Atlanta @ Tampa

I don't need to watch the tape twice to see what went wrong in this game. The Thrashers top defensive pairing (Zhitnik-Havelid) simply did not play well enough for the team to win the game. No NHL team can win if their top defense pairing plays that poorly.

Havelid in particular looked terrible. Nic was great his first season with the Thrashers but struggled last year. I was willing to cut him some slack due to the loss of his mother. I was hoping for a bounce back season from him this year but he still looks like he is skating in a fog out there.

The forwards also deserve a share of the blame for their lack of aggressiveness in pressuring Tampa players when they had the puck (Hossa's goal was a rare exception). The lack of forechecking was appalling. They just backed up and let Tampa gain the zone all night long.

Slava Kozlov was directly responsible for the short handed goal against but he did score a power play goal on a sweet no look backhand pass from Tobias Enstrom (for his first NHL point). Hossa finished off a breakaway that he created by pressuring and then stealing the puck from a Tampa.

Hossa got on the board and Ilya Kovalchuck needs to light the lamp. He is working hard but the team pays him the big bucks to score and so far he has not done that despite some good looks at the net.

Coach Hartley responded to weak offensive output by dropping everyone's names into a hat and pulling them out to make new line combinations. Isn't NHL Training Camp when you are supposed to see who plays well together?

Brett Sterling looked a bit better but Coach has buried him on the fourth line already so I'm not sure he probably will not get a real shot again until Hartley decides to spin the "What are the lines tonight?" wheel.

We usually play well against Ottawa and we absolutely must on Wednesday.

Postscript: It is very early and there are 80 more games this season. But if I'm the coach I'm looking at the end of the long road trip as a make or break date. If this team is several games under .500 at the end of that trip I wouldn't be surprised at all to see a change behind the bench.

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