On the opening night of the season, Ilya Kovalchuk threw a puck into the crease area and it went off a Tampa defenseman's stick blade (Meszaros?) and into the net. It was lucky. Last night Lady Luck made another visit, and this time, she favored the visiting team. A puck bounced in off of Rich Peverley who was trying to help out his goalie. Another puck went 180 feet and somehow fooled goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. A third goal resulted from a blown D pairing change. Even the officials screwed up, resulting in too many players on the ice and a re-do faceoff.
It was a weird game. The Thrasher special teams remained very special. The PP chipped in 2 goals and the PK unit not only killed off 7 Power Plays by the Ovechkins, they added a SH goal. Speaking of Ovie, he was held point-less for the night. But Even Strength was just a nightmare--the Thrashers allowed 5 ES goals and lost. On the season the Thrashers have allowed 3 goals while shorthanded and scored 2 shorties--that is simply amazing (and it will not last forever).
Ondrej Pavelec was off and let in the longest goal I have ever witnessed in 23 years of watching live NHL hockey. I probably would have pulled him after that, it is just unacceptable not to block that puck. Even Chris Osgood blushed when he saw the highlight. In Chicago, Pavelec showed the ability to bounce back from a bad performance, he will need that ability since he'll like face a quality team (Sharks or Caps again) in his next start.
The "All Russian, All the Time" line of Kovalchuk-Antropov-Afinogenov had good chemistry. Antro and Kovy in particular look like they have been playing together for several years when it has just been several weeks. Afinogenov seemed a bit more focused and intense playing with this dynamic duo. And kudos to Antropov for the faceoff win that let to Maxim's goal; he has struggled at the faceoff dot much of the season.
The re-united Little-White-Russian line was simply so-so. Kozlov in particular has been very forgettable so far this season.
Kovalchuk played nearly 10 minutes on the Power Play last night and Enstrom had nearly 9 minutes. I know that Kovalchuk likes playing with Enstrom on the point, but opposing teams simply don't respect Enstrom's shot and it might be worth taking a look at how Kubina or Bogosian would do on that other point position. When other team's take away Kovalchuk someone else must make them pay by taking the open shooting lane.
Full marks to the entire Thrashers team for the not giving up on the game once the score went to 5-2. I've seen plenty of Thrasher teams mail it in when they fell behind by three goals. I credit Coach Anderson and the youthfulness of the team and their espirit de corps which was obvious yet again.
The team put forth some furious pressure in the 3rd and probably deserved a goal or two more from some terrific looking chances in that period. Varlamov made a couple of robbery saves in my opinion. The wild third period was very exciting to watch, you could almost feel the mental intensity of the Thrashers as they buzzed around trying to tie the game.
Things don't get any easier as they face the Sharks who have simply man handled the Thrashers in nearly every matchup in team history. Will the Thrashers bigger size help this time? Then they face the Caps again. Getting at least 2 points from these two tough opponents is very important for any team that aims to contend.
That almost felt like a playoff game towards the end, didn't it?
Lots of good actually came from last night, believe it or not. We're going to start with the excuse I'm going to hang on to: the Thrashers were tired. They've been on the road for 12 days, playing what could only be described as a sporadic schedule. Toss in an emotional roller-coaster of a detour to Elmira, Ontario, and a 3am arrival time yesterday morning, and I'm pretty OK with the results of last night's game. Well, as OK as one can be after a heartbreaker of a loss to a divisional opponent in regulation with the division lead on the line.
The Shot Differential. Contrary to my "bold prediction", the Thrashers kept pace with the Capitals 26-28. In the end, it wasn't an actual "shot" that killed them, but more on that later.
That Magical PK - Seven for seven on the penalty kill against a dangerous Washington power play makes me very happy. This puts the Thrashers on top of the league in both PP & PK percentages. It's a long season, so let's enjoy this while we can.
Zach Bogosian Is A Good Hockey Player - Our young defenseman provided the spark to start the late 3rd period rally. It may have been one of those shots that Varlamov should've had, but does it really matter?
Johan Hedberg - Moose came in and took control, allowing no more goals on the night. This is his job, and he did it admirably last night.
Ondrej Pavelec - Those goals happen. Not often, but they do happen. You look at them with bemusement, or a mild irritation at best, because after all, there's really nothing you can do about it. Then you lock it down, and be solid for your team. What you don't do, what you can't do, is let it get under your skin and let the puck get behind you.
The Team - I'm gonna have to disagree with my esteemed colleague just a little here. That Chris Clark goal was unacceptable. There was no effort. It was almost as if the Thrashers were thinking, "Hey, there's NO way they can score again, right?" Wrong. Giving the team credit, though: they battled back with a lot more intensity, and got within sniffing distance of a comeback. But then came...
The Final Minute - OK, you're down by two in the final minutes. Kovy scores on the PP, putting the deficit at one. Then Alex Ovechkin gives you a massive gift and sweeps the legs of Rich Peverley (BTW - the funniest sight of the night was watching the ‘Vetch try and argue that call. I think he maybe actually believed he did nothing wrong). Moose is on the bench, making it 6 on 4. Max Afinogenov gets 2, maybe 3 really good looks at putting the puck in the net, and nothing. I think this is where the fatigue comes in. I think even a slightly more well-rested Atlanta team gets it done there. I think Varly got some bounces the maybe Pavs didn't. I KNOW Pavs got bounces Varly didn't. At least two, anyway. Overall, it was a pretty sloppy affair for both teams; the Caps let off the gas towards the end, and the Thrashers just couldn't
capitalize finish when it counted.