I think the thing that stood out to me about the Carolina contest is that this team is really starting to play with some consistency. We are seeing less of the old up-and-down Thrashers where you never knew which team would show up on a given night. Other than a really ugly effort against Nashville, the team has been fairly consistent for the last month or so.
Perhaps one factor leading to more consistency has been stable forward lines. There has been very little line juggling of late and it appears that the chemistry is starting to develop among team mates who have never played together before. The defensive pairing have only been changed to adjust for the injury to Exelby and they too have put forward a more consistent performance.
I tried to temper my enthusiasm after the last game because I wasn't sure how much credit should have gone to the Thrashers and how much was the product of a tired Florida team. But against Carolina last night the Thrashers again showed some very good defense. The shots against do not reflect just how few quality scoring chances the team allowed. This is a huge step forward from the loose defensive play of early October. Better defense is starting to result in fewer goals against now.
It was good to have Exelby back and his pairing with Ken Klee has become a very solid shut down pairing at even strength. Havelid seems to be emerging from his shell and looking a bit more like Havelid of the 2005-06 season--although I still think he needs to dig more to beat his guy to the corner.
The fourth line had another terrific game. They had two of the best scoring chances of the game (if only Slater had Slava's hands) and it looks like Thorburn's confidence is rising.
Even the Penalty Kill which has been the Thrashers greatest weakness all season was very solid and didn't give up all that many quality shots on goal.
The Darren Eliot made a couple of good points that I will repeat in case you didn't watch the game.
- Todd White is looking much more confident, unlike the nervous guy we saw in October.
- The Thrashers new breakout in which the forward comes lower takes the pressure off the defensemen to make the breakout pass and the forwards are making MUCH better outlets. The Thrashers are now able to depart their own zone with both speed and puck control instead of just chipping it out to center.