Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thrashers Topple Capitals

What a fun start to the season! The NHL season is a long and winding road, but this night went right for the Thrashers. I had a ton of thoughts watching this game so I"ll just toss them out quick hit style.

Momentum is such a tricky thing, the Thrashers appeared to be in trouble after Bogosian took a penalty in his first NHL shift and the Caps looked like they had a goal only to have it wiped out by a high stick call. Then Hainsey responds by getting the first official goal and the Thrashers are off and running. The "new guys" all seemed to contribute, other than perhaps Jason Williams whom I hardly noticed.

Our power play looks MUCH better with the addition of Hainsey and Schnedier. Neither of these guys are afraid to fire the puck from the blueline. Opposing teams have to respect the blueline shot which will eventually open up more ice for Kovalchuk down low. I LOVED the fact that when the Thrashers won the first PP face off (from Ovechkin no less) the puck came to Schneider who just unleashed a one timer (which was blocked). Last year's PP unit would have made five passes and then turned the puck over. This year the PP just fires away--what an improvement.

Kozlov looked much better. He created the 2nd Little goal by skating across the blueline--and a couple of flashy puck handling moves attracted all three defenders to him and he then dished off a perfect pass to a wide open Little who fired and scored.

Another guy who was just sensational in my opinion was Eric Perrin. It seemed to me that he made something happen EVERY shift he was out there. Little received the 1st star for his 3 point night but it was a real ommission ignore Perrin's terrific play out there.

Bogosian got tagged for two penalties and a Brashear hunted the rookie down in the final two minutes of the game. I'm sure he was the happiest person in the building when the Capitals apparent goal was waived off.

Bogosian wasn't the only D to have a rough night. Enstrom fell asleep on Green's PP goal on the back door. Exelby lost his stick and the Capitals converted on the PP again.

There are many areas for improvement. The Thrashers are not going to have too many nights when the opposition goalie's Save Percentage is below .800 so the team will need to limit the chances against. Probably the most disturbing of the game was allowing 40+ shots on goal. That can't continue night after night if this team hopes to win.

As someone who plays defense in my local rec hockey leagues I probably watch the D more than most fans do. I can't believe how much more mobile our D corps is now and how much better their passing is. Schneider and Hainsey both jumped into the offensive zone play and made outstanding tape to tape outlet passes that allowed the forwards to race up the ice without making awkward adjustments to catch the puck.

Back when I suggested the Thrashers add Schneider to the roster I made the claim that he would be the best defenseman to wear a Thrashers uniform in team history. He had a couple of subtle plays that confirmed that (in my opinion). He made a heady move on a 1st period PP where it looked like the Capitals were about to recover and clear the puck. Instead he jumps in straight ahead beats the Capital to the puck and slides it fluidly back to Hainsey who then makes a solid play to keep the PP alive. At another point he slides down the left wall on the PP and calls for the puck from a Thrashers forward who is coming under pressure. Schneider receives the puck cleanly and immediately makes a quality pass to keep the flow going. Other than Enstrom last season, the Thrashers have been missing this sort of PP QB for their entire franchise history.

Some of the things that Coach Anderson discussed this summer with the bloggers showed up in the first contest. Anderson talked about the forwards putting pressure on down low and sending the defenseman to the net--which is exactly how Hainsey scored the first goal of the game.

Another thing Coach Anderson talked about was changing the attitude. I don't want to get overly excited about a single game, but I was pleased to see the Thrashers kept playing hard after Washington tied the game 4-4. We have seen many Thrashers teams that seemed to become stunned and slip into a defensive shell after giving up two goals on a single penalty call.

The players made multiple mistakes out there, but the energy level was great. The cameras caught Colby Armstrong on the bench after he scored his first of the season and he did some kind of shotgun thing with arms and was clearly enthused about his goal and the game.

The crowd was spirited and there were MANY more people there than I expected given the availability of tickets. Technically a sell out but there some rather patchy sections in the upper deck. Given how many tickets were available the morning of the game I'm thinking there were a significant number of giveaways for this one.

The Marketing/Ticket Sales Departments have to be doing hand stands. Finally the team puts on an entertaining performance in front of a large crowd. On opening night the hockey product was good--it was the sort of spirited contest that will make people want to come back again. Of course, the team has to keep playing like that into the future.

Two of the best plays of the entire game were passes. Kozlov's phenomenal pass for Little's goal and Kovalchuk's pass across the low slot for the final goal of the contest by White. As Gretzky learned sometimes an assist is prettier than a goal.

Kari Lehtonen had a stretch where he started throwing himself at the puck instead of just letting it hit him and I thought "oh no, he's about to fall apart" but he regained his composure and made some quality saves to get the win.

It was far from a perfect game, but it was a win (and there were few of those last season). The energy level was good, the PP was encouraging and the hockey product was fun to watch. The $1,000,000 question is can they keep doing this?

Corsi Box Score: Shots Attempted, Thrashers minus Opposition Shots
(
while each player was on the ice at even strength excluding EN situations)

Team/Goal
-9 Lehtonen

Defense: all three D pairings were outshot to some degree, Schneider had the worst numbers at even strength. Not sure this one tells us that much.

-2 Havelid
-2 Enstrom

-7 Schneider
-3 Bogosian

-3 Hainsey
-3 Exelby

Forwards: The top three lines were pretty even in net shots attempted, but the 4th line was really in trouble in terms of getting out shot. Almost the entire Capitals ES shot advantage was piled up when the Greek God line was out there.

+2 Kovalchuk
+4 White
+2 Williams

+1 Kozlov
-1 Christensen
-1 Little

+1 Armstrong
-1 Reasoner
-1 Perrin

-8 Slater
-12 Thorburn
-10 Boulton

6 Comments:

  • The Thrashers are learning a new system and a different style of on ice interaction. It looks like they trust the plan, but heart and talent won the game tonight. Give this team time to get comfortable with Anderson's style and they will be very tough to beat.

    Enstrom's play to lay on a gimme puck saved a go ahead goal and then Kari stoned the AO penalty shot to wake the nervous crowd.

    Bryan Little caught my eye every time he hit the ice.

    The Caps are doomed with Theadore and Johnson

    By Blogger pkwaldrop, at 1:55 AM  

  • Love your blog - good info. Love the Thrashers - didnt grow up on Hockey though - I am a work in progress.

    Last night was fantastic. I love the attacking style and the energy I saw.

    No delussions that this team will be competing for much, but, I am optimistic. This could be a fun year.

    It is going to be a great season watching these kids fight and develop. My glass is half full!

    By Blogger ThrashBash, at 10:32 AM  

  • Whats your advice for Anderson on Bogo?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:55 AM  

  • Great start and fun game to watch. I was kind of amazed at how much ice time X received, including a little bit on the PP. He continues the keep the old "rim it around the boards right back to the opposition" breakout strategy alive and well. Plenty to work on and I don't want to get too excited yet, but last night showed a lot of signs of good things to come.

    By Anonymous silverpork, at 1:56 PM  

  • While the initial boxscores in the AJD and NHL.com didn't have the attendance figures, the box in washingtonpost.com listed the attendance as a sellout (18,545); looked like 16,500 to me watching at home...Which gives the Bitter Queens of the Toronto Hockey Media something more to jump on this team/area about.

    By Anonymous Wayne, at 2:53 PM  

  • Well,
    Taking a last minute chance, I bought a ticket just 5 minutes before the game. At the box office, they said that no one could get two tickets side by side, but when I went inside, there were a lot of empty seats!! I could not believe that so many people bought tickets, but didn't go?!?! There were so many seats across from my section. I was in 312. I guess it was 112 down low.

    You are right about the defense; they allowed too many shots last night. 43 overall. But the powerplay looked awesome!! These guys circled the Caps end, and Theodore had no chance nor did Johnson. It is so nice to see defenseman like Schneider and Hainsey running the powerplay. They just circled their end and controlled the puck a lot more.
    But I was really surprised at how Green scored 2 goals back to back. It seemed that the Thrashers let things go when the shifts were switching or something. But the 3rd period was a thing of beauty! Slava looked like the forward we saw two years ago; his spirits looked better, and he really contributed. His goal and assist to Little were beautiful. Kovy's assist was also just perfectly placed. Little just stepped up and slammed it in with perfect net placement. He looks so much better than last year. Exelby looked sloppy last night too. The Enstrom body block was really gutsy too, and the whole crowd really got into it when Ovechkin got blocked by Kari.

    One thing also, Falconer. Remember how you talked about how Kari was facing lots of rebounds? Well, Lehtonen faced a lot of shots, and we were outshot 43-33 about. But Kari didn't have to face a lot of rebound shots; although the goal that came from Exelby's carelessness was not as much Kari's fault, you could see that the defense really gave Kari more of a chance to see the shot, and I felt that Kari had a better chance of seeing what was coming because the defense was still better than what we saw last year.

    God, Schneider is soooooooooooo good! You are so right; he is so fluid; he just attacks when he needs to, passes when he needs to, leads the powerplay like a pro. He is just one of a few pieces we needed! And what a difference!

    I mean Schneider didn't get a goal or an assist, but his leadership and presence were great! Hainsey too. He just seems to be able to do it all; I think he is way underrated.

    I heard that the defense had a meeting this morning, and they were going to talk about the PK.

    I just saw Booth score the goal in OT, but still I heard the commentators say that the PK was better tonight, but the final play by Booth was scored on a rebound. Funny how I was commenting on that about last night, and Kari loses on a rebound.

    Kari looked good tonight though. Kari was on one side and Enstrom and someone else were on the other, and looked like Enstrom was just standing there. Not sure what happened. Florida is one of those teams though. They can lose the night before, but then play really well tonight.

    Darren Eliot just said that Kari looks more business like and not distracted.

    I saw an article earlier tonight that said that the Thrashers were distracted by the Hossa trade. DUH! But I really think the Hossa trade, and then the additional crappy play after Hossa was gone really distracted Kari; I think that now that the Thrashers have a new enthusiastic coach, new guys, and a better defense, I think that Kari looks more focused. Even in the face of this loss tonight, after the Panthers scored their 2nd goal, he played tough the whole third period.

    To sum up, I think that, even though the Thrashers lost 5/6 preseason, it was worth it because Anderson, in my opinion, is trying some new things, and I think that once the team gels, they are going to be better than everyone, especially the hockey press, expects!

    By Anonymous S, at 9:52 PM  

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