Game 11: Why goalies are not like relief pitchers
The big story from Thursday's Atlanta-Philadelphia game is that the two teams played to a shootout and Coach Hartley pulled Johan Hedberg and put Kari Lehtonen in for the shootout portion, which he lost giving up 2 goals.
Was this a good idea? Heartley compared Lehtonen to having a great relief pitcher but I just don't buy it. Kari isn't a relief goalie he is a starter and you're asking him to do something he has never really prepared for over his career so far.
But the biggest drawback in my book is the potential risks to your star goalie. The Thrashers season hinges on getting great play between the pipes and reducing the number of goals they give up compared to last season. Hartley had already played Lehtonen in 10 consecutive starts and he had played a full game the night before in Carolina. It is the franchise's best interest that Kari stay reasonable fresh and healthy and putting him in that situation raised the risk unnecessarily in my opinion.
Furthermore, it gives the impression that you don't trust your backup keeper. Hedberg played a very strong game for someone who hasn't seen game action since the preseason. And he was 4-0 in shootouts last year. I just don't think it was a good idea.
Well, if nothing else it did generate some attention around the league. I was watching the Canucks Capitals contest Friday night. That game went to a shootout and the broadcasters brought up the Hartley move and discussed if it had any merits (of course Kolzig and Luongo had started so why make a change?).
Stepping back from the immediate controversy the Thrashers have played 11 games to start the season and managed to get another point in every contest except the last second disaster game versus the Hurricanes. I very solid start indeed. But the big test will come tonight when the take on the super red-hot Buffalo Sabres.
Goals, Goals, Goals!
PHI Goal 1: De Vries is the goat here, he fell behind his man in the neutral zone and scrambled to cut off the passing lane but failed to intercept the pass to from Knuble to Robitaille who scored.
ATL Goal 1: Kovalchuk made a nice defensive play in his own end and curled out to the neutral zone where he received a great pass from Jon Sim and then shot right down the slot and buried it like the Kovalchuk of old. Perhaps, this will get his confidence back in the shootout?
PHI Goal 2: I can't put any blame on any skaters for this one. It was a penalty kill situation and the Thrashers coverage looked good to me. There was a loose puck that came to Forsberg who was below the goal line and he just banked in off of Hedberg. Hedberg had been facing the other side and was caught by the quick bounce of the puck. Really, a bad bounce goal more than anything else.
ATL Goal 2: Vishnevshi fired from the blueline and it looks like Holik just barely tipped the shot.
Shootout: Kozlov scored on a sensational move but Gagne and Forsberg put their shots by Kari and the won the extra point.