Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Why does this team keep blowing 3rd period leads?

That last three games versus PHO, WAS and MON the Thrashers entered the third period with a lead and then subsequently lost the game in overtime (twice) or regulation. So what exactly is going on here? I sat down with my trusty DVR and decided to watch the third period of each of these games today to see if anything jumped out at me. So today's post will seek to uncover the explanation for why the team is losing late in games.

Hypothesis #1: The team is sitting back too much.

I simply didn't see any evidence of this. The Thrashers generated some terrific goal scoring chances in the third period of each of these games. I didn't see them just dumping the puck from center ice like a team trying to sit on a lead.

Hypothesis #2 The power play is killing us.

There is some support for this view. The Thrashers had a power play for the last two minutes of the Washington game and generated some great chances but no goals. A goal there gets you two points a win. Then in overtime versus the Phoenix the Thrashers get another PP when the Coyotes clear the puck over the glass and again come up empty. Finally in the Montreal game the Thrashers get a man advantage with 6 minutes to go and can't find the back of the net.

Hypothesis #3 Bad goaltending.

In the Phoenix game Hedberg had no chance on the redirected goal that made it 4-3. The goal that made if 4-4 came off a rebound, but I can't fault Hedberg entirely on this one because he put the rebound to the opposite side of the ice--which is generally a good thing to do. The OT winner for Phoenix was a breakaway created by an absolutely terrible pinch by Ilya when Phoenix was in control of the puck--again more blame goes to the skaters in my opinion. The one goal that he really should get blamed for is the one early in the third that made it 4-2. Hedberg fired the puck around the glass directly to a Phoenix player, he rushes back to the crease but he isn't set in time for the Coyote shot from Nagy.

The other two games Lehtonen started. The goal that tied the WAS game was a power play goal that Ovechkin fired from the high slot on a 5-on-3 WAS power play. Hard to fault him for that one given the manpower situation and the quality of Ovechkin's shot. The OT winner was another odd man situation as Kovalchuk got caught up ice creating a 3-on-2 which a wide open Caps player cashed in from point blank range.

In the Montreal game Havelid was simply beaten leaving Latendresse wide open to score. Rucchin lost a faceoff which leads to a blast from the high slot--Kari had a clear view and should have stopped this one in my opinion. The third goal of the period came on the penalty kill as Holik went to the box and Havelid tried to block the pass from Koivu and missed leaving a wide open Montreal player on Kari's backdoor side.

Overall I'd put more of the blame on errors by the skaters than the netminders.

Hypothesis #4 Stupid Penalties

Atlanta's Penalty Killing is not very good right now so every penalty taken gives the other team a golden opportunity. In the Phoenix game Rucchin took a penalty that lead to a goal which made the game 4-3. In the Washington game the Slater, Holik and Vigier all took penalties, the last two produced a two man advantage for WAS that they converted. Exelby picked one up in OT for firing the puck over the glass but the Thrashers managed to kill that one off. In the Montreal game a Holik penalty lead to the goal that made it 4-2 late in the third and killed off any chance of a comeback.

Hypothesis #5 Mental Errors by Skaters.

I hinted at this in the goalie section, but Kovalchuk absolutely has killed us in the two overtime games. He made VERY poor decisions that produced both odd man breaks that led to both overtime goals. His decision to pinch against Phoenix was the most heinous since the Phoenix player had full possession of the puck and was looking to move it up the ice--I have no idea what Kovy thought he was going to accomplish.

Havelid made two coverage errors in the Monteal game that helped the other team put two into our net.

The tying goal by Phoenix was a series of mistakes by Thrashers. Exelby blasted the puck up the boards and Kovalchuk's man was able to hold the puck in at the blue line. After the puck came out to Ballard for a point shot, neither Kapanen nor de Vries covered Owen Nolan who put the rebound into the back of the net.

Summary:
The good news is that it isn't just one thing that is hurting the team--there isn't some huge problem that is consistently killing this team the way goaltending did last year.. The bad news is that it isn't just one thing that is hurthing this team--which means that the Thrashers need to improve in a variety of areas. The Thrashers are making multiple mistakes which cumulatively are causing them to come up short over the last three games. Hopefully they will snap out of it against New Jersey tonight.

1 Comments:

  • I think it is conditioning. Pay special attention to the bench and to the players coming on and off of the ice late in the game. They looked utterly gassed last night. I noticed it when Devil Colin White went off late in the 2nd, followed shortly by Hossa. I wonder if the lack of conditioning has any effect on your hypothesi #'s 1,4,5...

    By Blogger J.K. Sockey, at 12:21 PM  

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