Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Monday, April 03, 2006

Staying Alive

Missed a couple of days. It has been a busy but enjoyable couple of days for me and the Thrashers. I drafted three fantasy baseball teams and my 2nd fantasy hockey team somehow managed to leap from 4th place (where I've been all year) into 1st with a strong performances by my netminders Huet and Gerber (which is bad news for the Thrashers). I also saw the movie Joyeux Noel (two thumbs up) which is set during WWI. On Saturday I played roller hockey in this terrific weather we are having, watched the Thrashers cruise to a 5-2 win and then went out and watched too local acts: Anna Kramer and The Selmanaries. On Sunday my ice hockey team got the win in a close contest despite my wiffing on a shot from 10 feet out. The key thing was that I played defense against the other team's top line and ended the night plus. Now I'm watching opening day of baseball season on ESPN and ESPN 2. What a great couple of days!

Back to the Thrashsers, who had a pivotal Saturday. Montreal and New Jersey both won so they look to be out of reach now (I was surpised that the Flyers didn't play the Devils tougher considering they are in a dogfight for home ice with the Rangers in their division).

The game Saturday turned on a single shift by Bobby Holik. Holik nailed Hedican against the endboards and got called for a 5 minute major for boading plus a game misconduct (which is automatic on hits around the head as I understand it). That one shift had an enormous effect on the game:
* The large crowd got riled up and angry right away
* Players on both sides were in an nasty mood and everybody played with their heads up.
* The team was faced with a huge penalty kill that would either give ATL or CAR momentum in the game depending upon how it turned out.

Well the team killed the 5 minutes and they were on their way to killing off all 6 of Hurricane power plays in the match. Hartley used at least 4 different sets of forwards to kill of the 5 minute major. For the most part the Hurricanes failed to get great chances on the major and the Thrashers were off and running.

Savard drew a penatly shot (I thought it was a generous call to be honest) and finished with a backhand roof shot. Then rookie Jim Slater had his prettiest goal of the year as he made several big cuts to weave past Carolina defenders, on his last move in front of the net, he nearly lost control of the puck but just managed to get it up over Ward to make the game 2-0. (Slater's play this year has moved him past Stefan at the center spot in my opinion.)

Kovalchuk had two goals in the 2nd and the game was virtually over at that point. The goal was a like a flashback of Kovalchuk's first couple of season's when he seemingly scored on 90% of his breakaways. He drives straight at the goaltender and then just rips it five hole before the keeper can even move. Where has that shot been in the shootout this season? Hopefully, Kovy has his confidence back on the breakaway now.

Brad Larsen had a sensationial game for a 4th liner. He was great on the penalty kill, single handedly clearing the puck during a 5-3 and he helped to set up one of Kovalchuk's goals.

Havelid had another very strong game and remains one of the more underrated defensemen in the NHL now that I have a chance to watch him on a regular basis. This is a guy who has to work hard to make his usual partner Andy Sutton look good. Sutton was Sutton again on Saturday. Most of the time Sutton is the least physical defenseman in the NHL over 6' but when he does get angry he losses his cool and ends up taking a penalty. This time it was a double roughing call at the 2nd.

With the Thrashers win and a loss by Tampa to the red how Florida Panthers, the team's playoff hpes have new life. They are 5 points behind Tampa Bay but they have a game in hand (tonight versus Ottawa) and two head to head matchups with Tampa. If they cash in the game in hand and the 2 games in Tampa Bay that would put them back ahead of the Bolts. Stil the ends are against all of that happening--but that is why you play the games.

For whatever reason this team plays best when their backs are to the wall they have been teetering on the edge several times and managed to play their way back each time. Can they do it again?

This team had been a funk for four games starting slowly (see the table below). The reversed that Saturday and will need to continue that the final 9 games of the season.

Last Four Games Team Goals Scored/Given Up by Period (BOS, NJ, NYI, TB)
Period 1___-5
Period 2___-6
Period 3___+6
OT/SO____+2

Tonight the team plays against OTT which is extremely banged up (9 regulars out) and OTT is a team they often play well against. Personally, I think Heatley struggles against the Thrashers which is another plus if it continues.

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