Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Concerned? Yes. Paniced? Not Yet.

There is no way to make 0-3 look pretty. It is a bad way to start the season. What should we think? What does this mean for the season?

Is a 0-3 start fatal? Absolutely not. When I look at last season's schedule on page 116 of my spanking new 2007-08 Thrashers Media Guide I see this set of interesting facts: Last year the Thrashers had a lot of streaks:
  • Won 5 in a row: 3 times
  • Won 4 in a row: 2 times
  • Won 3 in a row: 2 times
  • Won 2 in a row: 5 times
  • Lost 2 in a row: 3 times
  • Lost 3 in a row: 1 time
  • Lost 4 in a row: 2 times
  • Lost 5 in a row: 2 times
It may be hard to believe but the Thrashers had losing streaks of three or more games a surprising five times last season and STILL won their division and made the playoffs. So losing three games in a row is hardly a fatal blow to the teams hopes.

So you're not worried? Well......yes I am. The schedule to start the season is pretty rough. Before the season began I honestly expected the Thrashers to finish the month of October with a losing record. Why? Because the Thrashers play many quality teams early and they play many road games early in the season. Last year the team struggled in months (Jan, Feb) where they played a lot of playoff teams and excelled when they played a weaker schedule (Oct, Dec). Here is a breakdown of the 2007-08 Thrashers schedule by month showing the percentage of games versus opponents that made the playoffs the previous season.
  • 58% OCT
  • 42% NOV
  • 44% DEC
  • 54% JAN
  • 50% FEB
  • 29% MAR/APR
As you can see October has the highest share of playoff teams of any month this year (with JAN coming in 2nd) The season starts off difficult and then is softer in NOV and DEC and the end of the schedule is much easier. But the team needs to stay in the hunt long enough to have a shot at rolling a big win total in March and April. If they fall apart early those easy games late in the season will not be of any help.

What should be the Thrashers goal? Right now the team, coaches and management have to focus on limiting the damage in this month so that they do not fall too far behind. The team cannot afford to finish October six, seven or eight games behind the division leaders. They must stay within sight of the other playoff clubs in the division.

What is working right now? I'd say the power play looks much sharper than last year. No they are not scoring loads of power play goals right now but they are doing the little things that will eventually result in more goals. Last season people were afraid to shoot the puck and there is was way too much passing around the perimeter looking for the perfect chance. I see much less of that so far and more point shots on net that have produced rebounds. They have been a little unlucky early on and in not being able to cash in on rebound chances, but if they keep doing what they are doing goals will come.

I'd also say the goaltending has also been decent. When you're 0-3 the goaltending could always be better, but the majority of the goals that the team has allowed have been screen shots where the net minder had little chance to stop the shot. It is also hard to win when the offense only scores 1 goal in two of your games.

What is not working? The Thrashers don't have the puck on offense enough and the other teams are getting way too many chances against Atlanta.

The offense is simply not generating enough chances on a consistent basis. It could be a lack of chemistry, but I'm more concerned that it is a product of their style of play. The 2007-08 Thrashers are smaller but quicker. When you're smaller you are less likely to win those battles along the boards than when you are big. But the team continues to rely on the dump and chase strategy and I'm not sure that is a good idea in the long run. They may have to add more puck possession to their game plan to keep control of the puck and keep the time of possession more even. The Thrashers best goal scoring chances this season have often come from players do free lance stuff with the puck instead of playing dump and chase.

The Thrashers rank dead last (30th) in shots on goal against. A good part of that is the fact that the defense is simply not that fast. For the Thrashers to succeed they must 1) anticipate where the puck is going to dumped into their zone 2) skate hard to get there first 3) make the right decision and move the puck effectively 4) wingers must clear when it comes around to their side. There have been breakdowns in all four areas early in the season--they simply must get better. I will say that the Thrashers seemed to make an adjustment to Ottawa after the first and really cut down on the chances against in the 2nd and 3rd periods.

Hey I thought you were a stats blogger, how about some numbers?

OK, here is where the team ranks in the very early going.

  • Offense (Goals For Average): Tied for 27th (with three other teams)
  • Defense (Goals Against Average): Tied for 23rd (with three other teams)
  • Goal Differential: Tied for 27th (with three other teams)
  • Shots On Goal For: 28th
  • Shots on Goal Against: 30th
  • Save %: 19th (between Anaheim and Detroit)
  • Power Play %: 22th (tied with Buffalo)
  • Penalty Kill %: 21st (tied with Chicago)
Who is out on the ice when the Thrashers get scored on? The Thrashers have allowed 11 goals and Exelby and Klee were out on the ice for over half of them (6 of 11). Slater was right behind them.

-6 Exelby
-6 Klee
-5 Slater
-4 Larsen
-3 McCarthy
-3 Perrin
-3 Sterling
-3 Hossa
-3 Zhitnik

Who out on the ice when the offense scores so far?

+3 Todd White
+3 Alexei Zhitnik
+3 Nic Havelid
+2 Kovalchuk
+2 Kozlov
+2 Little

9 Comments:

  • The +/- numbers are interesting, especially with the D. I think Zhit/Havelid have been our worst two d-men thus far, but the numbers wouldn't indicate that.

    Agree with you on the PP. The puck movement looks so much better. Our point men aren't crumbling in the face of puck pressure. Goals will come.

    Our 3rd period last night started to show how our offense can generate chances when we enter the zone with speed. You are right - dump/chase, especially when we don't have the big bodies to do the dirty work in the corners, will not be effective often. We need to enter with speed and rely on puck possession.

    There is hope, but we need a W fast.

    By Anonymous silverpork, at 12:10 PM  

  • Last year’s stats are a bit inadequate, since we don't have the same team we had last year. This year’s stats are helpful.

    Funny how Zhitnik is +3/-3. He must be on ice more then anyone.

    Let's see what happens tonight.

    By Anonymous Kozlov, at 12:52 PM  

  • Thanks for putting things in perspective. I don't feel as bad, although I reserve the right to panic if they lose 6 or 7 in a row.

    By Blogger Michael, at 3:16 PM  

  • I think one of the most telling stats on the team is that Kari's got a 3.08 GAA and a .921 sv%. Right there, that says a hell of a lot about the status of the team. Add in that they're on pace to score a whopping 109 goals this year, and Lehtonen is once again carrying the team on his back, at least through the first few games. I'd love love love to see the D step up a bit and settle down. I'd love to see more goals. I'd love to see Kari not having to be a workhorse through 60 minutes while the other 22 guys put in somewhere between 20-40 minutes and rely on their netminder for the rest.

    And lastly, I'd love a link to my blog! I'm adding yours right away. :)

    ~M

    By Blogger Maal, at 4:19 PM  

  • Thanks for tell me that Exalby and Klee lick junk. I couldn't tell without your numbers.

    Silverpork is an idiot. Havlid and Zihtnik are logging close to 27 minutes a game picking up the slack from those 2 sucknuts.

    The Thrashers need to call up Chad Denny, according to the Boobland Blog, he'd be the answer to all of their problems.

    By Blogger J.K. Sockey, at 5:56 PM  

  • JK,

    If spending their massive amounts of ice time turning the puck over, missing their checks, tripping over their own feet and taking stupid penalties qualifies as "picking up the slack", then yes, they're doing a bang-up job of it.

    By Anonymous silverpork, at 9:01 PM  

  • well before kovie took one for the team and took a fighting penalty zhitnik also led the team in penalty minutes.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:19 PM  

  • Dear The Falconer,

    I like the numbers regarding who is on the ice when the Thrashers score/give up a goal. Is there any way to get these numbers updated after last night's debacle? I know you like numbers, so I think you would have to work in something with ice time as well; to even things out somewhat since one pair of defensemen log a majority of the minutes. Then you could also run the numbers excluding PP & PK minutes and goals. Is this getting you hot? Perhaps there is a 2007-08 NHL Record Book in it for you…

    JK

    P.S. Silverpork, I am guessing you are one of the people who love "XLB" dishing out those bone-jarring hits (usually at the expense of his defensive partner). I am not sure if you have ever skated, but after you hit the 20 shift/20 TOI mark (sorry, that’s Time On Ice) you start getting tired. Fatigue leads to mistakes. That said I would prefer Havlid and Zholtok to Ken Klee and the Wanna Be any day of the week.

    By Blogger J.K. Sockey, at 8:44 AM  

  • JK,

    I love a good hit as much as the next guy, but was happy to see Vish leave because he would take himself so completely out of every play trying to knock someone's block off.

    The fatigue excuse would work if every mistake those guys made started at the 20 or 22 minute mark.

    By Anonymous silverpork, at 2:24 PM  

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