Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Friday, March 31, 2006

Tampa Game: Playoffs RIP?

Wow. What a terrible loss.

How can a team not play with more fire in a game billed as the most important contest in franchise history to date? How can you look that flat with four days rest?

Just based on my recollection I'd say this club tends to play worse the more days of rest it has. Other than the NYI game on 3/16 when they looked really prepared, I'm always concered about when this club has 3-4 days off. Not sure what Coach Hartley needs to do to improve on this next season, but there is no good reason for this that I'm aware of.

I'm going to take a good at the data and see if it supports my impression.

OK, I'm back now with some data. I took the Thrashers games played so far this season and grouped them according to how many days rest they had. I threw out the 1st game of the season and 1st game back from the Olympic break because they are essentially unique situations. The Thrashser played a majority of their season on zero or just one day of rest (52 games so far) and they did indeed have a better record with less rest. Their offense was 12% better (GFA) and their defense was slightly better.

Thrashers Rest Record
Days Off_GFA___GAA___PPG___Pyth W %

The Thrashers averaged .17 Points Per Game with just 0 or 1 days rest. That doesn't sound like much of a difference until you multiply that times a full season's worth of games. If the Thrashers played like they did on little rest (o or 1) for a full 82 games that projects to 92 points (and likely the playoffs). If they played a full season like they did on 2+ days worth of rest it only comes out t0 78 points on the year-- and no playoffs.

So what explains the difference? How can a team manage to get that tight with 2 or more days or rest and relaxation? A question for the coaching staff to ponder this off season.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

McCarthy and Disgruntled Canuks

Jamie Mirtle ( Suggests the new Thrasher Steve McCarthy may be the source for a Florida reporter who quotes a source as saying that locker room dissention is 10 times worse than what the media has reported.

Tom Benjamin is a bit more skeptical ( and I would have to place myself in that camp. Mostly because Atlanta hasn't played against Florida since McCarthy was traded here.

It seems unlikely to me that a Florida reporter would call up McCarthy in order to talk to him about the Canucks. Why would a Florida reporter spend that kind of time and energy digging up dirt on Vancouver--a team that Florida will not play again this season? The quote seems more likely to have come up in some casual face-to-face conversation Steve Gorten had with an ex-Canuck.

NHL Referee Speaks up for Disgraced Lobbyist Abramoff

In a rare instance of NHL hockey intersecting with Washington's hotest political scandal, NHL Referee Dave Jackson was one of several individuals who wrote in favor of a reduced sentence for lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Jackson wrote "that he befriended Abramoff after being impressed that the lobbyist had invited 14 children and a rabbi to his skybox for a hockey match" (LA Times 3/29).

Why on earth is Dave Jackson getting involved with this guy? It is just me or does this strike anyone else as odd?

Abramoff rips off Indian Tribes (often among the poorest Americans) and Jackson thinks we should cut him some slack because he is nice to children and a rabbi? Sorry but using a sliver of your ill gotten money to help a few people isn't enough in my book.,1,2800001.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

Monday, March 27, 2006

Standing without the Shootout

Hawkster over at point out the effect of the SO replacing ties in the "New NHL". The Thrashers appear to be one of the teams to suffer under format as they would be in a tie for the 8th spot instead of 3 points back as they are in the old standings.

"Standings Now.....................Standings with ties instead of Shootouts

1. x-Ottawa 102.................. x-Ottawa 100
2. * Carolina 98................... *Carolina 92
3. * Philadelphia 90.............. *Philadelphia 86
4. Buffalo 93....................... Buffalo 89
5. NY Rangers 90................. NY Rangers 85
6. Tampa Bay 81.................. Montreal 77
7. New Jersey 79..................Tampa Bay 76
8. Montreal 79..................... Atlanta 71
9. Atlanta 76....................... New Jersey 71
10. Toronto 72..................... Toronto 69
11. NY Islanders 71............... Florida 68
12. Florida 71....................... Boston 67
13. Boston 68...................... NY Islanders 63
14. Washington 55................ Washington 49
15. Pittsburgh 48.................. Pittsburgh 47"

"And Down the Stretch They Come!"

OK, after Sunday all of the teams fighting to get into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference sit at 71 games played and thus each have 11 games left. What we have is a 11 game battle between 4 teams for the final 3 playoff spots. Let the drama begin!

Right now the way I see it there are three groups of teams in the east:
Teams that have bascially locked up the playoffs: OTT, CAR, BUF, PHI, NYR
Teams fight to get a seat before the music stops: TB, NJ, MON, ATL
Teams that are too far back to have a shot now: TOR, NYI, FLA, BOS, WAS, PITT

So here is the schedule breakdown for the rest of the way:
Clinched Teams 3
Battling Teams 3
Draft Pick Position Teams 5

Note: If the Thrashers can just keep stay in it, they have a shot of sweeping their final 4 games (WAS, BOS, WAS, FLA).

New Jersey
Clinched Teams 7
Battling Teams 2
Draft Pick Position Teams 2

Note: NJ could get hammered if Rangers and Flyers are going at it hard for 1st place in the division all the way to the end of the season.

Tampa Bay
Clinched Teams 3
Battling Teams 3
Draft Pick Position Teams 5

Note: Thrashers and Lightning have same weak schedule the rest of the way but they play each other 3 times. If either team manages a sweep it could potentially knock the other team out of the playoff race.

Clinched Teams 4
Battling Teams 2
Draft Pick Position Teams 5

Note: The key question for them is how hard Ottawa and Buffalo will be playing considering that both teams are pretty much slotted into their playoff position and could be on cruise control the rest of the way.

When looking at each team's schedule the real wild card is what I mentioned above with respect to Montreal: how motivated are teams that above and below the teams battling it out? Will Boston play any different now that their GM has been fired and changes will be happening at the top? Pittsburgh has a chance to be a huge spoiler, but their players may be thinking about that summer fishing trip in northern Canada rather than the final three weeks of the regular season. Of the top playoff teams, it seems likely that NYR and PHI have good reasons to play hard with home ice on the line while OTT, BUF and CAR each have home ice barring some shocking turn of events.

A Reason To Celebrate!

A Reason to Celebrate (written 3/24)

In 1999 the NHL arrived in Atlanta, but on most nights the opposition skated away happy. The hockey team was often inept, and it seemed that the team discovered more heart breaking ways to lose each season. There was little to celebrate at that time, other than high draft picks.

Atlanta Thrashers NHL Rank
1999-2000 30th out of 30 teams
2000-2001 27th
2001-2002 30th
2002-2003 23rd
2003-2004 21st
2005-2006 18th (as of 3/23/2006)

The 2005-06 season began with much higher expectations for most Thrashers fans as the team fielded what appeared to be a very competitive roster. The addition of veteran defensemen (Havelid, Modry and De Vries) and subtraction of the Terrible Ts (Tremblay, Tamer and Tjarnqvist) plus the arrival of uber prospect G Kari Lehtonen led us to hope the defense might finally become respectable after 5 porous NHL seasons.

Atlanta Thrashers NHL Team Defense Rank
1999-2000 3.82 GAA 30th out of 30 teams
2000-2001 3.52 GAA 29th
2001-2002 3.51 GAA 30th
2002-2003 3.51 GAA 30th
2003-2004 3.46 GAA 25th
2005-2006 3.30 GAA 23rd (as of 3/23/2006)

Up front, free agent additions Bobby Holik and Peter Bondra supplemented two super star wingers (Hossa, Kovalchuk) and gave the team offensive depth that had never existed in any season previous. Considering that the Thrashers had put up decent offensive numbers the two previous seasons, it appeared that 2005-06 squad might be a real offensive powerhouse. (It is!)

Atlanta Thrashers Team Offense NHL Rank
1999-2000 2.07 GFA 30th out of 30 teams
2000-2001 2.57 GFA 27th
2001-2002 2.28 GFA 26th
2002-2003 2.76 GFA 10th
2003-2004 2.61 GFA 13th
2005-2006 3.30 GFA 6th (as of 3/23/2006)

However the first months were a tremendous disappointment as the injuries seem to strike all the organization's goalies at once and the skaters played inconsistently. The team dug a huge hole in October as it fell behind the other competitors for the Eastern Conference playoff spots. In November they pulled their season back from the brink of the abyss as they regained some ground. December and January they basically played .500 hockey (which meant that they were losing ground in the New NHL that awards a point for OT and SO losses). Finally in February the team got on a roll prior to the Olympic break. Fortunately, they resumed their strong play when the NHL season resumed and have played at torrid pace so far in March.

Oct. 6 points 10 Games 0.60 PPG (points per game)
Nov. 17 points 14 Games 1.21 PPG
Dec. 15 points 14 Games 1.07 PPG
Jan. 14 points 14 Games 1.00 PPG
Feb. 6 points 5 Games 1.20 PPG
Mar. 18 points 12 Games 1.50 PPG

The team has been the Cardiac Kids much of the last month winning many points in overtime or the shootout.

March Last Second Heroics
vs WAS 3-2 OT win
vs FLA 4-3 SO win
vs NYR 3-2 SO win
at NYR 3-2 OT win
at BOS 5-4 SO win
vs NJ 6-5 OT win

Even when the team played very poorly in the first half of games versus Boston and New Jersey they have found a way to come back and get points. Poor starts and furious comebacks have become a team trademark this season.

Last night was perhaps a turning point for NHL fans in this city. The Thrashers were all but dead, trailing 4-1 to the Devils and Martin Brodeur. Sparked by a slapshot goal by Bobby Holik that made it 4-2 the team began to turn on the offense. As the team scored to make it 4-3, then 4-4 and 5-4 the crowd was electrified by the miracle comeback. A late NJ PP goal forced OT where of course a Thrasher (Bondra) scored to give the team a crucial point to keep them ahead of Montreal in the 8th spot in the standings.

After years of waiting hockey fans in this city have a reason to celebrate as their own local NHL arena is home to "meaningful games in March" as an exciting team gives us thrills and chills in this wild roller coaster hunt for the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs.

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