Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Brett Sterling Giveth and Taketh Away

A couple of observations from the final pre-season game versus the Florida Panthers. Both teams were lacking in intensity as everyone knows that they made the team and the real season begins in a week. Staying healthy was perhaps a priority for many players. Kari Lehtonen looked very sharp moving efficiently and staying square to the shooter. Last year he came out of the gate red hot and he certainly looked ready for the regular season last night. The checking line was buzzing all night and looked good. Slater was working very hard and did good things--he also just fell down when he tried to change directions at top speed--he has the very unusual combination of above average speed and below average balance on the team. He can explode down his wing, but if he tries to change directions look out this train is coming off the tracks!

If you were not in the building or listening to the game on the radio, the one thing that will not show up in the box score was Brett Sterling's hands. Specifically his ability to strip the opposition of the puck in their own end. I first saw him do this in the road game at Nashville and I thought to myself "nice steal there, but it is just the pre-season and these are not full time NHLers." Only he did the same thing in the pre-season home game against Nashville where he went in behind the net and just took the puck away from their defensemen. Well last night I saw him do this two more times and I must say I'm impressed, it is not that easy to rob a NHL defenseman of the puck.

On one play the Panthers defenseman was trying to carry the puck out from behind his own net. Sterling shadows him and somehow just stripped the the puck right off of his blade. He then curled right into the low slot and lifted a backhand shot that Vokoun saved. He did again later in the game although I can't remember the specific details now.

The stats tell me that Brett Sterling has scored at every level he has every played at, but what the stats can't always tell you is HOW a guy accomplishes this feat. I looks to me that Sterling is just one of those "sneaky" guys who isn't flashy but he seems to pop up out at the right place and make something happen.

It is early on, but I must admit that I'm really looking forward to seeing what Sterling will accomplish over a full NHL season.

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