging” feeling. The NHL season has been abruptly halted in the home stretch with playoff spots up for grabs and no real idea when, or if, the season will resume. Fans are left to speculate about which teams could harness the power of a late season push and which players might emerge as heroes if the season were to resume.

There are some threads running through the 2019-2020 season that, when united, could create a Predators playoff run able to destroy the plans of other NHL teams. This Marvel/Predators parallel universe has left me wondering—which Predators players possess the Stones?

The Space Stone: Roman Josi

The Space Stone is the first of the Infinity Stones to appear in the Marvel franchise, debuting in a post-credit scene at the end of Thor. This Stone is featured prominently in Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers inside the Tesseract (Marvel superfans may have caught a brief glimpse of the Tesseract in Iron Man 2 in Howard Stark’s notebook). The Space Stone gives the user power over space. Whoever possesses the Space Stone can create a portal from one part of the universe to another.

If there is a Predators player who has power over space on the ice, it is undoubtedly Roman Josi. Josi’s ability to activate from high pressure defense to high quality offense with near-superhuman speed (portals perhaps?) makes him the perfect player to protect and possess the Space Stone. Josi’s 2019-2020 performance has landed the Swiss defender at or near the top of most Norris Trophy lists.

The Mind Stone: Filip Forsberg

The Mind Stone is used to control the minds of others. Loki harnessed the power of the Mind Stone via his scepter to control people’s minds (come on, Hawkeye—snap out of it!) in The Avengers. In Avengers: Age of Ultron Tony Stark and Bruce Banner use the Mind Stone to create Ultron. When that goes horribly awry (as creating artifical intelligence often does), they again use the Mind Stone to create Vision, who eventually harbors the Mind Stone in his forehead. Wolfgang von Strucker, an evil HYDRA scientist, once commented that humans were only just beginning to scratch the surface of what the Mind Stone is capable of.

Like Vision for the Avengers, Filip Forsberg possesses the Mind Stone for the Predators. During the 2019-2020 season, as Forsberg goes, so goes the team. In games when Forsberg has a point or more, the Predators are nearly twice as likely to record a win. When Forsberg comes up empty on goals or assists, the team is twice as likely to lose. Forsberg also exhibits mind control over the puck with his between-the-legs passes and that dazzling lacrosse goal. At 25 years of age, the Predators are only scratching the surface of what Forsberg can bring to the team in the future, and let’s face it—he could rock a yellow stone in his forehead.

Reality Stone: Matt Duchene

The Reality Stone bestows upon the owner the ability to manipulate matter. In Thor: The Dark World, the Reality Stone manifested in the form of Aether, an ominous fluid that can invade a host and act similar to a parasite. Aether has a deadly effect on anything in its environment that it perceives to be a threat. Unfortunately, possessing the Reality Stone can leave its host drained and weak. Thanos uses the Reality Stone in Avengers: Infinity War to alter reality and thwart the Avengers’ attempts to stop his evil plan.

Matt Duchene joined the Predators last July. He arrived with clear expectations, heralded by David Poile as a “goal-scoring, play-making center”. Although the team has seen brief glimpses of that promise this season, those high expectations may have slowly consumed their mortal host. Going forward, the Predators need more consistency and production from Duchene. Fortunately, Duchene has affected opponents’ reality by turning their perceived threats into drawn penalties, the most of any Predator this season. As the center with the most assists, Duchene also creates scoring realities by dishing the puck to other effective goal scorers.

Power Stone: Craig Smith - Nick Bonino - Rocco Grimaldi line

The Power Stone grants its holder a tremendous amount of energy—enough to destroy an entire planet. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 focused on the destructive capability of the Power Stone. With a force so strong, the Power Stone could destroy any individual who tried to hold it. The Guardians, a ragtag group of offbeat characters, discover they can harness the power of this Infinity Stone by uniting together.

If ever there were a Predators line able to harness destructive power, one might first think of the JOFA line, but this season that would be wrong. The line exhibiting the ability to handle great power with great responsibility has clearly been the heroic “SmithBaldi” line. Perhaps as unlikely a grouping as the Guardians of the Galaxy, this trio has been able to connect with each other and the back of the net with consistency and pluck. Their play has carried the team this season—together Smith-Bonino-Grimaldi have a combined 46 goals, 51 assists, and 97 points. Plus, their resemblance to the Guardians is uncanny.

Time Stone: Pekka Rinne

Doctor Strange, released in 2016, centered around the power of the Time Stone. Housed in the Eye of Agomoto, the Time Stone can fast forward, rewind, or loop time. In Avengers: Infinity Wars, Dr. Strange vows to protect the Time Stone above everything (and everyone) else. Thanos uses the Time Stone to travel back in time to recover the Mind Stone before it was destroyed.

Time is a precious commodity for Pekka Rinne. Under contract with the Predators through the 2020-2021 season, the 37-year-old goalie may want to use the Time Stone to travel back to recover his 2017-2018 Vezina-winning play. There have been several goals this season when the Time Stone would have come in handy to rewind time mere seconds and make a stop peak-Pekka would easily have made.

Predators faithful ache to see Rinne hoist the Stanley Cup before he hangs up his skates for good. Unless Rinne can reverse time and age, he may continue to watch Juuse Saros starting in goal. While the Rinne-Saros relationship is as endearing as the Stark-Parker relationship in Avengers: Infinity War, I suspect Rinne would use the Time Stone to manipulate time in his favor.

Soul Stone: Ryan Ellis

There was an aura of mystery around the Soul Stone, until Avengers: Infinity War revealed its location and the extreme price required to gain possession of the Soul Stone. To own the Soul Stone, one must sacrifice that which they love most. For Thanos, the price was the life of his beloved daughter Gamora, but the power of the Soul Stone to steal, manipulate, and alter souls was worth the heartbreaking cost.

The Soul Stone would definitely be found in the possession of Ryan Ellis, and it isn’t because of his red beard. Although missing all of January and most of February after the Winter Classic injury compliments of Corey Perry (the Taserface of the NHL), Ryan Ellis stole the souls of the Dallas Stars in a March 7 rematch, scoring the only goal of the game. The truth is that Ryan Ellis’s quiet, consistent, and exceptional play has been the soul of the Predators team well before this season, and the $50 million contract to keep him in Nashville until 2026-2027 is a monetary sacrifice well worth paying.

Uniting all six Infinity Stones brought Thanos the Infinite Power needed to achieve his villainous goal with a snap of his fingers. Fans in Nashville are left wondering if the “Bridgestone Avengers” could have harnessed the abilities they possess as the season launched into the playoffs. Just like Avengers: Infinity War, the 2019-2020 season suspended with a dramatic cliffhanger, and Predators fans are wishing for a trip through the Quantum Realm to reveal a season that ends with the ultimate hockey victory.

*snaps fingers*