NAS @ ATL
No big essay today just a few comments on last home game.
Kovalchuk played very hard and could have easily have had a hat trick given the quality of his shots. Mason made a terrific save on the power play on Ilya. What really stood out to me last night was Kovalchuk's defensive positioning. In the past his defense has been more of the "I'm in the same neighborhood as my man" but last night he was actually shadowing his check closely enough so that he was in good position to stick check his man or steal the puck if they tried to pass there. If Kovalchuk plays his man that tight his coverage will discourage the opposition from even thinking about passing to his man.
Bryan Little put himself in spots where he could jump into the offensive zone using his great speed but he kept waiting too long to shoot and ran out of real estate. He stills looks like a diamond in the rough out there. He plays hard but needs to adapt to playing against adult men. He is easily bumped off the puck--which may reflect that the fact that in juniors he matched up against 16-20 year old guys and now he is going up against adult men in their 20s and 30s who are 6'2" and weight over 200 lbs. He could use lots of ice time in Chicago where he can refine those skills. He could be a HUGE midseason call up for Atlanta when/if injuries strike one of our top six forwards.
The Kozlov-Holik-Hossa line seemed to struggle to get much going all night. These guys are all veterans who are not fighting for a job so I will not get too concerned yet. Holik will need to stay out of the box more if he is going to play on a scoring line.
In the first period the Thrashers struggled at times to clear their own zone. I didn't keep track, but it seemed to me that this happened more often when Pilar and Kwiatwoski were out there, but even Havelid and Zhitnik started off slow.
Hedberg was both terrific and terrible in the same game. For those of you who didn't see the game, Hedberg tried to flip the puck along the end boards and failed the puck went right to a Nashville player which resulted in an empty net goal for the Predators. The rest of the game he made some great saves.
The Perrin-Dupuis-LaValle combination had another strong game. Perrin has shown both good defensive presence and some offensive skill so far this pre-season. He had another good scoring chance. Later he and Ilya were out and he made a terrific tape-to-tape pass that hit Kovalchuk right in stride and sent him flying for an opportunity.