The Thrashers Re-Gift This One
I watched the game Sunday night after a 24 hour cooling off period. A couple of comments before I run down the goals for and against. This was the best Thrasher effort of the season, better than the loss to Ottawa and Brodeur gave up five goals and yet somehow they still lost. Just amazing.
- Passing REALLY matters for this team's offense. Both of Kovalchuk's goals came about because of great passes. The Haydar goal was also made possible by a great pass.
- The Thrashers were called for two interference calls where they made contact with a Devil player who did not have possession of the puck--yet this exact series of events happened to Brett Sterling along the wall just prior to the Haydar goal and I didn't any referee's arm going up. If they're going to call it very close it that should have been a penalty on New Jersey.
- The Thrashers really dominated the 2nd period--well the first 19 minutes of it at least. Watching the second period on tape I kept thinking "how in the world did we lose this game?"
- Ilya Kovalchuk is playing some the of best hockey I've ever seen out of him in the NHL. He was perfect on the PK, scored two goals and busted his butt every single shift. If this team were 5-0 instead of 0-5 people might be talking about him for the MVP race. But the struggles of the team are going to cause many to ignore his performance.
- The Rookie Line (Sterling-Little-Haydar) created four scoring chances in the 1st and 2nd period and were the best line all night. Why did the barely see the ice in the third? Those guys have been on for almost no goals against early on this season.
NJ 1-0 Interference call on Havelid. PP rebound goal. Larsen's man scores you can see him trailing behind the man who jumps into the crease. Brad Larsen has been on the ice for 13 of the 23 goals the team has allowed so far this season.
ATL 1-1 Little gains the zone (i.e. no dump and chase) and dishes off to Haydar who has loads of time and space as both Devils defensemen collapse back on Little. He wires one one off the post and in for his first career goal.
NJ 2-1 Sterling sent off for holding and Elias gets a goal that bounces in off his shin pad. Larsen is trailing behind him in a futile effort. In all honesty I'm not sure there was much Larsen could have done short of hauling him down and creating a 5 on 3. I'll call this one a favorable bounce for New Jersey Devils.
ATL 2-2 Kovalchuk wrister short side that Brodeur probably should have had off a nice pass from Kozlov (again after they gain the zone with speed--no dump and chase here either).
ATL 3-2 Exelby fires it into the net as four bodies hit the ice including Brodeur. This was a favorable break for the Thrashers as the Devils defensemen did the dirty work of making this goal possible.ATL 4-2 Boulton attempts a shot/pass that produces a juicy rebound for Holik who smartly tossed a soft backhand shot upstairs quickly. Kozlov probably would have tried to settle the puck before attempting a perfect shot but Holik just snapped it quickly and Brodeur had no time to adjust.
NJ 4-3 This was the beginning of the collapse. A late period goal off a rebound. Zhitnik had no idea where his man was but Lehtonen has to shoulder most of the blame for a terrible rebound. Here's the bad news for Kari--everyone in the league is going to see that most of the goals on him are coming because of screens, rebounds or tip-ins which means that EVERY smart team is going to attempt more of this stuff in the future.
NJ 4-4 Puck goes in the corner, Zhitnik eliminates his man from the play, the puck is sent into the crease where it is stopped by Boulton's skate. It then slides loose into the low slot where Zajac beats three Thrashers to the loose puck. Havelid took a weak stab at it before Zajac lifts it upstairs for a the tying goal. The coverage MUST be better than this! By the third period everyone in the building could see that New Jersey was throwing every puck into the low slot. Zajac should never have been that wide open in the first place. The Thrashers were not short handed which should have allowed for tighter coverage.
NJ 5-4 Stop me if you're hear this before. Devil player throws puck at the net-->rebound-->scramble won by New Jersey player-->goal. McCarthy's man scored. If he eliminates his man instead of looking for the puck the goal never happens.
ATL 5-5 White gains the zone (i.e. no dump and chase) and makes a sweet pass for a classic Kovalchuk one-time for a goal. With all the bad stuff that has been happening I have not mentioned that Todd White has played pretty well after a shaky opening night. Hopefully this is the start of some beautiful chemistry between those two.
NJ 6-5 Exelby takes a totally unnecessary penalty in the final 2 minutes of the game. This completely changes the momentum of the game. Personally I'd bench him and put Popovic into the lineup, what he did was selfish and stupid. The Thrashers PK was never able to obtain possession of the puck nor was Kari able to freeze it on a save. They were absolutely exhausted. Sitting up the in stands I said "Zhitnik is so tired he isn't even bothering to skate into the corner to try and get to the puck" and the puck comes out to the point for a slapper-->Goal.
Epilogue: With less than 16 second to go a last-gasp scoring attempt comes up 2-3 inches short as Brodeur reaches back to collect the slow moving puck. I was sitting right above the net and there is no way the entire puck ever crossed the line. Game over man.
Naming Names (updated for the Devils debacle)
Playing well: Little, Kozlov, Haydar, Kovalchuk, White, Thorburn.
Playing poorly: Perrin, Slater, Larsen.
Question: Why do people continue to wax on about Slater's effort? He takes dumb penalties and he doesn't get the job done when he is on the ice. I think he and Larsen should sit and Hossa and Throburn dress the next game.
Chart Legend GF=Goals For (when that players is on the ice), GA = Goals Against, Diff = Net difference between GF and GA. GFA = Goals For Average or the team's offensive output (when that player is on the ice) per 60 minutes, GAA = Goals Against Average or the team's defensive output per 60 minutes.
Playing well so far: Enstrom and Popovic
Playing poorly: everyone else. When any of our top four defensemn (by ice time) are out on the ice the Thrashers are giving up goals at a rate of 5 per game. Wow.
Question: At what point do you start to give Popovic and Enstrom more ice time?
Penalty Killing Unit
Playing well: Slava Kozlov, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pascal Dupuis, Eric Perrin.
Playing poorly: Brad Larsen, Jim Slater, Marian Hossa, Ken Klee, Alexei Zhitnik, Bobby Holik.
Question: When the Thrashers killed the 4 minute double to Bryan Little, Slava Kozlov and Todd White and Perrin were out there a lot, shouldn't that happen more often?
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