Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Post-Detroit Game Comments

The scoreboard will show that the Atlanta Thrashers lost to the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 but in some ways the score is the least important thing about last night. I walked away with a lot of positives. Here are some quick observations:
  • Erik Christensen was impressive. Frankly my expectations were low as he has been something of a tease in his NHL career. His goal was spectacular and his work ethic produced several turnovers. Can he keep it up and can he be consistent?
  • Bogosian was cautious but showed his NHL skating ability and made solid decisions under pressure for the most part. He had one shift where he carried the puck from his own goal line to the offensive blue line and showed off his ability to rush the puck--I can't wait to see what this guy can do when matures at age 24-25.
  • Kulda looked pretty good against speedy Red Wings forwards. He seemed to handle the rush better than the cycle. He and Exelby both had some good hits--but you can see Kulda still needs to add some weight as he lost a couple of physical battles to bigger players.
  • As was the case in the Nashville game Marty Reasoner seems to be in the middle of the action EVERY shift he takes.
  • Grant Stevenson did some more positive things--and I say that as someone who isn't trying to watch him.
The offensive flow looks completley different then under Waddell and Hartley. In the neutral zone the Thrashers were sending a guy skating hard right at the defensemen and the center throws the puck just slightly behind the defenseman. Technically it is a version of dump-and-chase but it is a much more intelligent version where the team has a greater chance of recovering the puck while the player is skating forward with speed.

Much less dumping of the puck out of the defensive zone to neutral ice. I'm convinced that this was one of the root problems of the Thrashers being out shot badly much of last season. They struggled just to get it over their own blueline and then the other team would re-group and attack. There were many more solid outlet passes last night and Schneider wasn't even in the line up.

I saw multiple attempts at the home run pass to create breakaways. None of them worked against the defensively sound Red Wings, but want to see them keep trying. Perhaps with more time the chemistry will come together on that.

On the power play it is great to see the defense hold the puck in at the blueline frequently and a power play unit that wasn't content to just pass the puck around the perimeter.

The defense look MUCH more mobile than last season. (EDIT: I also noticed multiple occasions where the defense followed the Anderson plan of "if a defenseman sees open ice carry the puck up ice" and we now have guys who can skate with the puck.) The Wings are a good team and they got their shots but the Thrashers defense did a fairly decent job of protecting the slot area and many of Detroit's goals where from the outside. Kari Lehtonen will see another jump in his save percentage if the defensive coverage looks like that every night--assuming he stops passing to the other team's best forward :)

There were some negatives. Lehtonen basically scored into his own net by passing right to superstar Zetterberg from the half wall. He can correct that. He also allowed a goal just under the cross bar and another one high with Franzen screening in front. He looked frustrated after the Franzen screen but he will have to keep fighting to track the puck. Good teams screen the opponent's goalie.

This was a fairly encouraging game for a loss. If you throw out the empty netter at the end and the Lehtonen own goal/giveaway it was essentially a 2-1 loss to the defending Cup champ with both teams missing some players from their lineup. The upcoming Nashville game might be a better measuring stick of where the Thrashers are right now since Nashville falls into the middle of the NHL.

Finally I thought the arena announcer was acceptable but not outstanding. I wish his voice was a touch deeper because he seemed to get a little screechy in his higher register and sometimes lost ground to the back ground music.

4 Comments:

  • I agree that Bogo and Crusher looked good. I also thought Slater and Hainsey looked good as well. Kulda really seemed to struggle to me (IMHO), but maybe you had a better look. Didn't really notice Stevenson much at all.....Reasoner seemed to give away the puck several times, but this was my first hockey game of the year so maybe my eyes weren't all there yet. I thought X looked pretty bad, didn't you? Also thought Sterling and Little didn't play very well either. Did you ever see Sterling NOT on his rear? Just my two cents. Appreciate your analysis as always. I agree that next two games will show us a little more. There were Wings fans there, but they were pretty quiet......preseason of course.

    By Blogger h, at 9:12 AM  

  • Great, I love to see the positives.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:52 AM  

  • Keep in mind too that the Wings' two other goals were PP goals - so essentially the Thrashers did not give up an ES goal to them all night (gave *away* maybe). I too was quite happy with what I saw on the PP - much more movement. That will get better. Last year the tactic on the PK was pretty straightforward against the Thrash - respect the point shots from Kovy and Enstrom and play to that, as well as intercepting one of the 20 passes that got made. Now though they not only have to respect the point-men, they have to respect a mobile Kovy along with Williams as well. Still want to see Armstrong in front of the crease screening on the PP - or someone.

    All in all, considering the new coach, new system, new personnel, and not even a full two weeks since camp began, it was a respectable effort.

    BTW, regarding XLB, nice to see him physical (Kovy too - awesome check on Zetterberg) and also in the defensive zone I saw him really looking around making sure guys were getting covered - he pointed to teammates a couple of different times. That communication on ice is crucial and we have seen precious little of it over the years.

    I'm definitely encouraged.

    By Anonymous Sara, at 6:07 PM  

  • Wow! If you are encouraged even after a score of 4-1, then this must be good.

    I agree with you; let the team work out the kinks in preseason and early in the season, but if they get a good system and a good chemistry down, then the overall performance of the team will improve. So, I agree. God, I wish I could have gone. I was going to go to a game this month, but may not be able to. I hope to make it on either October 10th or 18th. But may not be able to go until November.

    But, I am really excited to go to a game!!

    Thanks for the analysis.

    By Anonymous S, at 12:54 AM  

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